It's hard to fathom sometimes the kind of things people believed in the olden days: That the earth was the center of the solar system, that the world was flat, that hysteria was caused by woman's womb coming loose and moving around in her body.
The fact is the past is embarrassing, just look at a picture of your hair from a decade ago – is it tinted? Are you ashamed? Of course you are, because we've all moved on since then.
The internet is no different. What looks minimal, cool and dynamic today will look like the pixelated-daubings of a pathetic cyber try-hard in no time. Yes, it's easy to laugh at the past, and that's why we do it.
So we decided to bring to you the best golden-oldies of the internet – websites so old their html was written in Sanskrit but are still fully-functional and somehow being served up by a musty server in some basement.
The Hall (1995)
We've got absolutely no idea what this Aussie website is about. We think it's an attempt at a primitive internet game. So you start in this rather grand hall, then you click on the numbers and then you click on the squares and then you click on the spots and then you click on the... nah that's as far as we got. You work it out.
Welcome ... to ZomboCom. This ... is ... ZomboCom. Welcome. This is ZomboCom; welcome ... to ZomboCom. You can do anything at ZomboCom. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself. Welcome ... to ZomboCom.
Welcome ... to ZomboCom. This is ... ZomboCom. Welcome ... to ZomboCom! This is ZomboCom, welcome! Yes ... This ... is ZomboCom. This is ZomboCom! And welcome to you, who have come to ZomboCom. Anything ... is possible ... at ZomboCom. You can do ... anything at ZomboCom. The infinite is possible at ZomboCom. The unattainable is unknown at ZomboCom. Welcome to ZomboCom. This ... is ZomboCom.
Welcome to ZomboCom. Welcome. This ... is ... ZomboCom. Welcome ... to ZomboCom! Welcome ... to ZomboCom.
Originally a student joke, Zombo.com parodies the annoying Flash introductory web pages that play multimedia!!! while the rest of a site's content loads. Zombo took the concept to a humorous extreme, consisting only of one very long introduction.
The Robert De Niro Page (1999)
We doubt the shouty actor had much to do with this lovely fan page but frankly we'd be honored to have such an awesome vintage website exist in our honor. What's more, most of the links still work, including the surprisingly harrowing "sound gallery" which contain mp3s of De Niro's finest lines obscured by terrifying static.
UPDATE: The website finally got yanked offline in the politically contentious year of 2016 – about when De Niro started to become real toxic and talking about beating up republicans (LOL he's a midget even in those massive platform shoes). Coincidence or not? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Mission Critical (1995)
It would seem the internet's minor obsession with ven diagrams is as old as the web itself. Set up by San Jose University, Mission Critical is a site apparently designed to teach people how to think critically. We're sure that's useful, but we can't help but get distracted by that awesome, ring-binder notebook effect.
UPDATE: Oh no! Finally yoinked offline – in early 2013.
Internet Explorer is Evil (1998)
The brainchild of Nathan Lineback, this genuinely interesting website explores the controversy around Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows 95/NT. Obviously the browser-war has moved-on somewhat since 1998, with IE now lagging well-behind Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft lost the battle, and we think that may be in no small part down to Nathan and his stone-cold wit, encapsulated neatly by phrases such as "Microshit."
In 1995 this website was at the cutting edge of web-design. Not only has it got an awesome, textured, gif-laden homepage but it also has a primitive blog-style journal of dinosaur paleontology and photo galleries.
Remember those mail order catalogs full of imported novelty trinkets and assorted junk? This is a digital version of that run by some old guy in Norway – who it appears is still selling stuff (product selection changes minimally over time). The site perfectly marries the mail order catalog aesthetic with the worst of 1990s web design and has earned a spot on Websites From Hell.
Schloss Reichenstein (1996)
Ever wanted to visit the Reichenstein castle? Well there's no need to even leave your bedroom to do so. All you need do is consult Tim Vogel's excellent virtual tour guide. It's so thorough it makes a Wikipedia page look like a post-it. Originally designed in 1996 it was updated in 2003 with the lovely standard fonts and sexy new jpgs.
UPDATE: RIP! Our second entry to finally go offline in 2016.
Lutes, Old and New (1998)
Do you live for luting? Are you forever luting-it-up wherever you are? Then there's only one site for you! Lutes, Old and New. This apparently still active website has everything you will ever need to know about Lutes, including a fascinating "treatise on hand position." The mailing list is still active.
Time Magazine (1999)
This page created in 1999 somehow still exists on the Time site and shows the first modicum of modern web-design principals. Look, 2 columns. That's pretty sweet. And if you're wondering what happened to boo.com – launched in 1999 it was one of the first online clothes retailers, it famously spent £135 million of venture capital money and went bust in 2000.
UPDATE: RIP. Turned into a 404 at some point in late 2011.
Surfing the Internet (1995)
Still not quite got the hang of this whole big "internet" thing? No, us neither. That's why we found Florida University, Astronomy Professor John Oliver's web-page incredibly useful. Being the caring kind of bloke he so clearly is, he has even broken down his web-surfing tutorial into two sections: "Internet-surfing" and "Advanced Internet-surfing." What a guy.
Setting the tone early-on in the internet's developments as a place where geeks can be free to be themselves, The Klingon Language Institute, or KLI is a site devoted to "those bumpy headed aliens of Star Trek really have their own language, one which has far outgrown mere television and film. That's what we're about". And okay, so maybe you need to refresh about a dozen times before it renders properly but remember there are kids younger than this website doing GCSEs.
UPDATE: While still online, the owner of the page decided to drag his site kicking and screaming into the Web 2.0 at some point in 2015. It's vandalism is what it is. We have rerouted the link to its proper version in the Internet Archive.