The internet has grown explosively in a shockingly short space of time. Consider its cultural dominance in matters of information gathering, exchange, shopping, misinformation, entertainment, socialising, slinging insults at one another across nations without the fear of ever having to match that bravado in person… Googling things…
But this incredible progress has left behind a veritable graveyard of would-be titans of the net, each one assured that it would be the next big thing. Some – for a while – were right, but all have ended up as yesterday’s masters, some the giants whose shoulders the modern internet stands upon, others, faint memories. Here are our Top 10 Dead Websites…
Starting the list off fairly lightly, we’ve got a classic from the Newgrounds era of Flash games. Mausland probably isn’t a name that comes right to the front of your mind when you think of Flash Games, but hoo boy, I can tell you it meant a lot to me (Timlah). I used to absolutely love Castle Cat, which featured a little cat with a castle tower for a head – and yes, it was armed with a cannon, of course.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this was a particularly well known website, but it still attracted thousands of users. I’m not too sure of the exact scale of the website, but their Flash games were awesome. In 2015, the website stopped having updates, but it’s still there – I’ve not attempted to play any of the games on there recently, so why not go and have a play? You may reminisce about the early 00’s Flash animation style by going there.
This one’s a crying shame that it’s gone, as 1up were honestly a really cool website. They were a video game journalist, as well as a podcast and video series producer. All in all, they are what a lot of WordPress blogs are or want to be. They were video games press almost before it was cool to be video games press. They were active from 2003, right up until its end, some time around 2013.
What’s fascinating about the story of 1Up is how the company came and went; from a well loved and respected group, through to being purchased by UGO Networks in 2009. After that, in 2011, IGN of all companies bought 1Up – And then, this is where the story becomes quite amusing – IGN was then bought out by a man called Ziff Davis – The original founder of a little video game journalism website… Called 1Up. Huh, talk about a perfect circle!
WARNING: Please ONLY click on the above link if you are 18+ years of age. You are being thoroughly warned, if you can actually find the content from the website, the images and media may be disturbing.
Okay, so Rotten.com was something I knew about from a relatively young age, as weird as this is to say. It’s fair to say that I shouldn’t have known about it, but I found out about it and the content was well written and not done in a disrespectful manner. See, Rotten.com was full of absolutely disgusting, disturbing content – It was arguably one of the first shock websites, if not the first truly successful one.
In fact, it was around for so long, that the website has only recently been taken down, as in at the end of 2017. What made Rotten.com so bad was that it had pictures of accidents. I remember one such image, to explain the graphic detail of the website, was of a person who had been struck by a train. The images that followed were simply that of a person who had been, let’s just say cut to bits by the strike. It was disgusting – But hey, the images on the site shocked me enough to not mess around anywhere near train tracks!
… Or to have a heart attack in a red hot bath tub… That one’s a story for another time.
I struggled with what to put as the image for this one, so actually, I’m linking you to a YouTube video of something called “The Hand Thing”. This was a creation by the creator of this website, a Shaye Saint John. Many people consider his videos a shock series, but what actually was contained within his website was both mad and genius. He was indeed a very creative writer, albeit it’s hard to explain how, especially if all you’ve got is the above video.
What makes this one sad is the man was working on his series, featuring this Shaye Saint John character, unfortunately died a number of years back – He wasn’t that old, either. In his world, these mannequin like people would go about normal lives, as normal as they could be. He had a wickedly strange sense of humour and his website is thoroughly fascinating. If you don’t mind being weirded out, watch the video, check out The Wayback Machine archive above.
Incredibly, this early manifestation of the social media concept only shut down two years ago, meaning that the turn-of-the-millenium website, one of the first websites to ever see a regular presence on TV advertising, managed to survive a shocking proportion of the Facebook era, the rise of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace… MySpace is hardly surviving MySpace.
The website that eventually became owned by ITV – their principle advertiser – focussed on bringing people together from schools, colleges, workplaces, by having people map out their own biography, and creating an early form of that “People you may know” tab on Facebook. It was incredibly effective and widely popular, and many people had stories about the people they reconnected with through the service. Sadly it dwindled into nothing after other social media platforms incorporated all of its functions into much more versatile and multifunctional services.
Okay, so most of the previous ones are either funny, or are something of some form of internet importance. This one isn’t one of those – This one is actually pretty harrowing, but you wouldn’t believe me if I just told you it was harrowing. This week marked the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre in the USA. So what was Windows on the World..?
It was a restaurant that was on floor 107 of the World Trade Centre. There were a bunch of other things up there, such as bars and the likes, but for simplicity and because of the website, we’ll focus on the restaurant. It was one of New York’s greatest tourist attractions – People often went there for the experience, but ended up also really enjoying the food. After the 9/11 attacks however, the restaurant never came back – and the above Wayback Machine link is a harrowing reminder of how things can just suddenly come to an end.
You may still be aware of the existence of Mega, the reincarnation of Megaupload which fell to governmental shutdown after its involvement in massive piracy by filesharing. The erasure of the site and seizing of company assets has formed the backbone of many of the laws that now govern how information, especially copyrighted media, can be distributed online, forcing torrenting websites into deeper corners of the web, and many lawsuits to be filed against pirates, filesharers, and illegal downloads.
The DOJ taking down Megaupload resulted in a massive DDoS attack against their website, another action that drew attention to the mass hacking group in 2012, and with the return in the guise of Mega, it also seems to have proven rather ineffective despite earning international approval, and the landmark legal action has led to major changes in digital law and policing. The website has vanished, but it’s left a legacy… of sorts.
Blockbuster was massive; indeed, I as a kid used to go to Blockbuster a lot, as it was a very short drive away. I used to always love rushing around to the games section for my PS1, finding a game to take back home to play and return within an allocated time limit. You could hold onto it a little bit longer if you took it back and rebooked it – It was an excellent service that, sadly, is not really such a convenience when Steam and Netflix exist.
However their website is also still viewable via the Wayback Machine. Honestly, this list would be a lot of blank spaces without that machine! So Blockbuster went bust, as we had Netflix and Steam and Amazon – and it just wasn’t competitive enough. A couple a quid every time you wanted a movie, or unlimited for a tenner? Games for a couple a quid? It was too much – But hey, they moved onto something called Dish, who kept a couple of stores alive… For some reason.
2) Space Jam
Ok, this one’s a bit of a cheat, because this is website is astonishingly still around. Unchanged for over twenty years, promoting a piece of Loony Toons and Basketball history that died some time ago and yet was about as iconic of the 90’s as boy bands and tracksuits. Somebody is still paying for this website to be maintained, in all its pixelated glory, and what is that? 32 colours?
Untouched, barely used, viewed only as a novelty of the internet, a museum piece if you will. It has that stylised and slightly childish design of a home page that is a little impractical that seems to have died a merciful death in modern site design. And I can’t decide what’s funniest, the minuscule size in modern screen resolution, the press box that says “No Space Jam news at the moment”, the hackneyed slang terms, or maybe the fact that there’s a whole page dedicated to downloading backgrounds and screensavers. There is no greater example of the internet of its day than the website that represents the one of its biggest blockbusters.
1) Club Penguin
Not putting this one at number one would have been a mistake, but this first place spot was a toss up between Club Penguin and the aforementioned Space Jam. We went with the actually genuinely defunct website, which Disney announced was being closed all the way back in March 2017… And it still feels like yesterday for a lot of people. Indeed, with Club Penguin gone, a lot of people had to move onto other games.
The key difference between Club Penguin and most of the rest of the websites on this list – The user base. Millions of players used to play Club Penguin and now it’s been reimagined as something called Club Penguin island, which doesn’t quite capture the same charm. But the developers are working hard on their sequel, even though Club Penguin reached a whopping 250 million users. Very sad this one’s gone, as it was clearly a game made of love for their work.
“Gone but not forgotten” describes both the list and its contents. And if you haven’t had enough internet nostalgia, today’s honourable mentions are a couple of those websites you might be shocked to believe are still up and running. MySpace and Newgrounds may have faded from common use, but we all know they’re still around. But did you know that these were still accessible today?
An odd one to put on this list as Bebo is updated and is an active website – But it’s not what it used to be. The reason we’re putting it in our honourable mentions list is because of how it’s still going as streaming software, which is awesome! The more products streamers have access to, the better, as it was for a while dominated purely by a couple of products and nothing more, such as OBS. But before this, Bebo was a social media platform.
What makes this entry so much fun to talk about is 2013 – When Bebo filed for voluntary bankruptcy. This meant that the website effectively went down, but they worked and they brought themselves back. They spoke about their work on apps instead and they completely reinvented themselves. It’s a fascinating case showing that reinvention upon reincarnation is certainly plausible, so never count a website down and out for good!
There was a time, way back in the early noughties, a little into the late nineties, that near every website was a Geocities website. They were ugly as sin, barely functional, but they were easy to make, and so made it easy for everyone to get there own little slice of the internet with little to no experience necessary. And because everyone could make them, that meant that the internet was awash with Geocities trash.
It was WordPress before WordPress, the very earliest incarnation of every website like Wix, or Squarespace, and it’s a very compelling case for actually paying a professional to build your website for you. So why is it only honourable?
Because despite having vanished from everywhere else in the world, apparently it’s still a thing in Japan. The one country you’d hope would know better.
Dearly beloved, we gathered here today in memory of websites past, and to mourn the passing of the internet they helped create. Flashes to flashes, gifs to gifs, in sure and certain hope of uploading to eternal archives. Please join us at the wake to be hosted at next week’s Top 10, as ever decided by your votes.
What websites do you remember fondly? Is your favourite gone or still running? Have you checked recently? You may still have a Friends Reunited account that you forgot about, go check! Tell us if your there in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t tell us on Friends Reunited. We are not there.