Posted in General

10 Things From Old Websites We No Longer Use

In 1996 our college finally got the internet, and it was a serious game-changer for just about everyone there.  While it was horrendously slow — especially compared to today’s lightning-fast speeds — everyone became entranced with the large cyberworld out there.  One of the coolest, and most trendiest fads that was born at the time was to have your own website.  Remember, this was before MySpace, blogs, LiveJournal and the like, so if you wanted a website, you pretty much had to learn HTML formatting and go with it.

Suffice to say, I was totally on board with this, and created a series of websites (one of which is still in operation, albeit moved to a blog format, even today).  It’s bizarre to look back at website design of the mid- to late-90s, because there were so many trends and elements we simply no longer use, such as:

1. GeoCities addresses

Before GeoCities was absorbed by Yahoo!, it seemed like everyone had a GeoCities address.  Depending on your website’s content, you’d apply to join a themed “neighborhood” (I did college, for instance) and would end up with a pretty convoluted URL as a result.

2. Animated Gifs

You still see these in forums for annoying people’s avatars, but they were an unstoppable plague that covered practically every website by 1998.  Website designers loved them like their own children, but visitors hated them like, well, demonic children.  They ended up making websites feel like they were unable to stop moving and just be, and eventually got phased out entirely.

I’ll admit it: I loved me some dancing hamster back in the day.

3. MIDI tunes

And because all of this website stuff was wild and new, there weren’t many protocols on what you should or shouldn’t do — which is why, more likely than not, you’d arrive at someone’s site and instantly hear the strains of “NeverEnding Story” or “Candle in the Wind” blaring in all of its MIDI glory.  We thought nothing of forcing visitors to have to listen to our synthetic brand of music.  Really, those first few years were all about “sensory overload”.

MIDI tunes were never that great to listen to, but we used them because of the relatively small file size compared to .wavs, and the more ambitious website designers would even create entire jukeboxes so visitors could have their pick of audio poison.

Give some a listen today! Don’t thank me later!

4. Obnoxious use of frames

Frames were basically separate website windows patched together to look as ugly as possible.  Not only did they look bad, but some browsers refused to support them entirely, so you’d end up with a broken website.  Awesome.

5. Guestbooks

Gah, does anything scream “pretentious and outdated” so much as a guestbook?  If you have NO idea what these were, guestbooks were sort of a predecessor to a blog’s comment system.  They were basically you asking people to leave a comment if they stopped by.  After a while, people got sick of filling these out, mostly because they weren’t about conversations so much as begging for compliments.

6. Hit counters

While many site and blog owners do still keep track of traffic, the late-90s hit counters were more for show than for information.  Your site was ALL about the hits, and if you had them, you wanted to flaunt them, preferably with as showy (and animated) of a counter as you could find.

7. Under construction notices

These never made that much sense to me, but they were EVERYWHERE.  Basically, if you started making a website but ran out of steam or were too lazy to get the basic framework done in an afternoon, you’d slap up an “Under Construction” notice and then not do anything to the site for the next eight months.  I guess back then there was a mentality that a website had a definite finishing point when it came to making one, and if you weren’t there, you were under construction.

8. 3D fonts

Yes, this was never tacky at all, so it’s a good thing everyone did it.

9. “New!”

I guess new content back then was either so rare or we were so pleased with ourselves for having it that we constantly had to promote it by slapping “NEW!” graphics next to any of these notices.  Then, we finally figured out that people could figure out from dates whether something was NEW! or not, and let it go.

10. “Best viewed with…”

This is another weird relic that you really don’t see anymore.  Back then, some of the website design tricks we used would work for one type of browser (opera/IE/netscape) but not the others, so we’d post these informational graphics like visitors really cared SO MUCH about seeing our website that they’d totally switch browsers just to be able to do it RIGHT.  Even better, we’d tell them what resolution their screen should be set at.

Ah… good times.  Good times.

19 thoughts on “10 Things From Old Websites We No Longer Use

  1. Also:

    * Blink: Those with seizure-potential thank the day this was actually dropped from HTML

    * Horizontal Rules: Entire sites were devoted to hosting HR’s that you could use on your site.

    * Tiled Backgrounds: People sucked at graphic design back then, and couldn’t make a tiled background to save their souls…apparently.

    Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff didn’t go AWAY…it only morphed into what we consider to be more “acceptable”. Most of it has been gathered under the Flash umbrella (animations, audio, and so on) and we’re still inundated with weird web tricks. It’s even made worse by the fact that we have more browsers to support…making code less flexible…needing more of it…increasing loading times. Developers need to really count pennies to squeeze performance, even on high speed connections.

    We may have lost a lot of cheese, but we still have the calories.

  2. RSS subscription count widgets are the new hit counters.

    Also: <blink> and <marquee> R.I.A. (agony…)

  3. I just remember, in times long past, working furiously to make my (now defunct) site W3C standards compliant, proudly sticking a button on the site indicating compliance once I finally got it to validate (thus automatically making me 90% superior to any other website), and then finding that it didn’t render correctly in any browser I tried.

    Which is why I never change the theme on the blog; I’ve been there before, and that way madness lies.

  4. I really wish GIF animations were truly gone, but if a forum supports it, you can bet your behind they’re still going to used.

    For example, check any thread in Lots of animated avatars here. I always have problems concentrating in forums like these. Good thing we have the ESC button.

  5. Oh wow, the memories. I was in college too during that time, and remember putting together websites for my sorority and other campus groups… all complete with frames, hit counters, and the like. I think about those websites now and die a little inside.

    Also, Geocities… as convoluted as it was, I thought it was the coolest thing ever back then. Bleh.

  6. Scopique, we only really have five Browsers to code for now (for basic websites anyway)

    IE6, IE7, IE8, IE9 and the Standards Compliant sites. Seriously. Every major revision of IE has changed the way it renders things so it breaks the smallest of things. Border rendering, table rendering, its always something.

    FF,Chrome,Safari and Opera all share similar rendering engines (Indeed most use Webkit, while FF uses Gecko, but they both render the basics near enough the same that it makes no difference) The only time you need to code for these separately is things like Javascript, where some browsers will do things others won’t, but even then you can just let it degrade gracefully rather than do actual browser checks

    This all harks back to the days when Internet Explorer was the only browser (back when it pushed out Netscape and forged its own standards that no-one took any notice of), and IE6 is still used in the corporate environment because web applications were designed to run off IE6 ONLY, using all the non-standard ways it did things, so much so they won’t even run properly on IE7, let alone anything else.

    I started off ‘developing’ websites when I was 12, when I bought a big book o’ HTML and instantly fell into the FRAMES trap, although FRAMES weren’t as obnoxious as people made out, they were only obnoxious when done badly.

    The thing is, Jukeboxes, Counters, Guestbooks etc, all these things took up space on the screen. Once people realised they could make MONEY out of websites they cleared up all the space and filled it with adverts. All we’ve done is trade obnoxious but harmless page widgets for annoying pop-overs and potential virus vectors.

    Under Construction notices were generally used because amateurs (and even some pros) couldn’t afford, or couldn’t be bothered with, staging or testing servers so they just did things piecemeal, sticking UNDER CONSTRUCTION up in place of content.

    NEW labels were quite useful back in the day, before we had timestamped RSS feeds, so you could see at a glance if something had changed. They are completely useless now that everyone and their dog uses some sort of Content Management System and no-one but the most backwards troglodyte updates their site by editing the source code by hand.

    3D fonts were more of a design gimmick, like the soft reflections thing that Apple and it’s imitators are keen to do (Like when you create fake boxes for your digital-distribution only software and it just NEEDS to reflect below it like it’s sitting on a shiny glass coffee table)

    wow, this is turning into a blog post. And more than a bit of a rant. I’ll leave it there I think.

  7. Ah, the good old days. Back when every website looked like crap and you created them in notepad. If only we could bring back such wonderful site designs. I do miss the old Yahoo! and not being able to find a damn thing.

  8. Regarding number 10, I think you’d be surprised how many websites out there still do this, and in many cases it’s relevant. There are many websites that just don’t work right in browsers other than IE (for example), even today.

    Try visiting a bunch of corporate and small business websites and you’ll see a lot of that.

  9. @Chordian: indeed, forum signatures are often the place where animated gifs are still an unstoppable plague. Particularly F2P games’ forums, I’ve noticed. Atlantica Online’s forums I found barely readable due to the enormous movies people had running as animated gifs in their signatures.

  10. Hmm…

    Hmmm. I still have my website on floppy somewhere. I created it to learn how it was done, and because my favorite band had no fansite. That was a couple of years before I started playing EQ and forgot all about creativity, so somewhere around 1997.

    I made it with the 30-day free trial of Dreamweaver and I am pretty certain that I avoided almost all of the cliches above, although I vividly remember all of them from my endless website-browsing.

    I must dig it out and see if it still works…

  11. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I remember building a website for my school’s chess club using HTML and notepad! It had many animated gifs and was cool, then I discovered things like hotmetal pro. I was not a designer and so my websites were pretty simple, but I guess I was not alone.

  12. The thing that really made animated .GIFs the devil at the time wasn’t the constant motion (though that was also unwelcome). It was the simple fact that it expanded the size of the file, and when you’re on a connection that can choke (easily) on too much raw text, trying to load (comparatively) huge images didn’t do anyone favors.

    Oh, the vintage web.

  13. That all brings me back… in a really bad way. I was working on our guild site yesterday and Dr. Klassi came up and asked, “Are those frames?”

    I said no sir, we don’t use them anymore! Yes… I’m that nerdy.

  14. Rss Subscriptions are not the new hit counters anymore, likes are, like comments on youtube, like my shit post on facebook, like me liking tht thing, they do my bulb in… now people fight for the most likes on youtube, its f**king annoying

    and I know I will probably get complaints.. But I still use marquee’s and HR’s.
    In my forum, when someone posts a youtube link, it loads an iFrame in its place with the videos image and its title in a marquee over the bottom of the image

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