Internet Archaeologists Dig Up Websites Stuck in Time | TechWell

Internet Archaeologists Dig Up Websites Stuck in Time

Here’s an improvement idea sure to win hurrahs of approval at your next design meeting—old-school flaming text. Or perhaps spinning GIFs would be more appropriate. Maybe your product could benefit from some twinkly background stars or an animated “under-construction sign.” In case your teammates need convincing (as if!), it’s no problem. Internet Archaeology has all the retro-wondrous evidence needed to prove your case.

Things were different back then in the late 1990s, when Enter pages roamed the land of GeoCities and “social networks” referred to the webs of friends and acquaintances made through school, work, or extracurricular activities. Many of the terms we use daily didn’t even exist then. We designed primitive websites—and we liked them.

Nowadays it’s rare to stumble upon website relics lying around on the Internet. We’ve by and large bulldozed them over and built anew. But one man is seeking to preserve the birth of Internet culture, saying web culture is just as important as any album, painting, film, or other cultural artifact. Ryder Ripps, dubbed the “Indiana Jones of the internet,” founded Internet Archaeology in 2009 with a mission to “explore, recover, archive, and showcase the graphic artifacts found within earlier Internet culture.”

The Internet Archaeology website houses hundreds of still and moving images in addition to collections of Y2K-themed sites and Flash and MIDI websites of old. Each collection is meant to “showcase the sentiments and aesthetics of this pivotal, mysterious and unique time within computing history.” 

“As Flash is on its way out—as is the amateur web where people were driven to make their own sites out of passion—these sites are representative of how our culture is shaped by our tools,” says Ripps. “Being able to see this happen through short-lived trends, such as these Flash sites, I feel is very illuminating into better understanding the way culture is formed and changes over time.”

Indeed, websites like the ironic www.ghosttowns.com or the eerie www.heavensgate.com do give us a glimpse into the gangly, pimply beginnings of the more sophisticated web culture that has matured during the last fifteen years. We—as both ordinary users and technology professionals—have a rare privilege: to wax nostalgic about a history we helped make, while still actively making that history today.

What will we think fifteen years from now looking back on what we design today?

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