Travelogue of the Old Web – Part I

Yeah, well, I already ‘fessed up (here) to being a digital pack rat, so the focus of this post shouldn’t be too odd.

While sorting through my hard drive files today, I came across “oldbookmarklist-1.htm,”  an old bookmark file from an old computer I had.  I don’t have a date for it; but by the looks of things, it’s vintage 2002 or so; but it includes bookmarks that were captured in the ‘90’s.

I was clicking through some of the bookmarks and found that (in some cases) the site no longer exists or has been transformed into something completely different.  But in many cases the bookmarks were still valid and lead to sites that appear to be frozen in time. They don’t appear to have been updated, and provide a glimpse into what the Web was like back then.  (Yeah, you could go to the Wayback Machine, but my prose is way better than theirs.)

In these “travelogue” entries, I’ll take you down the path of discovery that sheds some light on the earlier days of the World Wide Web.  My old bookmark file has scores of URLs; and there are probably countless opportunities to examine “the old Web.”

First up: All Things Web (ATW).

  • The landing page indicates that it is vintage 1999. The “What’s News” link is labeled “as of May 28, 1999.”
  • It links to ATW’s Third “State of the Web” survey, which was done in May 1999. Main findings? Link rot is pervasive and pages are too big.
  • Frames, frames, & more frames.  Remember when the debate raged about whether or not to use Frames in Web sites?  ATW examines it here and here.  Is anyone else happy to see that Frames seem to have disappeared?
  • They have an entire section (“The Need for Speed”) devoted to discussing way to decrease “the actual and apparent load time of Web pages.” It is interesting to note that the AWS survey cited above reads:  “Pundits in the trade press have decreed 1999 to be the Year of Bountiful Bandwidth. (Of course, that’s also what they said about 1998!) The upward “creep” in page size suggests that some myopic Web designers may have actually begun to believe such drivel.” Thank goodness for broadband, eh?
  • The Web was fairly new back then, and Web authoring was new as well.  I recall many, many sites in the late 90’s and early 2000’s devoted to Web site construction.  AWS plays its part as well with a “Design Fundamentals” section.
  • But, some things never change.  The ATW authors note: “Don’t use reports of your browser’s popularity as an excuse for invalid, exclusionary, non-HTML markup tags.
  • Usability is key.  Although this is (almost) the last bullet here, “The Usable Web” is the first section on the ATW Web site.  User-centered design was – and IS – key.  My philosophy always has been that without users, why bother even having a site; so you should design it with users in mind.
  • Last but not least, there are the “ATW Perspectives, Essays on the WWW.” There are some interesting discussions of this “new” way of presenting information (the Web). Well worth a glance.

So, there you have it:  a look at a Twentieth-Century Web page.  It’s a very basic design (thankfully, no Frames!).  And notice how all the top-level links are visible on the Home Page, with no need for scrolling? Nice touch.

And, finally, using a technique I learned years ago (1997?), I “shaved” the All Things Web URL back to its root (  Well. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a page that read “Down for maintenance.”  Wonder how long it’s been down?

I’m not sure where my old-bookmark URL travels will take me next.  I hope you enjoy reading these travelogues and will come along for the ride.

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