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Ten Web Sites, Ten Years Ago

    Jennifer Farley

    The year was 1999. The world was preparing to end, thanks to the Millennium bug that would either blow us all up, or give out free money from ATMs at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

    Some events of 1999 included the establishment of the Euro, the Columbine High School Massacre, the first episode of Spongebob Squarepants, the war in Kosovo, the debut of Napster, Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour De France and Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of Russia.

    I was working as a web designer and programmer for a Norwegian telecoms company, looking after their intranet design and occasionally helping with marketing bits and pieces. I couldn’t program my way out of a paper bag (still can’t) but I loved the excitement of Web Design, typing HTML in notepad and editing images with Paint Shop Pro. I was over the moon when the company invested in Macromedia Flash 4. Animation on the web! The same year a friend “loaned” me a copy of something I had heard a little bit about called Photoshop 5…

    In 1999, the web was a smaller place, filled with tables, some seriously dodgy background images and blinking text. But what sort of designs did the really big boys have on their web site? Would you recognize them today? I used the Wayback Machine archive to take a look at ten web sites that are fairly huge today. Here’s what they looked like then. Note: When I was taking screen grabs, the resolution of my screen was 1280 x 800 pixels, you’ll see how narrow the designs were then by the amount of white space visible.

    Apple.com, nice and clean even then, and advertising the Power Mac G4.


    Amazon.com had a liquid layout and looked very similar to how it is today.


    BBC was reporting on the murder of Jill Dando.


    Microsoft.com offered a download of Internet Explorer 5.


    Wired Magazine


    Yahoo! was currently showing a sneak peak of their new homepage, but it used to look like this for quite a while.


    Monster.com: Many a CV has passed through here since 1999.


    The Onion.com, built with frames, remember them?


    The White House is the most dramatically changed of all the ten web sites listed here.


    Oh look! A new search engine.


    What were YOU doing in 1999? And what do you think about how some of these web site designs have (or haven’t) changed in ten years.