A millennium ago the web was made of static websites with flashy ‘ ’ .gif files optimized for windows 95 on a 36k modem. These sites had no AJAX techniques, profiles, blogs, let alone an option to comment. The internet was a place to look around, instead of interaction.
Now – a whopping 61,352 hours later – it’s hard to believe on how we could spend our time online without updating our profiles, downloading the newest Prison Break episode, uploading Flickr photo’s, filling our iPod with iTunes songs and reading the latest Google news.
Let’s go back into history and check out what happened to the websites that were ‘hot’ back then. Are there still pieces alive of the old web, or have these sites become an useless appendix?
In ’95 Hotmail was introduced: the first place to get a free email address, disconnected from an ISP.
Hotmail was properly the first contact with the powers of the internet for many novice web users: communicating by email. Four years later after its launch 30 million people worldwide were exchanging @hotmail email addresses. At some point Hotmail was almost thought to be the only way to ‘email’ by n00bs.
Hotmail was bought by Microsoft in 1998 for just 400 million dollars, a bargain for pre-internet bubble standards.
Now in 2007 the end of Hotmail is near – although the @hotmail.com won’t go anywhere- since its transformation to “Live” mail to become an integrated part of the Microsoft’s “Live” family.
Geocities was the most popular place where you could create your own free homepage on the web.
In 1997 Geocities was the fifth most popular website, with over 500,000 homepages created. Yahoo bought Geocities two years later for $3.57 billion dollars. And started to actively commercialize the homepages with various advertising types that resulted in their death sentence. With ‘real’ web hosting becoming affordable for anybody, the need for free homepages in this form vanished. Geocities accounts are now only used for outdated information, and to upload/download illegal mp3 files from...
Search engine Altavista was the Google of the previous millennium. The first real effort to index the World Wide Web. It was popular because it was one of the few search engines that actually came up with good search results.
But Altavista had a hard time fighting spam listings in their results.
While spam grew logarithmic in Altavista, some company named Google found a way to prioritize web pages more intelligently, and thus keep spam out better.
When people tried Google and compared it was Altavista, it became an easy switch. Since then their market share in the industry dropped to almost nothing, with only visitors from old bookmarks. Altavista never (tried to) recover. Yahoo! is now the proud owner of this piece of history.
ICQ – for the younger people a abbreviation of “I seek you” – created in 1996 was an easy to use instant messenger program where you could add friends to your list, see if they were online and chat. Doesn't sound new at all, but back then it was revolutionary for the masses and it became the ‘application’ everybody had installed.
ICQ was acquired by AOL in June 1998 for a whopping $287 million plus contingent payments of up to $120 million over three years based on growth performance levels.
What went wrong? Eventually the program got too many additional features that made the application heavy and unorganized. While competition of AOL IM, Yahoo IM, and MSN Messenger increased, and friends on your ICQ-list left the application. Eventually resulting in a mass abandoning of the network.
Netscape, now only famous for the oldschool “optimized for Netscape” on outdated webpages, has dropped from a browser share of over 50% in ’98 to less than 1% now.
What went wrong? Netscape was ‘victim’ of Microsoft’s notorious ways of dealing with competitors. But in the end most blame lies with Netscape self, due to lack of innovation and inability to tie customers to their product. The netscape browser was good in the beginning but got slowwww, buggy, and had an (even more) ugly layout compared to Internet Explorer.
Struggling to survive Netscape became in 2006 a non-innovative boring web portal, waiting to completely disappear into the history books.
Bringing a online standard in streaming audio since ’95. The first audio from the web was transmitted in the Realplayer format. This was in a time of .wav files and slow 36k modems: not a good combination. Real had created the solution with their applications, and (live) internet broadcasts was born.
But what went wrong? The Realplayer audio format – and player - became obsolete due to - locally savable - small sized mp3 files, and Windows Media Player – distributed standard on all pc’s. Yes, the death story resembles Netscape Vs. Internet Explorer. Also the program became too commercial with annoying ‘buy pro version’ pop-ups every 10 minutes.
The web hasn’t always been on ‘open’ place. In the previous millennium there was only one company available where you could buy a .com, .net or .org domain.
For the small price of 100 dollars and a two year minimum, you would get your own domain name. But back then there was still a big chance you would be able to buy a dictionary word as .com.
It took until the beginning of 2000 until they lost the monopoly position and domain prices dropped over 95%.
Since then innovation halted and Network Solutions became one of the thousands anonymous domain registrars.
If you believe some critical websites or information are missing. Drop me a message, so I can complete this tribute to something maybe useful.