I was fortunate enough to grow up during the Internet’s (mainstream) infancy. What an amazing time that was! I was able to witness, and participate in, one of the most important and influential information revolutions in our history. It was quite an interesting thing to experience. I remember my first, actual exposure to the World Wide Web was in 1996 using Netscape on my 14,400 dial-up modem (and soon after, the trusty 28,800 Sportster modem) on a local Internet service provider called ‘Gateway’, which had 10 open phone lines. This meant that only 10 people could only be connected at one time! Let’s just say that I learned to really hate busy signals.
In retrospect, it was pretty absurd, but at the time it was so new that people just thought this was the way things worked!
A lot has changed over the past 15 years and I mean a lot. One of the biggest “then vs. now” differences would have to be the design and functionality of the websites themselves. So I thought it would be fun to list several websites that I frequented back in the mid 90s as well as seeing how different they look today. As you will see, some have definitely changed more than others
Let’s head back to 1996!
In 1996 …
Haha! Check this baby out in all its 1996 glory! I would say that this style was the epitome of mid to late 90s web design: cheesy, jumbled graphics with thumbnail banners all over the place as well as the use of a half dozen different font types and sizes. That was the basic design of most websites during that time. The first website I ever created was actually hosted by Geocities in the ‘Arcade’ section: “Lyle’s Warcraft 2 Website” back in 1996. Did any of you visit my page for some radical cheat codes?
Unfortunately Geocities went under in October of 2009.
In 1996 …
I’m Canadian and always loved sports, so I frequented the website of Canada’s biggest Sports network since it was established back in 1996. As you can see, this website went through some biiiig changes. Oddly enough, I actually thought it was cool looking at the time. Oh, have we (de?)evolved as a race! Look at that elegant starry night-sky background; perfect for a sports website! Also, RIP frames.
The first iteration of Yahoo!’s website way back in 1996 actually had quite a nice clean layout with a user-friendly design. If you look at the ‘Now’ image, you will see that it kept its logo and basically the same color scheme. Was this your first search engine? It definitely was mine! Let’s name off a few more for nostalgic’s sake: Lycos, Webcrawler, and Alta-Vista! Hell ya!
In 1996 …
With animated GIFs, a splatter of green goo, and a black background, here’s another image-map website that seemed to be the norm for all the extreme! websites. I grew up watching YTV (our version of Nickelodeon. Speaking of which, check out Nick’s first iteration here) and I remember this website quite fondly. As you can see in the “And now” image, it has changed just a little bit.
In 1996 …
So … uh ya. This was Blizzard’s first website. The king of polish (not to be mistaken for the Polish King, Boleslaw the Brave) produced this … thing! I guess you have to start somewhere, huh? Regardless, I do remember visiting this website looking for cheats after my first time playing Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (which I installed using 8 floppy discs).
Look how much 17 years can do!
In 1996 …
This was probably the first gaming website that I frequented, as its sister company, Arcade, hosted a plethora of gaming servers, including Quake! As you can see, this one has definitely changed the least: Exact same logo, color scheme, and a surprisingly similar layout. GameSpy never went through an intense re-branding like most companies did after the 1990s. Whether you hate big gaming websites for their sometimes controversial and bias opinions/reviews or not, it’s still sad that a part of gaming history was shut down earlier this year due to the IGN merger.
Bonus: I never frequented it myself, but Space Jam’s website has not changed since 1996, and I think that’s hilarious and amazing.
So, what were some of your very first website experiences?