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The Web back in 1996-1997

Back in 1996 the Web was starting to gain some serious momentum, but it was still just a few years old. Now in 2008, looking 12 years back into the past of the Web can be a both nostalgic and entertaining experience.

To give you some perspective, in 1996…

  • Google.com didn’t exist yet.
  • In January 1996 there were only 100,000 websites, compared to more than 160 million in 2008.
  • The web browser of choice was Netscape Navigator, followed by Microsoft Internet Explorer as a distant second (Microsoft launched IE 3 in 1996).
  • Most people used dial-up Internet connections with mighty speeds ranging from 28.8Kbps to 33.6Kbps. Highly modern 56Kbps modems would arrive in 1997.
  • People had only recently started to switch from 640×480 to 800×600 screen resolutions.

We have used the good old WayBack Machine (a.k.a the Internet Archive) to track down screenshots of what websites looked like back in 1996-97.

Yahoo

In 1994, “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” had been renamed to “Yahoo!”. The Yahoo.com domain was created in January 1995. In 1996, Yahoo was well on its way to becoming one of the major Web portals.


Internet Archive link.

Webcrawler

Webcrawler got started in 1994 and was the first Web search engine to provide full text search (making it the first modern-day Web search engine).


Internet Archive link.

Altavista

Altavista was a search engine created by DEC that launched in 1995 and quickly gained massive popularity. Aside from strong traffic to their own website, in 1996, Altavista became the exclusive provider of search results to Yahoo.


Internet Archive link.

Ultimate Band List

Started in 1994, Ultimate Band List (UBL) provided a popular music database with information about artists, concerts, record labels, and so on. Kind of a Last.fm of the time.


Internet Archive link.

Lycos

Founded in 1995, Lycos quickly grew into one of the most popular portals and search engines on the Web. By 1999, Lycos was the most-visited Web portal in the world.


Internet Archive link.

Netscape

Founded in 1994 (originally as Mosaic Communications Corporation), Netscape is one of the true pioneers of the Web. In 1996, Netscape Navigator was the leading Web browser by a large margin. Microsoft had started going after market shares with Internet Explorer, but had not yet gained a firm footing.


Internet Archive link.

MSN

MSN (The Microsoft Network) got started as a set of Internet services in 1995 (it was launched in connection with Windows 95). It was originally intended to be both an online service and an Internet service provider along the lines of AOL.


Internet Archive link.

Apple

In 1996, Steve Jobs had not yet returned to Apple (he did that in 1997) and the company was losing market shares. Mac OS 8 was on the way (as you can see in the screenshot) and the good old Newton PDA was still being sold.


Internet Archive link.

Excite

Founded in 1994, Excite was yet another popular player in the increasingly crowded Web portal market. The website itself was formally launched in December 1995.


Internet Archive link.

Tripod

Launched in 1995, Tripod was originally billed as a “hip web site and pay service for and by college students,” but mainly became known as a place where people could create free web pages (à la GeoCities). Tripod would later be bought by Lycos.


Internet Archive link.

The New York Times

In 1996, the New York Times website was dead set on getting users to sign up to access any Web content at all.


Internet Archive link.

Things certainly have evolved a bit, haven’t they?

To be fair, the end-user Internet connections of the day would never have been able to handle most of today’s media-heavy websites without them turning slow as syrup, and the relatively fine-grained design control we have these days with for example CSS was not available at the time.

What were your favorite websites back in 1996-97? Share with us! :)



95 comments
neeran
neeran

I may be biased because I helped start it, but my favourite website of the time was CricInfo -- a portal for cricket fans.  Back then it was www.cricket.org, and now it's part of ESPN as www.espncricinfo.com.  In fact we initially set up a CricInfo gopher server (in 1993!) and stayed out of the web till 1995 or so -- we thought gopher was good enough, and didn't want to mess with this new-fangled "www" thing :)

Glaucus
Glaucus

I started my first web page on 1 January 1997 using CompuServe. Not until later did I use Netscape Navigator, which I still use in 2013. Composer to construct the web pages.

http://www.glaucus.org.uk/

30yearsandcounting
30yearsandcounting

In the fast moving social network driven world of today’s web we want it all and we want it now. We post and we share and we Twitter and we blog. But for those of us who have been surfing the web for the last decade or so we can look back and remember a much simpler time. In the late 90’s there were only around 100,000 websites, compared to more than 160 million in 2009. The web browser of choice was Netscape Navigator and most people used dial-up Internet connections with mighty speeds ranging from 28.8Kbps to 33.6Kbps. It was a time of hamsters, chain-letter emails, chatrooms and a man called Mahir Çağrı You can find a great little post about the webs in the 90’s which might be of interest here: http://thirtyyearscounting.blogspot.com/2010/06/lkjkghg-hampster-back-in-1998-canadian.html

adonis
adonis

Where are Netscape and Altavista... It was long time ago, really long time ago, and lots of tgings changed till now. I feel old myself, i think i am getting old :(

PenaltyKillah
PenaltyKillah

Do I spot Bliss's (Windows XP default wallpaper, the one with blue sky, clouds, and green pasture) uncle on the old MSN.com site? LOL!

Compare My Stuff
Compare My Stuff

It's shocking to see how far yahoo has come. Lycos, excite, altavista are BG (before google)...

Savvas
Savvas

That brings back memories of my first internet experiences... lol... it was all about AltaVista back then =)

metallicatown
metallicatown

I was online back in 1996, I used webtv then and was a regular at Simpsons.com chatrooms

vince
vince

someone mentioned Pointcast.. I remember that, I actually sat around to wait for the screensaver with 'real-time' info to come on lol. I started with Excite as my homepage I think in 94-95, and I hadn't changed it until Google came on in 98 -by then the barrage of moving GIFs had just made me sick. I remember my then-wife taking home a Google mousemat from some convention where they were announcing their launch! As for sites, homepages were the thing, where people built 'shrines' to their favorite movie/music stars. Good times indeed. Oh and I remember the pain of the phone bill before the 'free' internet access hit Europe ca. 1999/2000!

jannghi
jannghi

Anyone remember WhoWhere or Four11 (later bought by Yahoo and relaunched as Yahoo People Search)? I was in my last year of college when I first began using the Internet and WhoWhere was one of the first sites I discovered. Both of these were sites where you could list your e-mail address(es). WhoWhere also allowed you to list favorite music, books, etc., and to write a personal message at the end. Lycos acquired WhoWhere in 1998. Yahoo's people search used the same system as Four11 (with the trademark Yahoo screens) until Yahoo bought Four11. I had my then-current e-mail addresses on both of these and found some people I knew, but I didn't find a whole lot of them.

Vince
Vince

band fan sites....you could search "Van Halen", "Green Day" or any band name in yahoo and you would get tons of pages apart from the official webpage all addresses were printen in full form (http://www.hotmail.com) superbad.com ICQ ruled

Vince
Vince

Greg, I'm former wbs user too....dungeon mostly...what was your screen name? I lost track of all the guys from wbs too.....kept some email adresses and lost others...would be great to get everybody together and see what's happened in the last 8-10 years

cchiovitti
cchiovitti

Oh goodness, I feel so old now. I've had my Yahoo e-mail since the beginning. Remember startsampling.com? Or iwon.com where they gave away a million dollars? I miss some of the "newness" and excitement of the internet, but I wouldn't go back to dial-up for anything!!

StephRose
StephRose

Finally someone mentioned ICQ and IRC. Two old but early and popular web tools...not in 1996 though, I don't think. ICQ, great chat tool. Still available today. But the early versions, when you typed, the sound effect made it seem like you were typing on an old keyboard with each keystroke. I loved it. IRC. Biggest chat network out there.

jamesbt
jamesbt

In 1996 I was working for Music Boulevard, one of the first online music stores, as the lead encoding specialist -- ripping 30 second samples from disks and scanning cover art. Music Boulevard was actually started by another company, Telebase, that (I think) offered access to various financial databases. Music Boulevard then merged with N2K who then merged with CDNOW (Music Boulevard's main competitor while I was there). One of my bosses left actually to join Amazon and was part of the team that started their music store. I spent a good chunk of my time participating in the ModList mailing list and used to check the various members' GeoCities pages religiously. I wish I could remember which "neighborhood" my site was in! And I remember trying to get my site listed on Yahoo! and, later, DMOZ (that was the Open Directory site, right?). Someone mentioned Tucows, and I too used to rely on that site for all sorts of downloads. I think I may have downloaded GoldWave there and then used it to create an entire album's worth of music based on the samples I was ripping at work. And I still use the same software today for simple audio editing jobs! Yeah, it's amazing how things have changed and, to some extent, how they really haven't. The web was, and still is, empowering individuals, inspiring creativity and bringing people together -- this post and series of comments is simple proof of that! And, like everyone else here, I can't wait to see where it all goes...

kurtki skórzane
kurtki skórzane

The yahoo site is the best of them i think. But now... google rocks.

gex
gex

oh damn.. they're apparently back.. probably not the same guy in his basement as back in the day I bet, though.

gex
gex

50megs.com they owned! (for decent web hosting)

John
John

Oh--And Bukator: This may sound pathetic, but internet access to me is on a par with utilities at this point. I agree, it's a matter of time before the networks dry up and streaming TV--that is, the channel system we've been using since radio in the 1920s--will disappear. Am I the only one for whom turning on the TV is a quaint concept? Plus, I'd agree computers as we know them now will be obsolete in, say, 20 years. Replaced perhaps by cheap OLED touchscreen net machines about the size of a steno pad. And by cheap, I mean $30 at Walgreens cheap. With ubiquitous wireless access (pleasepleaseplease) providing web-based apps like what google and MS offer, powerhouse machines are almost unnecessary. Almost, anyway. Aah, just a thought.

John
John

Oh my heart! altavista was indispensable to me back in the 90s. I started working for an internet company in March of '96 and was so excited, I had my first website up within weeks. On Geocities. Boy, that used to rock. What the hell is the matter with me, I am *never* nostalgic! Feh! HTML was never meant for design. And GIFs! Yuck! I shudder just reading my previous paragraph.

Fred
Fred

Excite is still my home page,call it Loyalty.pageflakes,netvibes,ect,keep em'As Long as I've got stumbleupon I'll be sitting here for hours upon hours.

BJ
BJ

Then there was NAPSTER!

Frazer
Frazer

Ah compuserve with a 2400 baud modem. Big Hayes jobbie, selectable speed incase it was too fast!! I remember the excitement when compuserve moved from numeric ids to acutal names - heady days.

Bukator
Bukator

Just wait until we are stumbling upon Web 3.0. Try to learn as much about it as you can...I can't explain it all here but it is way cool. The internet is still SO young...give it a few years and it will be as necessary to us as food and water for our survival. Everything you see is going to be linked to the web. EVERYTHING! It will basically be known as the earth's machine, with every object becoming a portal to the machine. So far, our only portals to Web 2.0 are computers and some other small devices (cell phones, game consoles, etc.) Once our machine has been built and is up and running well, it will be like the first computer. That is, until we link it to another machine (from another planet) creating a Super Web, where we can share information as we do today on our own internet. Our civilization is only about 200,000 years old. Imagine linking our machine to a 2 million year old civilization! We would advance ourselves so much just on the things we would learn from them. Look at what we've learned in the last 100 years! The internet is so important. I am proud to have lived through its birth. Like I said, learn as much about the future of the web as you can...it's incredible. Today's computers will play such a small role in the new web, becoming nearly obselete since every other object will be connected in some way to the machine.

Jon
Jon

I remember first seeing the internet at university in 1994. I had no idea what to do with it. I recall using Altavista, and looking up info on the Euro Fighter, as i had heard about it on the news, and thought that maybe I would find something secret! They had a website, but it was a bit dull. My next memory was when I started at a new company which had internet, in 1998. A colleague told me about Google, and later one of my IT pals was curious, and asked why I used Google instead of the other search engines. 10 years later and he now works for Google. For me the most interesting part of the net has always been the social aspect. I used it for email and newsgroups through University and little else.

Jack
Jack

Amazing. My first 'net' experience was 1999 because my Dreamcast came packed with a browser (a Netscape 3 clone basically). Still remember my first email addy with Excite.com and the thrill of browsing the web for the first time (in fact I was on for about 30 hours trying to see everything, little did I know). Great looking back, but looking forward is even better.

Sean
Sean

I was 12 in 97'.... A cousin lent me their dial-up user id & password while I was home ill. Computer was sadly in a room without a phone line, so I tore the house apart until I found a cord with the length I needed to reach into the adjoining room. After hooking the 28.8 k modem up, and hearing that magic 'screech' when i dialed in, I knew I was toying with something momentous.. ...Looking for chatrooms, I wondered if I could find porn with a 'boobies.com' in the browser... magic moment my friends.. magic

Tom
Tom

I found our original company website on the way back machine, much has changed since then (including the domain): http://web.archive.org/web/19961227073725/http://www.bigfish.co.uk/ I think looking back at what the web used to look like makes you appreciate how far we've moved on both in terms of design and technology. I think it'll be interesting to see what the difference is like in another 10 years time. Will the jump be as big in the future? Tom

John Waters
John Waters

You forgot MTV.com, which at that time may still have been personally owned/operated by JV Adam Curry. I forget when he handed over operations to Viacom, it was around 1996. -jcw

tomas
tomas

1996.. I only remember ~surfing~ WWW.nerikes.se and WWW.telia.se (with logo that of once infamously displaying the pun 'felia', implying a hack!) at very low speeds.

Pingdom
Pingdom

@TurboFool: Thanks for the catch. Fixed! :) And thanks everyone for all the great comments so far! Someone asked about Geocities. The problem we had when trying to get these screen captures was that the Internet Archive hasn't been able to properly archive all websites, at least way back in 96-97. Geocities was one we had problems with, so it wasn't included.

Michael D. Hafer
Michael D. Hafer

What would be really cool is a Flash game that replicated the 1996/97 internet experience. lol

Josie Beller
Josie Beller

My first favorite site online? avatar on PLATO. I started out on the PLATO network, which had the equivalent of email, chat, IM, message boards, MMORPGs, and emoticons, way back in the 1970s. I've been watching the Web reinvent all of this ever since. I too remember gopher, and using nn to read newsgroups on a 22.8kbps modem. The fanfic on rec.arts.startrek when "The Best of Both Worlds" had its cliffhanger, from people too impatient to wait for the official conclusion. "Highlander" and "Forever Knight" coming out the same year and developing parallel/sister listserv fandoms. Friends chatting with people in Israel who had to log off because Iraq was shooting SCUDs at them again. Reading rec.humor.funny every week or so -- no more "mouse ball" jokes allowed! Tim Lynch's reviews and Brian Woodcock's .sig file. Of the web sites discussed above, I think my favorite was the original Yahoo!, back when it did one thing and did it better than anyone else. I *still* miss the well-organized directory, so easy to find what you needed and yet so inviting to browse. Of sites not mentioned yet, hands down kudos belong to "The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5," which was a landmark/pioneer in the now-common encyclopedic fan-run sites for everything from TV shows to bands to politicians. "That's 'Wa-hoo!' If Yahoo! wants a plug, they can pay me for it." -JMS (Second only to the full page of "eep!" for best B5 Usenet quote ;-)

Jerk
Jerk

Hamster Dance! :D :D :D :D :D

Jesse
Jesse

Times New Roman was sure a hit back then.

Vic Stapel
Vic Stapel

Forgot to mention. Chatted over compuserve with a guy asking me if I would be interested in starting a "craiglist" in Hong Kong.He was the original creator. I wasn't too excited about the concept .. Where was my intuition? :-) Still have online friends NOW that I met then over compuserve.. Those were the days when someone willing to chat, was nearly a "HAPPY TROPHY" find.

Vic Stapel
Vic Stapel

I won my 1st Internet access in a Newspaper contest in Hong Kong in 1995. I am a Visual oriented Designer there I met another winner who was already an html addicted Designer. He offered me to built my site with me. 2600hrs later with his html and my graphics w3.visualsenses.com was born and us as new web partners. Some links may not work as this time BUT it STILL looks clean and displayed properly "AS IS" on any Blackberry or Nokia or cellphone with a decent screen. I am proud of that. "visualsenses.com" is an original 1995 Website that does may not look frightening to those who can live without all the new gadgets the Web is bringing us now. Sadly my webmaster is no longer part of it and therefor and i have not replaced him. So be it till I meet another one as passionate as him. Thanks to the pair hosting that has kept it up 99.99% in all the past 12 years.

Snake
Snake

We are the lucky ones who saw history in making...I remember i asked my friend back in 1998 to tell me about some cool websites and he said Google.com is good...and now google is turning into a sentient life form.

bitty
bitty

Well lets see we got our first computer in 93 - because my daughter needed it for school and I thought the school should buy it it cost us $2000 for now $500 a 9600 baud . If I am remembering right Hotbot search engine I remember u only had a few to choice from I tried AOL then I went to dialup and we only had just so much time... then dsl and now cable! netscape was my browser choice... and I spent most my time in Mirc chats. I remember how weird it was to think you where talking to ppl from across the world!! Netherlands UK wow it was amazing!!! Glad it is better and faster today lets hope it remains FREE!!!!! 200 hrs a month I use to be on!!! Oh well keep plugging enjoy the web....only to get better I am sure!!! Great memories!! Bitty

TurboFool
TurboFool

Very cool collection of info, but I just had to correct one little item: 33.6k, not 34.4k.

brady
brady

infoseek and excite were my two favorite websites. At the time Netscape and Netscape Composer were my best friends. Man how the times have changed. I was so happy when realplayer became popular

Mark
Mark

internet gaming zone - before the MS takeover hotmail - when it was "cool" to have a hotmail account, before the MS takeover ICQ - before the AOL takeover GeoCities or AngelFire - before the takeover RocketMail NHLPA.com - they had a cool trivia contest every week, we won once!! theoffspring.net - my favorite band at the time IRC - back when a 28.8k modem was an awesome connection. WebChat.org and #teenconnection rock on!! I still have copies of old scripts I wrote. StarCraft - around 1998. I still play it today (ok, last week)

Mary
Mary

I didn't get online until 1997. Spent a lot of time in the chat.netscape.net chatrooms back then. Recently divorced with two school age kids, I didn't have a whole lot of time. But the folks in chat were supportive and I miss the camaraderie. :( We paid by the minute for internet access and my mother about died when she got her first bill. As soon as the first unlimited package was released, my parents were on it like ants on sugar.

mike
mike

I dunno if it's a website exactly, but I remember Microsoft Chat back in those days. oh and also, zombo.com which still exists to this day.

Oldtimer
Oldtimer

I remember all of these sites... and I remember when they looked like this.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Un post de pe blogul royal pingdom mă inspiră să scriu acest articol. Nu recunosc prea multe siteuri de acolo dar iată ce făceam eu pe internet prin 1996-2000: [...]

  2. [...] It’s been a sole proprietorship, started (from -really- nothing) by Pat Strader 12 years ago.  Remember what the internet was like 12 years ago? [...]