The Best Websites from the Twentieth Century (that you can still visit!)


I jest, of course. That’s a picture of Babbage’s 19th century Difference Engine. Here’s a computer from the actual era in question instead, with a bonus phone…

3762662144_b5fcf8d387_zStylish, eh? In 1996 there were 100,000 websites… None of which would have been viewable with the technology in the picture above! There’s now literally gazillions of websites, and they’re all crap. Back in the day, websites were better.

So, with links opening in a new tab so you can have a mooch round and then come back to the list at your leisure, here’s the ten coolest websites I could find from the 20th Century that were still in mint condition. Although the Internet Archive has preserved snapshots of many websites, these sites are all where and as they originally were.

The best 20th century movie site still out there isn’t Space Jam from 1996 (although that’s very good), it’s Jurassic Park: The Lost World, from 1997, which includes the InGen intranet. I haven’t actually seen any of the Jurassic Park movies, but that’s clearly because I never saw the websites. I have seen Mallrats though, and the website from 1997 is still up.

In the days before the internet, people were well into pinball. These days, of course, pinball is extinct, because it’s too big to put in your pocket and/or handbag and it won’t tell you what the weather is like or show you photographs of what a dude you met at a party once has had for breakfast. But for one glorious year the internet and pinball coexisted and perhaps one day historians will look back on the website of the 1994 Pinball Expo in Chicago as a turning point in human history…

Until Microsoft started bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, the thing we used to surf the Internet was called Netscape Navigator, and this website is a handy guide to using it dating from 1994. Alas, few of the links on the What’s Cool! and What’s New! pages (exclamation marks were compulsory in 1994!) still work.

In 1997, a spaceship cult in California committed mass suicide with the approach of comet Hale-Bopp. The Heaven’s Gate website is still up and running, apparently funded by trustees of the group. The cult made some of their money from web design – though sadly their design site is long gone, the internet archive has preserved it.

News websites were one of the first useful things on the internet, and the big news providers like CNN and the BBC have had web presences from very early on. If you’re interested in elections, you can still check out the 1996 Dole/Kemp website, kept up by the 4President Corporation (which is well worth a look in itself) and over this side of the pond, the BBC still has their 1997 coverage available. There’s also CNN’s coverage of the OJ Simpson trial in 1996, and the BBC’s special section on the death of Princess Diana.

So how did we search for things back in the day? I was always a fan of AltaVista (mayitrestinpeace), and remember being somewhat resistant to Google when it first started, simply because I don’t like change. Those places which are still running have of course got shiny new websites now, but there are some ancient search engines still out there, like fossils. There’s IFINDIT, best viewed in 800×600 apparently, and last updated in 1998, but when you click to proceed you find out it’s under construction… It was run by Easynett, whose website is also a gem of 1990s design, last updated in 2002. Pity they never finished the search site.

Do you like sporks? I like sporks. But not as much as this guy likes sporks. Last updated in 1996 – I wonder if the tshirts are still available? Although I’m thinking, given the lack of updates, maybe he went off sporks.

I’m sure there are plenty of other fossils out there on the internet, but I don’t think anything can beat the sporks. If you can, prove me wrong in the comments!