Early web folk art

posted by Jason Kottke Mar 05, 2003

A student of Clay's is compiling a catalog of "early popular web culture" and she needs our help (via bb). Let's reminisce...

Here's a few things I remember: that dancing baby, The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything, the $250 Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe spam, and URouLette. What do you remember?

Reader comments

FredMar 05, 2003 at 8:03PM

www.toystory.com was my first website (the comercial was on) ... then ASCII cow jokes .. something like this:
the quake test release, silicon toad's hacking webpage, irc.alaska.net, webcrawler (when they had the spider as the logo),homernet,SimpsonsDoom, the list goes on....

Eric JMar 05, 2003 at 8:05PM

Does the Hampster Dance count? God I hated that Hampster Dance...yet loved it too. It was MADDENING. That tune still pops in my head from time to time.

SeanMar 05, 2003 at 8:14PM

Prodigy & CompuServ *ugh*. If you had a Mac, eWorld was where it was at. Also, animated Browser buttons ("best viewed by") were a standard. Heck animated .gifs.

mathowieMar 05, 2003 at 8:29PM

the attempted soap-opera-on-the-web of The Spot

The Netscape Fish Tank

the original cool site of the day

the coffee pot cam/webserver thing from sweden and the vending machine cam from MIT

pretty much everything else found at NCSA's what's new page

KevinMar 05, 2003 at 8:33PM

All those "X Ate My Balls" sites
Birdhouse.org and all those great early art pieces.
Art.net - one of the first online galleries that I ever saw. It blew me away.
Netscape 3.0 Beta 3 (I think) that allowed you to have animated gifs as your background. I personally crashed dozens of browsers with my original site ('lo those many years ago).
The SGI Cool Zone in Netscape 2.0.
All those cool things that didn't last - VRML 1.0, Virtual Places and The Hub (one of the first 3D avatar chat systems).
AOL 2.5 with its horrible web browser (booklink), but with the buddy list, which revolutionized IM.
GNN - Global Network Navigator was a site (think early Yahoo) that was once more popular than Yahoo.
Ok, that's enough, but I could go on and on and on.

megnutMar 05, 2003 at 8:51PM

Who could forget Blair? I just remember being blown away, images! And video clips! Amazing stuff. And of course, when they released Gay or Eurotrash I just about died and went to heaven. Those guys were the coolest ever!

Eric JMar 05, 2003 at 9:00PM

Oh...same thing going on at boingboing. Anyway, boingboing reminded me of my all time favorite...All Your Base Are Belong To Us. There was a couple of Flash videos with some techno music and PhotoShopped images.

Eric JMar 05, 2003 at 9:02PM

D'oh..scratch my stupid boingboing reference...that will teach me to read these posts before I comment. AYBABTU is still the best.

katMar 05, 2003 at 9:42PM

I think my first ever viewed website was SciFi's The Dominion. Doesn't exist anylonger, however.

Then there was CyberTown.com. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world at the time.

jjgMar 05, 2003 at 9:53PM


The Centre for the Easily Amused


World Birthday Web


the entire genre of online diaries

PekkaMar 05, 2003 at 10:04PM

Must be Gabocorp and David Siegel. Where did they go ? Anyone ?

marcMar 05, 2003 at 11:00PM

Early Netscape versions had an easter egg that you could access if you typed, "about:mozilla" in the address bar.

jkottkeMar 05, 2003 at 11:12PM

Early Netscape versions had an easter egg that you could access if you typed, "about:mozilla" in the address bar.

Well, whaddya know...current versions of Mozilla have the same thing. I just tried it in Chimera and if gave me this:

And the beast shall be made legion. Its numbers shall be increased a thousand thousand fold. The din of a million keyboards like unto a great storm shall cover the earth, and the followers of Mammon shall tremble.

from The Book of Mozilla, 3:31
(Red Letter Edition)

Dave S.Mar 06, 2003 at 12:02AM

Jennicam, anyone? And she's still at it, after all these years.

PaulMar 06, 2003 at 12:30AM

(!) This site is under construction.

The statement and the slew of orange, yellow, and black cones, barricades, and blinkers. How silly, in hindsight.

markMar 06, 2003 at 12:56AM

the original mtv.com by Adam Curry, then became metaverse.com for legal/MTV reasons. The site isn't even coming up for me now.

Mosiac on my machintosh...

Inlined images in formatted (HTML) text: X bitmaps, GIF and Pict images can be included anywhere inside a document, and can act as hyperlink anchors. Image files themselves can be located anywhere on the network.

FrankensteinMar 06, 2003 at 1:00AM

Mirsky's Worst Of the Web.

The BLINK tag.

Listing every single CD you owned (this being pre-napster, that's all it was: just a list of the CDs you owned. You couldn't download them or anything).

Lynx. Mosaic. Macweb. And all the other browsers that didn't support Netscape's extensions.

The gopher:// url.

TimMar 06, 2003 at 1:43AM

What about the Zombo com splash page that doesn't actually lead anywhere? Good stuff. I have it archived here: http://www.saltedwound.com/index.php?p=599&c=1

jkottkeMar 06, 2003 at 3:31PM

My server conked out last night...some comments may have gotten lost. If you're checking back in and your comment is missing, please repost. (Except for the idiot that posted the very very off-topic war/Iraq link. Please don't pee in my pool; I don't swim in your toilet.)

And BOBAWORLD...that's fantastic. I think the guy's name was Bob Allison; his site was huge with all sorts of links and resources. And then it just went away and he appears to have given up web publishing cold turkey. I've searched around a bit for a mirrored copy, but no dice (this was pre-Wayback Machine).

Ianus KellerMar 06, 2003 at 3:36PM

A Dutch site at http://www.vanderzande.com/nerdcult/ talks about and gives background on Nerd Culture things, like the Dancing baby, Ballmer funk and Hampster dance. Nice thing is that it has been put in some perspective telling where it came from and how it became popular (needs translation though).

SaraMar 06, 2003 at 3:40PM

High Five
The worst website ever is still there.
Psycho ex-girlfriend ("Please call me! PLEASE!")

MattMar 06, 2003 at 3:41PM

Superbad. Utterly surreal since 1995(?).

AmitMar 06, 2003 at 3:43PM

There IS:


which is just as unfathomable.

jimkMar 06, 2003 at 3:55PM

jodi.org - "Woah," said Keanu

NoEnd mailing list - anyone remember Terrazzo Works?

heatherMar 06, 2003 at 4:09PM

Cybersight circa december '94 (chatting, post a comment and hit reload to view), the postcard rack, cool site of the day, the black hole, title bar animation -- i still have my old links page somewhere at home. I'll have to dig it out.

heatherMar 06, 2003 at 4:10PM

(bobaworld! oh my god... i think i still have email fromt that guy. boy did he give attitude.)

MarkMar 06, 2003 at 5:44PM

"Hi, I'm a signature virus. Put me in your signature and help me spread."

MarkMar 06, 2003 at 5:46PM

James "Kibo" Parry.

ErwinMar 06, 2003 at 6:33PM

Check out my collection of web's popular culture called NERD CULT:


(Text is in Dutch but I got plenty of movies and pictures stored and linked.)

EamonMar 06, 2003 at 7:16PM

I've got a copy of "The World Wide Web UNLEASHED", published in 1994, which is just fantastic. My favorite chapter title? "The One You Keep Hearing About: NCSA Mosaic".

Browsing through the chapter sections, here are some sites that leapt out at me:

bianca's Smut Shack
The Trojan Room Coffee Machine
The Whole Internet Catalog
EINet Galaxy
Downtown Anywhere

MetaFilter had a fun little thread on The Good Old Days. I'll reiterate: Magdalena Donnea's "Colors" was way way way ahead of its time. Looks like she finally took it down, though.

EamonMar 06, 2003 at 7:22PM

For the record, I nominate jjg Grand Poobah Oldbie for bringing up BOBAWORLD.

Mike GoldingMar 06, 2003 at 7:56PM

Internet Coke Machines [Link]

VidiotMar 06, 2003 at 8:01PM

WAIS. And Gophering all over the place (and they all linked back to the Mother Gopher server in Minneapolis. How cool was that?)

kevMar 06, 2003 at 8:04PM

I was always a huge fan of hell.com.. looks like it's still invite-only. when yahoo was basically what google is now... do WWIV BBSs count? probably not. but i remember my first email address accessible by more than just the other users on the board was something ridiculously long.

MPHMar 07, 2003 at 1:52AM

All interesting, but some seem too fresh a meme to stir any nostalgia...some of these refs post-date Soledad bantering with a piece of masking tape (Dev Null) on The Site on ZDTV...

BUT...my heart swelled seeing a reference to jodi dot org.

Some of the best conceptual work I've ever seen, on or off (line, that is). Feel free to share your "archived" source files with me, or write and I'll forward some from my collection...

Aaaaah...getting misty...someone, somewhere is opening EditPad and remembering...


tommy lacknerMar 07, 2003 at 3:16AM

Pirate's, Auggies, and Eagle's Nest BBS (though not Web accessible, it was at least on the Internet via telnet and was a place for people to get together).

Remember EFNet being cool?

My first Web experiences were through Lynx so they were completely forgettable. IUMA was definitely among them though. Atomic Vision was the first site that really grabbed my attention and inspired me, but it appears to be something else now. Anyone else remember the gratuitous spinning sofa?

BubberMar 07, 2003 at 3:31AM

How about "The Well"

tomcosgrave.comMar 07, 2003 at 6:16AM

Justin's Links From The Underground was one of the first sites I discovered when I first got online, back in 1995. And he's still doing it at http://www.links.net !

nickMar 07, 2003 at 8:16AM

Since Eamon commented above, I do have to reiterate that his 'vampyr's box of roses', run surreptitiously through CGI scripts on a non-port 80 server, was fucking fantastic. Funky things with CGI, lovely b/w photos, top quality writing. And I feel increasingly as if I was the only one ever to visit it ;)

Anyway, Ranjit's Playhouse, SpinnWebe, Universe of Discourse, Beauty For Ashes, Dysfunctional Family Circus, Stim, Word, The Asylum, Principia Discordia, Travels with Samantha (note my quote on the site even now), Justin bloody Hall ab ovo, the UDelft 5th floor picture archive, Dr Jest and so on and so on. Carl's Bordeaux and Prague. The GNN site. Biorhythm generators. Etc.

I still have my Mosaic hotlist which ends in December 1994, when Netscape 1.0 launched. I also remember the fight I had with the college sysadmin to get the 0.9b on the UNIX server.

The signal/noise ratio back then was incredible. Very pomo-goth-slacker in character, but still. Incredible.

EJYMar 07, 2003 at 8:56AM

Unfortunately, the two earliest Internet memories I have are largely commercial:

1. DotComGuy: After legally changing his name to DotComGuy, he locked himself in a house for a year, using the Internet as a sole means of communication, from ordering furniture to hiring a fitness instructor. Now this is someone I'd like to see on VH1's "Where are they now?" (Original URL | Google | Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

2. SixDegrees: Because everyone got the annoying email from a friend to sign up. I consider this a legendary email harvest, thanks much to our naivety during our pre-spam era. Bonus points for them for contacting the user several times a month if he/she failed to sign up. (Original URL | Google | Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

heywoodMar 07, 2003 at 10:38AM

Dan's Gallery of the Grotesque

EamonMar 07, 2003 at 10:55AM

D'oh! How could we all forget 0sil8.com? For shame!

FelixMar 07, 2003 at 1:45PM

Probably my favorite was the first 'Toilet Cam' at the start of the webcam craze, which purported to show a top-down cam view of a real live toilet, but was in fact a static gif. From what I remember, it received some ungodly number of page views and refreshes on a daily basis.

DougMar 07, 2003 at 3:13PM

What about Jordan? The mexican? off key folk song singer? Little weirdo application you could download.

ZackMar 07, 2003 at 7:50PM

spies in the wire

even more than the toilet cam, all of world power systems (wps.org)

'the spot'

Stefan JonesMar 07, 2003 at 7:52PM

Anyone remember Blue Dog Can Count? Enter a couple of numbers and an operation, and the page would play dog bark until the answer was reached.

It was done by a college friend, Tom "Honus" Wagner. He told me that the script was recycled, w/o permission, to create other "_____ can count" sites.

The Blue Dog has since become a kitsch art item.

Andy RuffMar 07, 2003 at 8:40PM

Fascinating reads can be found in the old Boardwatch Magazine archives: http://www.boardwatch.com/BoardwatchOnline/Archive.htm. Brings back all sorts of memories from my days of sysoping, gophering, lynx, and junior high. As you may guess, most of those are thankfully long over with!

Reading through the archives, I was reminded of the following:
- City.net (http://www.city.net/)
- THEBOB-WEB (http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/users/a/asdamick/www/)
- Captain Sarcastic's WebSite (http://nyx10.cs.du.edu:8001/~kkoller/ )
- Bad Answer Man (http://www.tiac.net/users/lou35/)

Regardless, it is amazing to read these archives and see headlines like Domain Names Now Cost $50 Per Year, Mac Web Server Dominates Commercial Web Market, Dancing With Elephants In The Year Of Stupid Money, and Generating Revenues from Websites.

Laurel KrahnMar 07, 2003 at 10:12PM

I dug up my very old "odd stuff on the net" links page and put it back online. I haven't checked to see how many of the links are dead, but the listdates back to '94 or so.

I wish I'd saved the original version of my webpage circa '93 and all the rest that followed.

npMar 07, 2003 at 10:52PM

the real time coffee pot was from

Cambridge Computer Laboratory

_ hix _

_ wired _

Dan HartungMar 08, 2003 at 4:12AM

The first internet scandal: Robert Toups's BABES ON THE WEB {google search}, where he pointed to random home pages of women, and rated them. Frequently, it resulted in the pages being taken down within days, and later, hours. Aside from the gender stereotyping, it was an early example of the Slashdot effect.

Then there were the Green Card Spammers. Yes, there was actually a time when there was only one company anywhere who had ever spammed. Ah, but that wasn't the web. Anywise.

Don't forget Doctor Fun! And of course there was the old movie database at msstate.edu -- before the maintainers took it private, converted their non-profit into a for-profit company, and sold to Amazon. In those days, people were actually encouraged to flesh out the database by adding cast lists and the like. It was only later that you felt mugged.

nickMar 08, 2003 at 9:32AM

And of course there was the old movie database at msstate.edu -- before the maintainers took it private, converted their non-profit into a for-profit company, and sold to Amazon.

MS State? That'll be news to the people at the University of Cardiff.

glitzeeMar 08, 2003 at 10:11PM

Some old friends of mine from Rice are apparently still maintaining the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project site. Ahhh, 1995.

kristi van rietMar 09, 2003 at 12:10PM

I remember numerous nights tirelessy peering at a bland screen (telnet?) hanging out in a so called MOO (or MUD), reading what the "room" should look like (no visual interface) and making friends all over the world

A FishMar 10, 2003 at 4:41AM

If you eat fish then...

WakdMar 11, 2003 at 2:31AM

First two things I did (1994):
- www.playboy.com (waited for what seemed hours for the page to load)
- DL The terrorists cookbook.

Adam LasnikMar 12, 2003 at 5:24AM

Chiphead Harry, the really strange quasi-cyberpunk serial. More of an e-zine than a Web site, per se, but still placed on the Web if I recall.

It got stranger by the episode, and sadly, I don't remember if / how / when it ended... I just remember much of the journey.

All text, all weirdness, all the time :D
Old hotwired description: http://hotwired.lycos.com/rensurf/

But alas, can't find the actual episodes anywhere :|

donaldMar 12, 2003 at 10:20PM

Things from the early net (ca. 1993 and after)

Definitely Mosaic.

Staying up half the night chatting with strangers on "IRC" - it seemed so much more noir than AIM ever does...
OLGA (OnLine Guitar Archive) when it was just an ftp address.

Preferring .gif files because they were smaller.

Printing out "E-mail" in order to read it.

upgrading to a 28.8 modem and a 486


popups did not exist.

LorenMar 14, 2003 at 7:31PM

I got to thinking about hoaxes when someone mentioned the phony "toilet cam". I remember some media coverage of a twentyish couple who were going to lose their virginity live on the web, but who were later revealed to not be virgins at all.

And mtv.com being a site run by Adam Curry, back in 1994 or so. MTV didn't give a crap until much later. Can you imagine?? :)

anthonyMar 14, 2003 at 8:09PM

i dont know if anyone can relate, but the most memorable thing for me was the e/n scene that was everything in the mid/late 90s. you know, those 14 year old guys who all shared the same server, leeched each others copys of photoshop and bryce 3d, distrubuted the fake anarchist cookbook, dissed macs, dissed aol, and talked about hacking in their blogs run by newspro. i idolized them.

im not sure if its early enough to be of any use. sorry.

Chris BoeseMar 15, 2003 at 4:14AM

John December's Internet Web Text, including a visual representation of the Web in late 1993 (yes, it is still available at http://www.december.com)

CMC Magazine (Computer-Mediated Communication), one of the first regularly publishing magazines on the Web. Also still fully archived at http://www.december.com

And I'm proud to have a byline in World Wide Web Unleashed from 1994, thank you very much, or rather, thanks to John.

MOOs & MUDs, particularly MediaMOO and Diversity University MOO, where I took probably the most intense multi-institutional PhD seminar on "Rhetoric, Community, and Cyberspace" in 1994 I think it was.

Pre-dot.com educational interfaces online that didn't suck the way WebCT and Blackboard do: Daedalus, Norton Textra Connect.

Lycos and WebCrawler, when they first appeared as non-commercial entities, called "spiders."

Mosaic gray backgrounds.


keith knutssonMar 16, 2003 at 2:18PM

what about the turkish man who kept saying "i love you" in his flash movies.

Bilgin OzkanMar 18, 2003 at 3:42PM

The rainbow dividers!

And that Turkish man kept saying "I KISS YOU!!".. I know, he was a disgrace.

CamiloJun 10, 2003 at 9:05AM

The things I remember are a little bit different. Paying $20 an hour for internet access. Reading Mondo 2000 for avant garde commentary, and browsing through Wired Mag. Lynx, IRC, mosaic.
Getting into the CERN center and reading about the 100 pages that comprised the web.
Reading Dr. Chaos, Justin’s Underground links (the surviving grandaddy of all), Uncle Al outrageous whatever, having a domain being a pain in the ass (you could do it, if you were determined enough), having a ultra fast 2400bps modem, connection noises, banners as revenue generators, that site from the students at Stanford that would tell you your favorite sites (I know), downloading books in text format, mailing lists for everything, ISP providers such as Delphi, Telecom, etc.
Trying to convince the people at various serious institutions to connect to the Internet.
Considering a 50k picture as monstrously big.

Yeshi AnniAug 21, 2003 at 10:24AM

Fig Bar Man for President. Good God, it's still there at

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.