Time flies fast. Who would have known that it has been three decades since Tim Berners-Lee submitted the proposal that was to transform into the World Wide Web?
TimBL submitted the proposal with the title “Information Management” to his superior at CERN, a European physics laboratory. It opened by asking how next-generation scientists can keep track of large projects, and later on went to describe a connected system that, unknowingly, will revolutionize how the world communicated.
Over the past three decades, major portions of the World Wide Web have come and gone. But thanks to companies that archived websites, relatively recent online dwellers get a chance to see what the web is like and remember internet things long thought forgotten.
Let’s look back on some of the (now defunct) websites that made us laugh and cringe, allowed people to find friends (and new information) and ultimately; waste time.
In 1996, Jennifer Ringley set up a webcam in her college dorm and started broadcasting every mundane moment she spends there. By uploading grainy black-and-white images of her dorm life every half a minute on an automatically refreshing slideshow she called the Jennicam, Ringley became one of the first people to share her life to users online. In 2003, out of burnout from years of living her life in public, Ringley shut off her webcam and stayed mostly offline since.
Bin the early days of the internet, Rotten.com was the site people visited to see revolting images. It had stomach-churning photos both fake and real, from dead celebrities to maggot-infested cadavers to dead celebrities. Rotten is basically a repository of content that ranged from shocking to evil, at a time when netiquette has yet to become a thing.
The Hampsterdance website of 1998 was one of the first memes. It featured rows of hamster GIFs dancing to a sped-up version of Roger Miller’s Whistle Stop (di-da-dee da dee da doh-doh). The site rose to fame in the late 90s, as it was often the content of emails and bait and switch pranks– remember, this was a time when a purer, impossibly wholesome, and totally inscrutable form of internet humor could still survive. The original Hampsterdance site is now gone, but mirror sites were put up in 1999 and 2002.
You might not anymore remember, but before there was Facebook, there were plenty of other websites that did the same stuff it did. Enter Friendster, a 2002 website that allowed young versions of us to leave our friends lengthy (not necessarily meaningful) messages on one another’s walls, set up our pages so it plays our favorite music as soon as it loads, and post blingees of our nicknames on our profile, among many other fun things. When Facebook came in 2004, it killed Friendster, along with many of our coming-of-age memories (if you’re now in your late 20s, at least).
In the past three decades, many websites have somehow changed the world, pioneered an era, stole ideas from another website, and influenced the very nature of the internet. While some of them have ceased to exist, thanks to technology, we could still appreciate some of the places that for a time made the web worth surfing.