Previously the Greatest Things Since Sliced Bread
It’s amazing how technology has evolved over the past 20 years. From clunky desktop computers to sleek and inconspicuous smartphones, our devices have become faster, stronger, and better. So have the websites that we visit on a daily basis. Inspired by our past post on gone and almost forgotten Facebook features, we’ve compiled a list of some Internet sites that were once web giants.
In 1999, GeoCities was the third most visited website on the Internet. Originally, it was a web directory where users could place their pages in the appropriate “cities” based on the pages’ subject matter. This led to many websites with gritty graphics and tinny background music—the kind of sites that today would make web designers cock their heads to the side and say, “How quaint.”
Alas, the year GeoCities hit its peak was the same year marking its downfall: Yahoo bought GeoCities in 1999, and the Internet giant imposed new terms of service and became the owner of all GeoCities sites. Users rebelled, and GeoCities lost money until 2009, when Yahoo finally decided to put it out to pasture.
AskJeeves was a search engine website where users could ask specific questions such as “What is the circumference of the earth?” And even if users threw random words together, the site would often still have a clever response waiting, sort of like a ‘90s prototype of Siri.
The site’s mascot was a cartoon butler named Jeeves, based on a character created by author P.G. Wodehouse. After fading from the U.S. site in 2006 and resurfacing on the U.K. site in 2009, Jeeves officially retired from the search engine life in 2011. By then, some younger and more strapping gentlemen touting the names Google and Bing had arrived on the scene.
Before we were trying to hack Twitter, or learn how to optimize Facebook, there was Myspace. It started in 2003, giving users the ability to friend each other and leave comments on each other’s pages. For many teenagers, it was such a big deal to be placed on someone’s “top friends” list, which displayed the Myspace friends a user considered closest to them.
In 2009, however, the site started to decline when its founder, Tom, jumped ship, and its users had migrated to the Mark Zuckerberg production. Justin Timberlake now owns the site, though it doesn’t appear that it will ever be restored to its former glory.
I’m sure plenty of people remember getting CDs in the mail that promised 1,000 free hours of Internet usage through AOL. That cheerful “You’ve got mail!” announcement was a hallmark of the ‘90s. And who didn’t use AIM to chat with friends about what they were doing at that very minute (besides chatting)?
While it’s easy to think that AOL might have suffered the same fate as PDAs and walkmen—dying once something newer and more convenient came along—AOL is actually still alive and well, at least for some 3 million people using dial-up.
Hotmail began in 1996 and stood strong, even after sites such as Google and Yahoo wooed some of its users away. It was recently announced that Hotmail would be replaced by Outlook.com as Microsoft’s webmail service. Users with a hotmail address will get to keep their original address however, meaning that Hotmail’s imprint on the Internet won’t disappear for awhile.
Born in 1999, Livejournal was a space for both blogging and interaction. Users could write their own entries, or they could join specific communities designed around a common interest. It was a nerd’s special haven, before Internet nerdiness was a normal thing.
Livejournal is still alive and kicking, but it’s encountered some bumps along the way. These include site administrators’ banning hundreds of users’ past content not only once, but twice—the first time being dubbed Strikethrough, the second time referred to as Boldthrough. These past mistakes have not been forgiven by its once-loyal user base, who have migrated to other sites that are more friendly to fan communities.
This website up-ended the music industry by birthing the peer-to-peer sharing phenomenon. Started by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, Napster allowed users to download songs from each other for free. They could pick which songs they wanted from a certain artist, rather than having to purchase CDs and only listen to their favorite tracks
Today we have iTunes for that, and legal complaints against Napster—famously spearheaded by the band Metallica—have placed it in a virtual grave.
While some of these websites have changed and some of them are no more, you can’t deny that they paved the way for some of our current Internet sites. So let’s raise a hand in salute of these websites. They may not be as useful or flashy anymore, but they were great sites in their own right and time.
Which of your favorite websites of yesteryear didn’t make our list?
image credit: Rawich/freedigitalphotos.net