8 Once Cutting-Edge Websites That Are Now Super Depressing
One of the best things about the Internet is that anyone can make a website. On the other hand, one of the worst things is that anyone can make a website. We found that out quite fast in the '90s, when the new frontier that was the early Internet got filled with diarrhea fever dreams -- made both by 11-year-olds with access to rubber cement, lunch bags, and landlines, and by billion-dollar media conglomerates.
And like the Neolithic megaliths of yore, these crappy sites still stand, like an awful stain on the already disgusting tapestry of porn we call home. Here are some of the more inexplicable 1990s artifacts that are somehow still around.
The Heaven's Gate Suicide Cult Still Has A Web Page
If you're too young to remember Heaven's Gate, they were a cult who believed an advanced species would arrive with the Hale-Bopp Comet to take them to Heaven. That all sounds delightfully nutty, but the sad part is that they committed mass suicide when the comet appeared in 1997 because they believed it was their ticket for the plane -- they literally refer to it as their "boarding pass." We know this because it's on their website.
Behold: the only website in the world to have ever earned the "space" background.
The site is, heartrendingly/predictably, mostly gibberish, but one thing that jumps out at you in their list of links is a letter titled "Our Position Against Suicide," which is like the NFL having a position against hitting balls (of all types). And in case you still weren't convinced that the truth was out there, they even helpfully include an artist's rendering of what they believe a member of the "Kingdom of Heaven" might look like. Surprise surprise, it's the guy from Signs.
Who must be in his mid-30s by now, since this is clearly his yearbook photo.
You Can Re-Experience The Magic Of The O.J. Trial Media Circus
If your idea of nostalgia includes "horrific murder trials," behold CNN's O.J. Simpson Trial page, your one-stop shop for glitchy graphics and everything you almost certainly already know about the most famous trial of the 20th century.
That's as clear as a digital photo got in the '90s.
CNN has kindly been maintaining this page all these years, even though we have a perfectly good Wikipedia right there. They do have a wealth of information nobody else would want to host, including O.J.'s unused suicide note, a "Quicktime animation of crime scene," and a separate section for every person who so much as took O.J.'s drink order in 1994.
This was very handy for those who collected the O.J. Trial trading cards.
Now, we know what you're thinking: "Oh boy, I hope it has a primitive '90s comment section." You bet it does! No doubt we'll find it brimming with levelheaded, informed opinions.
Ah yes, that old "spousal abuse card" murdered ladies love to play.
And in the unlikely case that you're left wanting more O.J. after all this, there's also a section which includes an "astrological analysis" of the trial and "humorous" links, though most of them are dead (no pun intended).
Vote Dole In '96!
When you think of forward-thinking leaders on the bleeding edge of hot trends, you think of Bob Dole, right? Maybe we're just thankful for a respite from fluorescent backgrounds, but the '96 Dole campaign actually had a decent-looking web presence for its time.
And for this time, too, considering it loads faster than healthcare.gov.
Unfortunately, much like Dole himself, it's all looks. Sure, there are the usual links to the latest essential Dole news and information about how you can give money to this poor rich white man. But it starts to get weird when you notice that under the "Issues" banner, it only lists "K-12 Education" and "Technology and Internet." Yeah, we think we can all agree that the '96 election was hinging on the middle school vote. That might explain why one section includes a cookie recipe by "our next First Lady."
The dog's site was deleted after he turned out to be a Chinese spy.
On the other hand, by far the best part is the "Dole Interactive" section, which contains all kinds of fun activities like button-making, postcards, crossword puzzles, and trivia quizzes. Sadly, most of the links are dead, so it's up to us to imagine how you were supposed to make a button on a website. (Did they mail it to you? Did the computer itself spit it out from that mysterious tray thingy whose purpose no one remembers?) The only working link is the wallpaper selection, which boasts a dazzling array of Tiger-Beat-style portraits of your favorite Dole campaign characters to decorate your computer screen ... but only in tiled format, because the 128-pixel squares probably took up half your hard drive. Collect them all!
Right-click, "set as wallpaper." You're welcome.
Boy, Did They Put A Lot Of Effort Into The Wild Wild West Website
The still-existing website for the 1999 turd-bomb Wild Wild West is like a magical window into the time when movie studios had no idea how to use the Internet. The whole thing is written in old-timey language that is presumably meant to evoke a time traveler describing unfamiliar new technology. But given the quaint design, it comes off like your grandma trying to explain computers to the other members of her bridge club.
"My grandson Todd made it!"
And what a wonderful assortment, indeed! Since nobody had a clue why people would go to a movie's website yet, they threw in whatever they had lying around. Scroll from side to side (people hadn't quite mastered the whole "easy navigation" thing) and you'll find clips, photos, wallpaper, costume designs, and even a downloadable "dress up" game.
Before you ask: Yes, it still works on Windows 10.
Those who came to download the hefty 8 MB trailer could spend the resulting four hours exploring the surprising amount of depth included in the website -- such as an entire sub-website devoted to the villain, for some reason. No other character gets one. You also get bizarre exhortations to download the "new Netscape Communicator 4.6" (aww!) and even make your very own Wild Wild West homepage. So you're welcome, everyone who has that now -- i.e. everyone reading this article.
Some Of The Most Soul-Crushing TV Fansites From The '90s Are Still Kicking
These days, if you want to prove you're a fan of a TV show, it's as easy as registering "fuckyeahNBCnightlynews.tumblr.com," picking a pre-made theme, and tumblring away. Back in the '90s, you had to suffer for your fansite, dammit. Which might explain why so many of the people who created these HTML monstrosities are unwilling to delete them so long after the shows themselves sank into irrelevancy. That's left the Internet clogged with tragic relics like the Way Cool Clarissa Explains It All Website, which is its actual name and not us being sarcastic pricks. (WARNING: If you click that link, the show's theme song will play automatically and get stuck in your head for the rest of your life.)
So maybe Tumblr blogs aren't so different from Tripod sites after all.
The website boasts adorably old-fashioned features like eye-burning neon backgrounds and a guestbook, which "is closely monitored and under NO circumstances will inappropriate entries be allowed." Here's the sixth entry on said guestbook, by the way:
Way to make us look like creeps in front of the '90s, Chiane.
But the saddest part is the enthusiastic promise of forthcoming updates that "will be worth waiting for" ... signed on May 14th, 2003. What happened, Way Cool Clarissa Webmaster? Did life get in the way? Please drop us a line to let us know that you're not being held captive in the Geocities headquarters.
Another heartbreaking project from the early Internet is the campaign to bring back Strange Luck, a FOX show that aired for five months between 1995 and 1996. As of this writing, the world continues not giving a shit about it, so we assume they were unsuccessful.
However, the successful projects are perhaps even more unsettling. For example, a troop of brave men and women devoted over 10 years of their lives to InsideTheX, which hosts transcripts of X-Files episodes. Well, that doesn't sound so wei--
All transcripts start with "(Mulder has a boner throughout the episode, never acknowledged.)"
Oh, that type of transcript. Someone sat in front of their keyboard and wrote down everything that happens in every single X-Files episode ever. And we mean every single one:
Welcome To Netscape!
Hey, remember Netscape? No? It's OK, we had to Google it to refresh our memories, too. Navigator was once king of the browser market, but it lost long ago to Internet Explorer, which tells you basically everything you need to know. It refuses to rest in peace, however, as you can still access its homepage, appropriately headed by a dinosaur mascot:
Space background count: three.
After welcoming you in the most grandiose fashion to your fantastic voyage of mostly porn, the page takes you by the hand and explains what a hyperlink is, instructing you to "just single-click on any blue or purple word or phrase." To be fair, even today's users could stand to take a remedial course on hyperlinks, as many of our readers appear to be under the impression that we make some of the words blue 'cause it's pretty.
"But it's not blue, it's purple! DEMON SPAWN!" *drowns computer in holy water*
Once you've wrapped your mind around the concept of links, taken the guided tour, and pored over the Netscape Handbook, the home page announces that you're ready to explore the Internet! Which was apparently still small enough that you could find anything you needed from the Netscape home page. Its most recent news item, from October 1994, includes the exciting development that "The Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign now has a Web page." Finally. But the weirdest part is the "What's Cool!" page. Among reports of strawberry Pop Tart blowtorches and live feeds of British coffee machines is an entry for the Chernobyl disaster, which says:
"Hitler killed 11 million people. It was a bummer. Check out the pix."
Jesus, Netscape. We're a comedy website, and not even we talk about nuclear accidents so insensitively. We're just glad the site wasn't active in 2001.
The "Official" Jim Varney Fan Page Has Lost Its Goddamn Mind
Not every Internet relic remains a static exhibit. Some continue to evolve, and nowhere is that more alarmingly true than the Official Jim Varney Tribute & Fan Site.
Created in early 2000, yet more '90s than pogs.
Of course, Ernest went to the great camp in the sky in 2000, and it's perhaps no coincidence that this fansite wasn't created until after his death. We say that because it quickly abandons any pretense of being about Varney at all. Your first clue appears right near the top, as you find a hyperlinked Blingee-style GIF that cheerfully proclaims "Americas Freedoms Under Attack."
Stop furiously clicking there, people. This is a screencap.
Beneath that is section asking if "You Know Jesus As Your Savior?" but we'll assume you do and move on. By the way, if Rev. Billy Dee's name sounds familiar, then you must be a film connoisseur, because the good reverend/webmaster/patriot also directed and starred in a "comedy" (quotes in the original) film called Billy And Bobby The Whacky Duo On Vacation, through his American Moral Films production company. It features a minor character from the Ernest movies as Dee's co-star, and that seems to be where all the budget went.
The 75 cents needed to make that whacky bread sandwich came straight out of Billy's salary.
But back to the site: After briefly returning to a list of various Ernest-related items the unwitting visitor might enjoy, it dives irretrievably down the rabbit hole, advertising an eBook of an "amazing personal account" of a near-death experience that -- this is not a joke -- just happened to occur to Mr. Dee under the influence of a powerful sedative. This is followed by an unbridled rant that begins with "We desperately need to see this country return to the founding principles of faith in God, the Christian/Judaeo God that our country was founded upon" and only gets more caps-locky from there. And then, immediately after that: the fan art section!
No! No! Go back to the ranting, please!
If you click on the "New Patriot's Section," however, you'll be disappointed and/or relieved to find that it's under construction. But fear not: This website has been updated as recently as this year. Sorry, we meant "fear all the fear."
God, People Were So Excited About The Phantom Menace
On its face, there's nothing particularly ominous about these websites. OK, the suicide cult was a huge red flag, but for the most part, the creepiness is in the knowing how it all turned out. In that respect, nothing hits us harder in our nerdy, nerdy hearts than the ecstatic reactions that have been preserved for all time to the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
"We especially liked the part with Keanu Reeves using The Force to dodge those bullets."
Here in the thoroughly jaded future, it's easy to forget that Phantom Menace was the most hotly anticipated movie basically ever. We hadn't had a Star Wars movie in 16 years, and it still meant swashbuckling pilot heroes and badass, whine-free villains. People were so amped that when the studio held limited-release advanced screenings of the trailer, they drove for hours to see it, and this was at a time when advanced trailer screenings weren't even a thing. Soon, people were buying up tickets for movie showings where the trailer was playing, including The Waterboy and Meet Joe Black, only to leave after they saw it and then come back to see it again after the movie was over. How much of Adam Sandler's mansion was built on Jar Jar's back, do you think?
To the fans and critics who sold their souls to Brad Pitt for a glimpse at some podracing, it was well worth it. "Unbelievable," one fan was quoted as saying. "I consider myself a harsh critic, but after the trailer I was applauding." Probably the most heartbreaking quote comes from this guy:
You know what? Forget the suicide cult. These poor, poor souls never saw what was coming. Anyway, back to getting pumped for Episode VII, everyone! Woo!
Manna totally had a stupid Angelfire page in the '90s, but now she tweets her terrible ideas like a grown-up.
Not surprisingly, the Internet is home to lots of depressing shit. See what we mean in The 6 Most Depressing IMDb Pages and What 5 Internet Celebrities Did After They Got Famous.
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