IN PICTURES: Top five forgotten websites from the dot-com era

The dot-com bubble left its fair share of victims, with these five sites topping the list

  • 5. GeoCities What it was: While traditional hosting services charged a monthly fee, GeoCities allowed users to sign up for free hosting. The hoted site would be covered in advertisements, but in return the user would have a couple of megabytes of free storage to put up a personal home site. Why it was popular: At the turn of the century, everyone and their pet dog got on the crazy to have their own personal web site on what was then billed as the “information super highway." A lot of people were keen to have a web presence but wanted to do it for free, and GeoCities thus flourished to become the third most visited web site by 1999. Why it disappeared: The popularity of GeoCities made it an attractive acquisition target for online giant Yahoo!, which bought the service at the peak of the dot-com bubble in 1999. However, Yahoo! struggled to monetise the service as more free web hosting services came out, often with more storage space, less advertising and quicker servers. GeoCities would eventually be viewed as a relic from the early days of the Internet and soon faded into the background until Yahoo! finally pulled the plug on the service in 2009.
  • 4. Bravenet What it was: Just like a hotel uses a guestbook to keep track of people who visit the establishment, web site administrators could keep track of visitors to their web site with a digital guestbook. Bravenet was one of the leading companies to offer this function to budding web site designers. Why it was popular: Putting a guestbook on a web site hosted on a free services such as GeoCities was just one of the several things people did in those early days of the Internet. The ideal that people from around the world were able to access the contents of a web site was still new and novel for many people, and without access to detailed web site statistics and analytics, guestbooks became the de facto way to keep track of who visited and from where. Why it disappeared: Guestbooks fell out of popularity as user habits changed. As web site administrators had access to more advanced web development tools and site analytics, guestbooks fell out of fashion. Just as a user may have made the switch from a free web hoster to a paid one, people switched from guestbooks to using email and forums as a way to keep track of visitors.
  • 3. AllAdvantage What it was: Internet users would be paid a portion of the advertising revenue generated by their online viewing habits. The service worked by the user installing a banner at the bottom of the screen that would refresh with advertising, while at the same time tracking what web sites the user looked at for how long. Why it was popular: “Get paid to surf the web” was AllAdvantage’s slogan at the time, and users promptly signed up to receive money for something they already enjoyed doing. Word of the service went viral on the Internet as users had no qualms about exposing their privacy or potentially deteriorating the speed of their Internet connection, all in the name of making a few dollars. With the dot-com bubble in full swing, pipedreams such as getting paid to just browse the Internet were not that farfetched back then. Why it disappeared: The dot-com bubble burst and advertising spending came to a stop. For an advertising based initiative such as AllAdvantage, this development was disastrous. Users were obviously keen to keep using the service and make pocket money on the side, but investors were not entirely sold on the business model and AllAdvantage would shut down in 2001. During the short time the service existed, it had paid out over US $160 million to members, leaving many advertisers wondering if their money had been well spent or not
  • 2. Altavista What it was: The Internet spans multiple countries and regions in various languages. Every company and person in the world has the potential to have a web site, but the only way to access a page is with a URL. To make it easy for users to navigate this large network of computers and web sites, Altavista came up with a search engine that allowed used to type in search terms to find online content on the topic. Why it was popular: Altavista was simple, easy to use, and most of all, functional. For a large segment of the Internet, Altavista became the start page of their web browser and the leading way to find and access online content. While several other search engine came out around the same time, such as HotBot and Yahoo!, Altavista seemed to somehow do it better. Why it disappeared: Google came along and did it better. While Altavista was no slouch when it came to searching content, Google pushed the envelope to previously unseen levels. Not only were Google search results more accurate, the engine also listed more web sites in results. In an age of dial-up modems, Google also had the benefit of being super quick. The smooth and responsive search experience by Google would not only seal the fate of Altavista, but solidify Google’s domination for the following decade and beyond.
  • 1. Hotmail What it was: Email was an exciting technology in the early days of the Internet, allowing users to send messages instantly to any part of the world. Uptake of email was swift, though users had to have an email client installed on their PC and then manually configure the settings to send and receive emails. Before Cloud was a buzzword, Hotmail had the idea of putting email entirely online without the need of a software client. It also helped it was free. Why it was popular: Having an email client installed to access email meant that people were essentially forced to use a single desktop PC to read and send messages. The other problems with email clients is that emails disappear from the server once downloaded, not to mention accessing emails while on the move was cumbersome. Putting the entire email experience online meant that people could keep all of their emails in one place and access email while on the move, whether it was locally or while travelling overseas. Why it disappeared: Hotmail was a massive hit and users from around the world signed up to use it, meaning all of the functional usernames would quickly disappear and force new users to chose obscure logins, usually with several numbers in them. The popularity of Hotmail meant that the service would be flooded with spam, and without efficient spam tools users had to manually delete emails. Sluggish performance and problems logging in also became regular issues. While Hotmail was content to only offer a few megabytes of storage for the inbox, other free web based began to offer larger inboxes, not to mention more appealing user names and better performance. When Google released Gmail in 2004 with 1GB of free space, users switched from other, older email services en masse.
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