Perpetual Calendar builds upon the rich digital folklore tradition to start a day on your social network by wishing each other a good one in the form of an image, often animated, and most likely glittering.

Vernacular web has different facets, that can’t be reduced to usual suspects: dancing baby or LOL cats or “under construction” signs. When in the 3rd decade of the 21st century I’m asked what can be seen as Digital Folklore today, I say Blingee.com, Lyric Videos on Youtube, … good morning greetings on… actually anywhere where you can attach an image to your post, but mostly where you can attach an animated image.

Glitter quotes and have a nice day wishes is a subculture.These images are neither memes, or reaction GIFs, not classic 90’s GIFs. They belong to the 3rd millennium and mark the dramatic shift. In the beginning of the century a new social networks routine — to wish a good (nice, great, sexy,…) Monday (Tuesday, Humpday,…) with a self made or found graphic — replaced “Welcome to My Home Page” greetings and relieved the ever growing urge for updates.

With https://haveagood.today/you can go to the future and the past, checking what day of the week were you born, or on what day of the week New Year 3000 is going to be. At the same time you can see it as a flipping through my collection of the graphics that represent an important layer of vernacular web.

I’d like to thank  The Internet Archive for commissioning the work for their 25th anniversary! And Dragan Espenschied for transforming the collection into a calendar that will work forever and on all the platforms!

An update on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Forty four new screenshots of pages made as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack, or related to the event in other ways: collections of photographs and documents, investigations, conspiracy theories, Osama Bin Laden hate pages, …


⚠️ Some GIF mentioned in the text have a limited number of loops.
Consider hard refresh to see them in action again.

MetaTools web team Christmas party, 1995. Front row, left to right: Audrey Witters, Julie Sigwart, Rena Tom.
Back row, left to right: Michael Mogitz, Scott Fegette (Audrey Witters’ personal archive)

“Assorted Tip and Tricks”, chapter 6 of Richard Koman’s GIF Animation Studio manual, published by O’Reilly in 1996 starts with the wise remark “Your Web page can be a lot more fun if it’s not always crystal clear exactly what is going on” (p.69).
Meaning that animated GIFs can be used for more than just motion. They are the element that can bring surprise and suspense. To realize GIFs’full potential one could play with interframe delays and numbers of loops. Two essential properties in the mid 90’s; two more decisions early GIF makers could make, apart from transparency (or not) in the background of the animation and the amount of frames used in the animation.
As an example of the best practice Koman brings the Blinking Alien, attributing the authorship to Audrey Witters from MetaTools.

Today Audrey is a Managing Director of Online Executive Education at Stanford and she was very surprised that I wanted to talk with her about her alien.gif. The conversation started on Whereby on June 29, 2021; continued in Google docs the following days and concluded with the short video call on July 12.

Olia Lialina: Audrey, did you know that you are famous? That your GIFs and tips on how to make them were celebrated on the pages of GIF Animation Studio? Actually did you know at all that you were in the book and on the CD?

Audrey Witters: I did! And we have the book at home. I just have to find it!

Back in 1995, I began to work for MetaCreations (back then called MetaTools). We produced graphic arts software — Kai’s Power Tools was our big title then!  And so, myself as well as three other folks at MetaTools were working on the website, we did everything together: design and coding, these weren’t separate jobs back in 1995. You didn’t have it segmented yet. One of the things we did to support the community and to promote the software was publishing web tips, I think they had a cute name, I can’t remember now.

OL:

AW:  Yes! And so, I had published a tutorial on doing animated GIFs using Kai’s Power Tools.

OL: <title>Animation Rocks</title>

AW: And then the author of that book sent me a note saying “hey, I’m publishing this book on animated GIFs, can I use your stuff in it?” I checked with my boss, and we were like, yeah, it’d be free publicity for our software as well as our website. Let’s go! So, I guess that’s the story.

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False Memories, Olia Lialina, 2020

For Internet Explorer 6, Windows 2000, and virtual machine

My professional life happens in two dimensions. In IRL one it’s the end of Summer 2020, where Microsoft just announced that Internet Explorer – the notorious web browser that for many was the only window into the WWW for quarter of century – has been discontinued. It’s the end of the era.

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August 14th 2020 IRL and January 1st 2004 on One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age archive: Happy New Year!?

What were the most important developments for web history in 2004? The birth of the Facebook1 and the announcement of “Web 2.0.”2

These events mark the beginning of a new era: a “modern” web, the web that we are still in today. A web where the role of the user is not to build the web, but to generate content and data. A web where the gap in between users and developers is unbridgeable.
Not many did see the significance of both back in 2004. It was hard to imagine that Facebook will become so powerful, or the extend to which Ajax will affect the way users interact with the web and each other.

Later that year, on the 9th of November 2004, Firefox browser was released, to end the era of IE dominance.3

What I personally remember about that year is that people around me finally abandoned the idea of having a personal home page. In an attempt to support those who still designed, updated, and fixed broken links, art.teleportacia gallery initiated the 1000$ Page Contest. It showed that there are some people online who still make their home pages by themselves and are even proud of it. The following year all entries already were blogs, which in 2020 would probably be regarded as the “personal web.” But 15 years ago the difference in between a home page and a blog was very clear.

As for GeoCities, in 2004 it’s users were fighting with Flash, Yahoo!’s templates, and the idea that a web page is dead if it is not updated.


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28 Feb 2020 @BerkeleySETI: “We’re now on TikTok!”
02 March 2020 BerkeleySETI: “basically, we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now.”

On March 2nd 2020, the SETI@home project announced its hibernation starting March 31st. After more then two decades this iconic distributed internet project is becoming history. There is enough data, enough super computers, and no extraterrestrial tasks left for PC users at the moment.

SETI@Home is one of the very best things that happened to the internet. In an ideal world all the internet is  something@home. Well, next time!

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A little Christmas wonder!

Up until today we discovered 55 pages in the GeoCities archive that were decorated with softly falling DHTML snowflakes. Six of them are now brought back to your browser: by adapting JavaScripts that GeoCities users copy-pasted into their pages, digging up missing snowflake GIFs and other flying objects from the Internet Archive, and rendering midi files to audio.

For detailed notes on changed code, see Dragan’s notes on GitHub.

Please note that some pages feature wonderful auto-playing audio. You will probably have to allow autoplay and reload the page:


Chrome

Firefox

 

http://restoration.geocities.institute/CapitolHill/Embassy/5400/
with sound

 
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On occasion of Jay Tholen’s talk  at Merz Akademie that Dragan and me will moderate, I try to collect in one place projects that explicitly deal with early web elements, motives and tropes. We will not have time to talk about all of them! Still can be useful since the topic of our discussion is “Good Old Days, False Nostalgia and Hypnospace Outlaw”: the ways artists, game makers, designers, developers address imaginary past, or so to say “geocities”. I deliberately put the term in quotation mark and start with low case g, except the last category.

I am sure the list may/must be much longer and had more/other categories. Please, send your links to me!

Video Games
Alone in Cyberspace, Michael Klamerus, 2019
Hypnospace Outlaw, Jay Tholen, 2019
Wrong Box, Molly Soda and Aquma, 2019
Secret Little Haven, Victoria Dominowski, 2018
Lost Memories Dot Net, Nina Freeman, 2017
Black Room Cassie McQuater, 2017
Tetragedon, Nathalie Lawhead 2014

Comics
Tistree,Taras Tymoshenko, 2019
zombie and mummy, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, 2002
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My name is Flash and I am a dog. . . . To be more precise, I am a Boxer. . . . With time I’ll make this page more colourful (who said we see in B&W!!??) and interesting.

—Flash, a Boxer, June 19, 1999, Heartland/Pointe/9855/

As media scholar Ethan Zuckerman pinned it in 2008: “Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers. Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.”1

Zuckerman is not only a scholar and activist but also an entrepreneur who built one of the first free web hosting services, Tripod. So he could be the first one to testify that the web, which we retroactively call Web 1.0, was re-purposed very, very early; even physicists themselves started to use Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) to not only to reference or edit each other papers, but also to make personal web pages, to share their passions and lives with the world out there. That world was getting bigger at an unprecedented pace, sucking more and more people into a whirlwind of “welcome to my page,” “under construction,” and “sign my guestbook.”

What is indeed stunning is the fact that cats, which later became a front-running symbol of the online world, played only a small role in early web culture.

There was a gif of Felix the Cat walking back and forth in the bottom of many pages. There was “paper cat” coming out from the inner side of the browser2. There were decorative kitten graphics. There were pages that people made about their cats, sure, but you simply cannot compare it with the amount and quality of pages made for dogs.

At this moment there are 451 pages in GeoCities archive3 that I’ve tagged “dog.”4 While some of them are pages of breeders and dog rescue organizations, the majority are the websites made by happy owners of little pupppies; by proud friends of big and small, well- educated and spoiled- rotten Pugs, Retrievers, Beagles, Vizslas, and so on…; and by inconsolable families of dogs that have passed away. I collect tThe most spectacular ones I collected into a constantly updated series called On the Internet Everybody Knows You Had a Dog.5


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  1. Ethan Zuckerman, “The Cute Cat Theory Talk at Etech,” . . . My heart’s in Accra (blog), March 8, 2008 []
  2. an example of performative restoration by Tara Donovan-Achi, in 2016 a student of my course Traditions and Revoluions in Web Design at Merz Akademie []
  3. The GeoCities archive, also known as One Terabyte Of Kilobyte Age, is a copy of roughly 382,000 home pages that a group called Archive Team rescued in a quickly coordinated initiative in 2009, just before Yahoo! removed all of GeoCities from the web. This 1TB data dump was distributed via the piracy site The Pirate Bay. In 2013, my partner Dragan Espenschied and I finished the restoration of the site. See Dragan Espenschied, “A City Rebuilt,” April 6, 2013, []
  4. I wrote this in September 2017 after looking at 110,000 GeoCities home pages in chronological order of their last update, reaching as far as July 25, 2001. As of 21st of September 2019 there are 742 dog pages. []
  5. The title is an allusion to Peter Steiner’s famous cartoon published in The New Yorker on the July 5, 1993, captioned “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” []

This workshop offers to explore the early web through the unique interface of the GeoCities Research Institute, under the guidance of Olia Lialina, net artist, vernacular web researcher, and keeper of the archive.

The day will start with a short introduction to web history, methodologies of web history research, and especially notions of “Small, Weak and Stupid” as a productive and respectful approach to the digital vernacular.

Participants will be tasked with examining a particular collection of the archive, to find answers to an open question. There will be some hours to research and document the findings; and! to immerse in the material, resurfacing with more questions. The goal is to resist distant reading, abstraction, and algorithmic excavation; to rely instead on human time and memory, interpretation and serendipity.

Participants are asked to bring their own laptops and to have the Firefox browser installed.

The workshop will conclude with a recorded conversation that will become a reference for future research.

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