In 1996, the Internet Archive began archiving the web for a service called the Wayback Machine. They’ve now archived 55 billion web pages. That’s enough web pages that if you were to print them all out using your roommate’s printer while he was at class and tape them end-to-end, you could reach the moon and back 28 trillion times.
I decided to peruse the Wayback Machine’s earliest archives to see what the internet looked like in 1996, when I was 14 and evidently had much less free time than I do now. Much to my chagrin, few websites from these early years have been successfully archived, and many of the best preserved ones were created by fast food and soft drink corporations because they were some of the earliest adapters of the internet. They viewed the medium as a chance for inexpensive advertising and invested dozens upon dozens of dollars into it. The results are tremendously humiliating. (more…)