I remember the days and nights of when I got home access to the Internet well. A truly exciting time which marked sometime around 2001 for me. I wasn’t the first in the area with home access but I suppose I was among the pioneers, especially at my age. Everybody else had to naturally resort to visiting Internet Cafés or try their luck in the local library.
I didn’t know that much English at first but I learned it over time. The things you could do on German pages, which is my mother tongue, were more than limited and often not exciting. Search engines were around but not nearly as useful and efficient as they are today so you kept on surfing (yep, that was the term) on pages that you knew or those that you saved into your browser’s favorites.
Here are some of the elements, or perhaps we should call them relicts, of websites and personal homepages that were absolutely a must-have at that time. Give and take a few years of course.
In the ages of the pre-social Internet, there was next to no means to communicate with strangers on personal websites. The only way how you could enable a sort of dialogue was the implementation of a guestbook, which often was a third-party widget which you then embedded into your homepage. Mine was not that busy but some popular websites had guestbooks that mutated into a sort of message board.
An early type of a user forum if you want to call it like that. A nice comment in your guestbook was next to the best thing that could happen to a webmaster at that time and naturally, it would be followed up with a compliment on the homepage of the visitor in return.
The hit counters were essential to your Internet 1.0 fame. What is follower count today, was the hit counter of visitors to your homepage back in the day. These counters were visual elements that would count every visitor you’re getting. Some could be “hacked” by simply refreshing the site but others kept your IP in log and prevented you from just building up your count on your own.
The optimistic webmaster would naturally configure the counter to prepare for all the fame which was about to hit them by allowing for larger numbers as maximum display range. For instance, you could witness counters on some pages that would read a number such as 000000071. It wasn’t easy to gather visitors back in those days if nobody knew you. Search engines have largely changed that over time. I almost didn’t believe it but those are still around for the curious of you all.
The GIF animations are a format from the 80s but before they got revived for use in social media, they were actually commonly found on personal websites. Without any major platforms or apps to provide you with GIF files, every Internet user somehow had to manage their own GIF portfolio.
A good way to keep track of all your GIF goods wherever you might be was to store them on your homepage as a sort of collection. Such pages took forever to load on a common Internet speed at that time but it was totally worth it. Often. Sometimes. Occasionally.
What are the huge sound blasters and speakers good for on the right and on the left side of your huge CRT monitor if not for random and automatically playing background tunes in MIDI format? MP3 files were not yet around that much and even if they were, they’d still take a long time to load on slow connections. Enter the MIDI files.
These digital pieces of sound were basically musical note data of the composition of a song and some might compare them with the soundtrack of old video games. In best-case scenario those would not only play automatically but even be played without a means to stop them. Absolutely unthinkable in the UX world of today. I suppose visitors would directly panic and close the tab if they were greeted with some Axel F MIDI sounds or something comparable.
Before you had UI and web designers or develoers there was the webmaster. A title only for the chosen few who managed to build their own website and homepage. Having a website was epic and pure win and it was possible that you’d never even meet another fellow webmaster in reality. Well, at that time at least.
Frames are now a thing of the past with very few exceptions but back then many websites used frames to display multiple HTML files in the same browser view. This was most commonly seen as navigation on the side of a homepage. In web design, we still have navbar elements on the top or on the side but the age of displaying these in separate frames is over.
Basically, everything that could technically be done, was done. Even if it didn’t look appealing, it was just shown as a way to represent your skills as a webmaster. Even if that only meant to copy all sorts of code snippets from all over the web and store it all on your homepage. Remember the custom designs of your browser elements? The funny scrollbars? Disabling the right mouse click so nobody steals the stuff that you stole before? Crazy mouse courses with animation? And of course, the epicenter of it all was an animated background with no mercy even if it meant that nobody can read your text anymore. These were the days folks…
And everything took forever
In these years it could take minutes to fully load a page that was rich with media. Nowadays we get media thrown at us almost instantly but back then you had to carefully plan where you click and what you do when. If you broke something, a connection could also crash and cause you do refresh the website and in the worst case, you had to start from scratch if the cache wasn’t filed properly. Tough times!
Here’s how that was like to wait for your image to load. Better grab a coffee, do homework or something else in the meantime. 😉
To some of you, this might be a nostalgic reminder of how it used to be. Others might have not been around to witness these happening. Either way, I want you to think for a moment about this: What would you do on the Internet now, if there was no social media, no Internet on phones, and if search engines didn’t give you what you needed on the first page of the results? Personally, I always enjoyed visiting StarWars.com, no matter in what year. What about you? I’d love to hear from you in the guestbook below. 😉