The last couple of days I was having fun playing with the Wayback Machine. It hosts a colossal collection of 85 billion pages archived since 1996. So if you want to see how your, or anyone’s else site looked back in the last century (if it was around that time), give the URL to the Wayback Machine and it will spit out the results, archived by months and years from 1996 until present.

I decided to examine how some of the well known websites looked in their early days of existence on the internet. It was also interesting to note that some of the famous companies didn’t get their sites on the internet until much later. For instance, CNN first launched their site in June 2000 (at least, no earlier archive was found); Martha Stewart became a house hold name back in 1993, but her website was up only in December 1998 (she did though realize the advantages of the internet before CNN did).

Of course, the internet technology in 1990s was rudimentary compared to the one in XXI century, so I did expect to see most of the sites to have a very simple interface, using just a few basic HTML tags, animated GIFs, etc., but some sites still shocked me with being extremely garish.
Just take a look at – what were they thinking about back in December 1996? I guess the Internet caused an explosion in their heads and hence that exploded world of Pepsi. What a difference with their current site, eh?

What about sites of the Technology giants: IBM, Microsoft, Apple? How did they utilize the limited possibilities of HTML back in 1996? I’ll start from a very plain looking IBM back in October 1996. Well, at least they knew about Unordered Lists:

Microsoft’s site didn’t look that much better in October 1996. The Machine didn’t get all the images, but the main structure and style are there.

Whether you like it or not, whether you are a Mac fan or not, but you must admit that Apple’s website back in December 1996 looked much better.

The earliest archived site for Linux is the one from February 1997. As you can see, they didn’t even have their cute penguin logo designed yet. Nevertheless on February 11, 1997 they already had 3085024 visitors on their site.

Have you had enough of 1996, 1997? Let’s see how internet looked in 1999? That’s when Blogger launched their first site. Wow, login forms, already?
I couldn’t resist and checked their code: gosh, why didn’t I know about Blogger in October 1997 – I could’ve offered my services as a JavaScript programmer. Did this code actually work for them in 1997?
if (f.username.value < " ") {alert("Please enter a username.");

How about Digg, how did their site look back in… 1998?
diggdownWell, Digg site was down for most of the 1998, 1999… In 2000, 2001 it had a page up with some kind of a weird encoding (the content was showing up as ?????? ), had no website (at least,
it wasn’t archived) in 2002, 2003, and finally appeared on the scene in 2004:
Guess, which story got most diggs on February 2, 2001 – 6 years ago?
"Court agrees woman penned Matrix [+ 54 digs]
A CA judge has ruled in favor of a woman who says that the popular Matrix trilogy was based on a manuscript that she wrote in 1981."

Well, at least the Digg users have been consistent with their taste for the last 6 years :-)

For my last bit from the past, I’d like to present you the Wired World of John Chow in August 2000. The future place of a critically acclaimed Dot Com Mogul:
Fortunately, John Chow realized that Web Design is not his strongest skill, so he successfully hopped on the Money Train and his website became one of the most sought-after blogs in the blogosphere, dressed in one of the most popular free WordPress themes, tastefully customized.

Well, what are you waiting for now – go ahead and play with the Wayback Machine, discover how Internet looked before Web 2.0 :-)

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5 Insightful Bits in response to “Time Machine, or 8 bits from the past”

  1. :-D
    Really excited to see the past pages of popular sites!

  2. I visited the BBC’s UK page [1997], and it was just filled in with a lot of images, as you can see here:

  3. ibit

    It’s hilarious, isn’t it? :-)

  4. Good post, I too have spent time checking out popular sites on wayback, some scary stuff… Wonder if we will say the same thing 10 years from now about all the new web 2.0 designs/sites.

  5. ibit

    I’m sure we will – “Gosh, just look at those ugly rounded corners and ridiculous gradient background, and those shiny buttons – huh, so garish and they all look the same…” :-)

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on