What happens when a website dies, when a business collapses and can no longer hold on to its domain name? It just ceases to exist, vanishing without a trace. Your selfie from last night might go viral and live forever as a meme, but there are very few archives that preserve non-functioning websites or document what they’ve looked like over the decades. It seems, on the web, you can look up anything, except the web itself.
This month marks 29 years since Timothy Berners-Lee set up the World Wide Web, interconnected computers predominantly designed to help CERN scientists share research. The good news is that the first website has been saved atInfo.cern.ch for posterity. The better news is that in little pockets online, a handful sites from those early days still operate. But the best news is that those sites are a lot of fun to navigate in 2019.
Head over to Symbolics.com the first-ever domain name registered on the internet (in 1985, five years before the web was set up and they actually had a web site). What was a computer-programming business is now the Big Internet Museum, “with curators, a diverse permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, different wings, donations, and more.” The site says, “We might even open a gift shop. There, we’ve said it.”
For a site that still serves its original purpose, there’s website developer Jason Kottke’s blog,Kottke.org. He’s been running it for 20 years, covering interesting people, inventions, performances and ideas. There are now 26,000 posts, it’s served as a template for other sites, and has a cult following.
In 1986, the Interrupt Technology Corporation decided to register Itcorp.com. They set up a web page and, apparently, did nothing after. The site is still a single page, with no photos or links, just a note that the software consulting firm specialises in file systems, storage systems and computer measurement. So why stay online? Because “This Web page exists primarily to satisfy the needs of those who expect every domain to have a Web presence.”
For an uninterrupted view, log on to FogCam. The web cam was set up in 1994 by two San Francisco State University students who wanted to capture student life. It takes a shot every minute and posts it online, making it the longest, oldest web camera feed. What’s the lens pointing at? A random courtyard. What do you see? Mostly fog.
(Over the moon about something that’s still under the radar? Tell me at [email protected])