Saturday, July 29, 2006

Internet in the 90s - yeah, it was crap

Sitting at a cafe the other day, sipping an espresso and simultaneously downloading my email and watching a live news broadcast on my mobile phone, whilst talking to my financial manager about the stockmarket on my other mobile phone and Googling myself on my laptop, it occurred to me how crap the internet was 10 years ago.

Ok, ok, so none of that actually happened. I only have one phone and it is crap and can't download anything, and the only thing I own that is even close to a laptop is a tea-stained Stable Table I bought at K Mart seven years ago. However the fact remains - the internet has come a long way since the 90s, when websites were truly webshites and being a web designer meant you knew how to turn on your 28.8k modem.

And to prove it, I bring you the SCREENSHOTS OF SHAME, brought to you via the magic of web archiving. Keep in mind these are ACTUAL screenshots of the way these sites looked 10 years ago. Your faith in this will be tested, I promise you, but it's all true.

Ebay.com, circa 1997


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That's right folks, this is what Ebay used to look like way back when it first started. The text promises "the most fun buying and selling on the web!" Black text on a grey screen - how much fun is THAT? Admittedly what few graphics there were on this site are no longer working, but to be honest I don't think it would make much difference.

Coke.com, circa 1998


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Again, the pics on this site are no longer working - probably a good thing as their presence would only distract us from the six pages of instructions we are obviously required to read before we enter. In true 90s style, we are told what browser we should be using and what plugins we'll require, because those are the ones the web designer used and anyone using anything different can basically bugger off.

"Welcome to the North Pole, compliments of Coca Cola. There's a ton of seasonal silliness inside." reads the text, evoking about as much silliness and fun as a Russian newsreader.

In fact, this is what is ACTUALLY inside:


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See the silliness and fun! See it? No, I couldn't either. The text helpfully tells us that we can use our cursor to explore the page. Really? You mean you can use your mouse on the internet TOO? There's a "Decorate the tree game", which I can only assume was a badly designed Shockwave application that took two hours to download before freezing your computer, a few e-cards and the opportunity to download a TV commercial. DOWNLOADING A VIDEO IN 1998? DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THAT WOULD HAVE TAKEN? Moving on.

Sony.com, circa 1996


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How about a game of spot the difference, boys and girls? Go to www.sony.com. Go on, just go and have a look. I'll wait for you to get back.

Now, did you notice any differences?

Mcdonalds.com, circa 1996


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Assuming that your retinas haven't melted from the appalling red background, you'll notice that this is a pretty crap web effort from one of the world's biggest companies. A few lines of text, a big old blue/purple hyperlink and an animated GIF was apparently the best they could do with all their millions of dollars. And why bother using a table when you can just centre align the whole thing?

As 90s web fashion dictated at the time, we are made to click on something to "enter" the website. Aren't we already there? Aren't we in it yet?


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"Entering" the site takes us to another crap page featuring another crap picture, seemingly of a happy family laughing at a group of retarded children trapped inside a McDonald's restaurant. The designer is clearly showing his versatility here, opting for a left aligned page over the tried and true centre align method. Of course, this leaves about 72 square metres of white space on the right hand side of the screen, but we won't worry about that. The text tells us to click on either the "adult" or "kids" link to enter the site... hang on, we're STILL not in the site yet? Where are we, the vestibule? Screw this.

Kleenex, circa 1998


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And the winner of 1998's "Zero Effort Award" goes to...Kleenex! I can imagine the head of their newly created web development department at their first meeting, screaming "TIME IS MONEY, JIM, AND PICTURES MEAN SLOWER DOWNLOADS. NO PICTURES! JUST LEFT ALIGN EVERYTHING AND WRITE A PILE OF CRAP ABOUT WHAT WE DO. AND FOR GOD'S SAKE PUT IT ON A WHITE BACKGROUND!"

Nestle, circa 1996


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That obviously wasn't the case over at Nestle, where the designers have clearly scored a copy of Photoshop 3 and let rip on a delightful collage of the company's products. Unfortunately the collage obscures the tiny and rather oddly placed bevelled and embossed grey button we need to click on to enter the site. Not that we'd probably want to.

Should you wish to do your own web archive trawling, I highly recommend visiting the Wayback Machine.



19 comments :

  1. That's crazy. They look so kinda ... primitive!! And then I look at my blog and think ... kinda ... different sorta primitive. I love the ebay one especially as I do tend to lurk on their current site quite a bit.

    As my beloved gran might say: how times change, eh?

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  2. hi luv. Your post is a very original idea! I liked it and yes, how far we've come!

    :)

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  3. Nice finds.

    Yes it is amazing how the cybernet is only ten years ago.

    My first memories of the interweb were as a young teen waiting quite a long while for certain types of pictures to upload.

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  4. Oh, so back in the 90s they were all using 28.8k modems were they?

    THANKS A LOT! THAT'S WHAT I'M USING NOW! THANKS FOR MAKING ME FEEL LAME!

    But its only cos that's what came with my laptop... My desktop has s sparkly 56k modem. :(

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  5. Not so original, Honeysmack. But funny nonetheless.

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  6. Well thanks for outing me, David! Do you like stealing lollies from toddlers too?

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  7. I remember being back in high school and I couldn't see the point of having an email address.

    Who would I email anyway?

    These days I barely go a day without checking my email. Hmm.

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  8. Oh, too funny. I've forgotten how they used to have seperate 'enter' pages and notes on which browser the sites works best on. I've also forgotten the sheer frustration of slow modems, broken connections, fluro text on black screens, dorky animated gifs, and knowing your friends in America had this magical wonderful thing called broadband...

    For more hilarity, use the Wayback site to have a look at the early days of smh.com.au and telstra.com.au.

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  9. I was only talking with some colleagues the other day about how in the 90's you had to keep all web site images to 256 colours maximum and you had to cater for people with the lowest screen resolution of 640x480.

    Then we we realised we weren't really geeks and started talking about beer, women and footy.

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  10. You think that McDonald's and eBay are bad - do you realise how hard it was to find quality sex and violence on the internet in 1995? The first time I used the wonders of the web at Flinders University I had to settle for looking at a picture of a woman being violated by a baseball bat and images of Kurt Cobain's suicide pics. Thank God those days are over and I can now find seamless images of Neighbours stars' heads popped onto the bodies of naked shemales from Bolivia.

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  11. Ah those were the days. I remember being so bored in the computer lab in highschool, and thinking "FFS, how dull, what the feck do we need puters for".

    Kinda like Homer saying " Ah they have the internet on computers now?"

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  12. Ahhh the Wayback Machine. It truly is yours, mine, and everyone else's friends.

    I miss those old days though. Days of bad internet design and a huge pile of search engines (AltaVista? Hotbot? Excite? Lycos?). Now it's all slick and modern and Google and Wikipedia and has no soul.

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  13. The first few are missing images due to defects in the archive program.

    The rest holds kind of true though.

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  14. I concur with Matt.
    Do you concur?
    I concur.

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  15. Has Bland Canyon become Canned Canyon?!

    Give us some fodder to digest!!

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  16. Patience, my pretties! David Tench is but a few hours away....

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  17. Must be said though, that these are some of the worst examples. Certainly a couple of aussie sites I checked like www.theage.com.au and www.national.com.au (which I used both of back in '96) didn't look nearly as bad. Of course I had to check my own home page from way back then too, which was way cooler than the one I've had ever since then (i.e., none at all).

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  18. All of you remember when you're "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing at the primitive versions of websites you see here that that is where this all came from, and there are some of us who would give anything we had to offer to go back to a time like that.

    A time before Google, a time before IGN, a time before Web 2.0, and most importantly a TIME BEFORE SOCIAL NETWORKS AND BLOGS. If you did not use the internet back then, in the 90's, when it was still like it is in the pictures in this article, you have no clue what a "clean" internet could possibly be like.

    Go type the word "blog" into Google. ~2 billion results, and around 180,000,000 of them are nothing more than "traffic generation" websites. You can't even use a search engine any more it's getting so bad.

    (I'd like to make a note that the user who wrote the blog doesn't have any ads on their page! Bravo!)

    Give us this internet back, for the love of God. Give it back!

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