The internet, as we know it, is a relatively old creature now – we all know that a primitive version existed way back in the 1950s with point-to-point communication, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that it gained a commercial and public significance. And in these tumultuous two decades, we’ve had the highs and the lows, the advances and the problems, and the success stories and the inevitable casualties.
So in this article, we’ll look back at relics of the internet, once full of promise, but now cast aside to gather dust.
10. Hampster Dance
Believe it or not, this was a thing. A bizarrely popular off-shoot of the internet all started by an animated webpage complete with the melodic sound of Roger Miller’s ‘Whistle Stop’ sped up.
Created by Deidre LaCarte, a Canadian art student, competing with a best friend to make a site that attracted the most traffic – initially visits were peaking at 800, but in January 1999, without warning or publicity, they rocketed to 15,000. This was one of the first examples of viral content and showed the power of word-of-mouth – it was soon appearing in mass e-mails, forums, bumper stickers and blogs.
Crowning moment: Achieved #4 in the UK music charts in Christmas 1999 (yes, really)
A true relic of the internet and for many, their first foray into website design, Geocities was a haven of poorly designed (though often bizarrely in-depth) sites littered with animations and horrific midi files playing in the background. I think everyone growing up with the internet at some point had a go with Geocities (or similar services offered by Tripod).
Unfortunately, after a 15-year run, the United States Geocities was shut down in 2009; however it still enjoys success in countries such as Japan and continues to rank among the top seven thousand websites in the world.
Crowning moment: Just take a look at the ‘geocitified’ version of Lakestar Media!
8. Ask Jeeves
A flawed concept from the start, Ask Jeeves relied on the notion that people will ask questions of the internet. Whilst it did offer keyword searches also, it lacked the popularity and staying power held by Google and went the way of so many other competing search engines. Ask.com still exists and now sports a fancy 3D rendering of Jeeves, but with Google and Yahoo Answers competently leading the field in search and question/answers respectively, the future of the service remains an uncertainty.
Crowning moment: Asking Jeeves ‘How are you?’ and other conversations
7. Google Buzz/Google Wave
Put your hands up if you ever used this. Nobody? Google Wave was created to optimise the web experience to allow for instant and synchronous communications such as email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking. In effect, it would allow for easy and understandable e-mail communications that would typically become confusing and hard-to-follow, by collating all communications into a single place. Unfortunately, however, it never took off – was it too complicated or was there just a lack of buzz?
Which neatly segues me into Google Buzz – a similar service that integrated a number of social networks into Google. However, bogged down by privacy issues and a breach of user information, led to a termination of the service. I’m still wondering if Google Plus really has the lasting power.
Crowning moment: Proof that not everything Google does is popular
6. .tk domains
I distinctly remember my friends, after moving on from their aforementioned geocities sites, had a site ending in .tk. No one’s really sure why this is the case, but for some reason, everyone loved it.
Thanks to Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, fledgling bands websites cropped up all over the place with the TLD of .tk; however this also led to an increase in the number of illegitimate websites. In 2006, computer security firm McAfee claimed that .tk domains were twice as likely as the global average to be used for “unwanted behaviors”, including scams such as phishing and spam.
Crowning moment: www.livingunderground.tk – my now-defunct site (it was terrible)
5. Google Labs
A personal favourite of mine and a disappointing closure, Google Labs was little more than a playground for developers to experiment, but the work being done there was still engaging and a good distraction. Some projects such as Browser Size graduated from the Labs and have become an integral part of Google Analytics, however the sillier and somewhat pointless experiments in HTML5 have been lost.
Crowning moment: My personal favourite discontinued experiment, Google Image Swirl
First of all, in no way do I condone piracy and think it really is damaging the music industry – however it can’t be denied that Napster was a game-changer in file-sharing services and though most users were coping with just a 56K modem and an average wait of 15-30 minutes for a single song.
In 2000, following the leak of an unreleased Metallica demo, the band sued Napster, which served to bring a great deal of publicity to the service, increasing user-count dramatically. However, on March 5, 2001, the RIAA, through the Ninth Circuit Court, ordered Napster to prevent the trading of copyrighted music on its network. In July of the same year, Napster shut down the entire network.
Today, Napster acts as a music store, as part of Best Buy and Rhapsody. Co-founder of Napster, Sean Parker, is also credited as creating Plaxo, as well as holding positions within the board of directors at Yammer and Spotify, as well as being a founding president of Facebook.
Crowning moment: The idea that you could have an mp3 music file for free
3. Yahoo Site Explorer
Whilst not as developed as other site-analysis tools, Yahoo Site Explorer was an effective tool for all aspiring SEOs and provided some quick and easy-to-interpret data. However, last November, Yahoo Site Explorer was retired and merged into Bing Webmaster Tools. On the 6th June, Bing revamped their Webmaster Tools adding the ‘Link Explorer’ which is a reincarnation of the Yahoo’s old service, complete with a wealth of new and improved features.
Crowning moment: Checking the amount of backlinks into a site for free
2. Friends Reunited
This was the buzz of the internet back in 2000, and has been recognised as a true precursor to the massively successful Facebook and other social networking sites. Combining social networking, job-seeking and online dating, the site was a weird hybrid of people engaging with each other via e-mail messaging – with roughly 3 million users by the start of 2002.
Bought by ITV in 2005 for £175 million, the site quickly fell behind after 2007, losing roughly 47% of unique users – in August 2009, it was sold for a meagre £25 million, and in December 2011, was valued at only £5.2 million. Many blamed the failure on poor design, such as Jemima Kiss of the Guardian, who said “[Friends Reunited was] bogged down by an oppressive design, ad-heavy services and payment barriers at every turn”
Crowning moment: Being Facebook before Facebook existed
Ah, MySpace – the one that could have been. Populated by black-and-white photographs of sweeping fringes and an over-abundance of eye-liner, MySpace was the home of the proverbial ‘emo’. Gracing users with instantly-playing songs, glittery backgrounds and a poorly functioned comment wall, MySpace was instantly popular, but when challenged by Facebook, stood no chance.
MySpace simply couldn’t keep up with the streamlined and innovative functionality offered by alternative networks, and after becoming plagued with spam profiles, soon began to fade into the background.
Bought in 2005 by News Corp for a whopping $580 million, MySpace was at the height of its popularity and Rupert Murdoch acknowledged the power it once held, stating: “We bought it [MySpace] for $600 million. We could have sold it for $6 billion a month later.” However, he then followed up, stating, “We screwed up in every way possible, learned lots of valuable expensive lessons.”
Whilst the network has brought artists such as Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys to the spotlight, it failed to hold onto its user base – and whilst still promoting musical acts, the site is becoming a bit of a graveyard.
Crowning moment: Subjecting all users to a blast of music when people opened profiles
In other news, we’ve moved offices! Pictures to follow late this week…