No, this is not a collection of 404 errors or poorly designed sites – in fact, it’s the complete opposite! (If you don’t know what a 404 error is, click here). 404PageFound started in May 2009 with the goal of uncovering dated websites (generally from 1994-2001) that are still active and have avoided major updates. Many people think that sites created in the years following the dot-com bubble burst (2001-2003) are old. This may be true, but the differences between a site from 2001 and 1996 are quite striking. It’s overwhelming how much data from the days of Usenet, Gopher, and FTPs still exists in the depths of the Internet.
Accordingly, 404PageFound is by no means an attempt to emulate the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (or any other site that hosts former pages). The Wayback Machine serves an excellent and necessary purpose by continually capturing instances of websites for historical, technological, and cultural purposes. However, there is something distinct and unique about discovering an antiquated site that still exists in its natural state compared to browsing a library of how modern websites once looked. However, only in rare cases will a site in the Internet Archive still look like it did a decade ago. As such, 404PageFound will not be able to showcase most major web players since they constantly update their sites. However, even large sites (CNN, Yahoo!, and Business Week, to name a few) have old pages that remain in their original layout and have escaped deletion from the server. For reference, there were an estimated 100,000 websites in 1996, and close to 1 million in 1997. Many of these still remain in their original coding, although the vast majority have been removed or completely renovated. 404PageFound strives to excavate and display these remaining buried gems.
Additionally, 404PageFound is in no way a “Worst” of the Web. There are already plenty of these sites and no one benefits by insulting historic websites (many of which have been abandoned or forgotten as it is). In fact, many of the featured sites actually earned “Best of” awards back in the day. In today’s advanced Internet, such vintage sites would not, and do not, stand a chance of receiving awards. One of the goals of 404PageFound is to entertain as well as enlighten visitors who rarely stray from modern “2.0” mainstream sites. Plenty of throwback sites remain scattered around the Web. It is just a matter of finding them in a world dominated by “Page Not Found” errors.
404PageFound is a testament to the fact that decade-old pages can still co-exist with the dominant social web. Many of these featured sites suffer from “link rot” or the gradual loss of links (and therefore search engine presence) because websites that they link to disappear, change their content, or move to new locations. Such is the case in the realm of the Internet. Forgotten pages may exist, but it takes a certain knack and some detective work to find them. That’s where we come in (and you can help too).
You (hopefully!) will not find any “404 Page Not Found” errors – we’ve already found plenty. You will only see images and links to captivating sites that remind us of the early days of the graphical World Wide Web.
- Criteria used for posts on 404PageFound
- Contact 404PageFound
- Submit a site for consideration to 404PageFound
- Internet/WWW books from 1994-1997 that can be found on the Amazon Marketplace
Want to find old websites on your own? The easiest way is to find old bookmarks and run the links through Xenu Link Sleuth (sorted by access date).
2014 update: 188 of the original 653 featured sites (30%) have been removed in the past four years. Let’s hope the current 450 exist for years to come!