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Bruce’s Home Page. Part I. “Malaysia’s Bill Gates”
Bruce’s Home Page. Part II. Calvin and Hobbes

 

 

Bruce’s home page was the first screenshot published on the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op tumblr blog. Of course that doesn’t mean this is the first page ever made on GeoCities, or even the oldest one in the archive. There are 3 dimensions of time at work here:

  1. The inception date, when a user first claimed an address on GeoCities and filled out a template or published some files. The best approximation for this time is the earliest last-modified date found on a file in a user’s directory.
  2. The last modified, when a user stopped updating their GeoCities project. The most effective approximation for this is the last-modified date of the home page, since most users would announce any change to sub pages on their home page. That’s also why these were selected to be screenshotted and made public.
  3. The posting date, when the screenshot of a home page is appearing on tumblr. Only home pages are posted, in chronological order, according to their abandonment date.

The later a page’s last modified date, the longer the difference to the inception date can potentially be, and the more research is required to understand if content and design of a particular page are tied to the page’s last-modified date or if the page is even older. (More on the complexities of interpreting the last-modified date will be addressed in the upcoming essay “Generation Update”.)

In relation to Bruce’s page this means that there are other pages which were claimed earlier and hence are older, but since they have been updated by their users for longer and where abandoned later, they will also appear much later on the tumblr blog. As I am writing this, pages abandoned in March 2006 appear on tumblr, yet they might have been established many years before.

Let’s forget for a moment the metadata that’s available, and rely only on researchers’ eyes and ears. How can we guess a website’s age? How could we guess Bruce’s Home Page age?

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Ten years ago, on the 7th of February 2013 at 11:07 CET, the very first screenshot of a freshly restored GeoCities home page was published on the Tumblr blog One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op. Since the start of this project more than 231,000 screenshots showing the pages in their original software environments were circulated, inviting a new audience to discover and make sense of the history of user culture on the web. We still have approximately 160,000 pages to come, which will probably take 4 more years.

In this post I collected 10 most popular (+ 1 relatively popular) screenshots of the first 10 years. We turned many into video with sound, some pages are restored and can be explored on the live web.

#1. Kylie’s Home-Dog Page

84059 reactions

Last modified 2002-10-08 02:22
Posted 2019-02-27 22:20

The absolute leader. This screenshot got reposed, liked and commented as no other was. No wonder! It is incredibly cute and it is made by Kylie herself (you may want to read more about dog webmasters).

Apart from that, this is a famous website that was started in Heartland/Hills but soon became http://www.kyliedog.com/, which gathered a lot of fans and was featured in mass media.

Kylie died in 2009, but the website is still online as well as another one her family made for her http://twogirlsandadog.com/, it was last updated in April, 2017.

Though you can almost fully explore the universe of Kylie’s pages and blogs on the contemporary web, one thing is missing — the audio file bark.wav playing in the background of her original GeoCities website. We video recorded the home page so you can here Kylie’s voice. Don’t forget to turn up the sound:

 


 

#2. without <title></title>

37942 reactions

Last modified 1999-02-08 07:04
Posted 2014-05-08 02:20

My personal favorite. A gem in the Give Me Time/This Page is No More collection. The screenshot with a full “reaction GIF” potential.

 


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Bruce’s Home Page. Part I. “Malaysia’s Bill Gates”

In the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age archive, every GeoCities page and file is associated with meta data. A small portion is technical (there is not so much that can be said about a singular file apart from its URL, last modified date, and the links it contains), the most interesting and important information are the tags assigned by humans.

The chronologically first page in the archive, Bruce’s Home Page, was tagged with “calvin”, “welcome”, “give me time”, “template”, “portal”, and “interview”. These tags were not assigned at once, but added gradually. Only after seeing other pages it became clear to me that the page was made using a template, and only later research revealed that there could the be possibility for an interview with the person who made it. Well, it’s still a prospect. More on that in Part I of this series on Bruce’s Home Page.

“Give me time” is my tag for pages that are freshly born, or rather conceived and immediately abandoned, but their author leaves a promise to finish the page very soon, when school starts or ends, when summer starts or is over, or as in Bruce’s case “after my exams”.

The tag “calvin” was the first one I gave to this page, assuming that the graphic on the top means that the person was a fan of the comic strip series Calvin and Hobbes, and the future page was ment to be about it in the future. There are a lot of pages I misinterpreted like that.

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Ten years ago, on the 7th of February 2013 at 11:07 CET, the very first screenshot of a rescued and restored GeoCities home page was published on the Tumblr blog One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op.

Bruce’s Home Page was a fortunate exemplar to open the project with. Although it doesn’t have a lot of content and doesn’t look particularly spectacular, it offers a good deal of graphic and structural elements and verbal expressions to start a conversation about the web of the mid 1990’s and introduce the material we at the GeoCities Research Institute have at hand. The page can be discussed as an early web page, as a web page on GeoСities, and as an artifact of the archive. One could write a book about it, but let it be a series of 3 blog posts. And since it is a 10 years anniversary I’ll start with a little sensation.

“Bruce’s Home Page” or, by its semantic title, “topgun’s Home Page”, as visible in the browsers title bar on the top left, is a simple page. There is not much more to it than what is visible on the the screenshot. If you compare it with the actual page you’re only missing a footer containing an email link, a link back to the Hollywood neighborhood, a broken  Beverly Hills Internet icon (this  is how the company that started GeoCities web hosting service was originally called), a second under construction ribbon, and a copyright note “© 1995”.

The only thing we get to know about the author is that he calls himself Bruce and that he is “a Malaysian who is thrilled of having a website”. We assume he is a young Top Gun and Calvin and Hobbes fan. (More on the Calvin and Hobbes mystery will be discussed in part II.) He also seems to know something about computers, at least this is how I interpret the “I hate Bill Gates” label of the link he pointed to microsoft.com
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I give a seminar Traditions and Revolutions in Web Design this semester. On the first day we made our first pages by modifying the code of Univ.-Prof.i.R. Dr. sc. nat.Werner Römisch’s page. In spirit of 1993 and default tags.
His page is one of the brightest examples in my essay Prof.Dr.Style, that can be helpful if you want to know how did people make pages in 1993 and what did it mean for them and for the evolution of web design.

I’ve also suggested to the students to embed a Youtube video into their pages. There was no Youtube in 1993 of course, even EMBED tag was not invented yet, but I think pulling parts of a giant system into your modest page is a nice feeling and a healthy exercise.
Another historically incorrect element on this page is a web ring. That phenomenon appeared a year or two later, but it is important to get a feeling of linking to each other. You can check the webring and individual pages starting at https://webspace.merz-akademie.de/~olia.lialina/

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“Another passion (ok, obsession) of mine is computers. I bought my first 8 years ago for my son, but he had to fight with mom to get me off of it when he wanted to use it. I got my latest one last year and this one is MINE! Recently, I’ve been having a ball playing around with PaintShopPro and making graphics (ok, I’m obsessed with graphics, I made so many I now have a graphics site – Obsessive-Compulsive personality, maybe?)”
Shawna,
April 1999

I have been using your graphics and they have really helped my page look the way I want them to. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful work. I have visited some other graphic sites and some of them were very good, but I haven’t found one as good s yours. Thanks again.
Vicki Jones,
August 2000

Earlier today a very significant screenshot appeared on One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age — the home page of Graphics by Shawna1. She moved into the SoHo neighborhood, Coffeehouse suburb, 5922 in September 1999 and last updated the home page on October 8, 2005.
I stumbled upon this site many times before I started to work with the GeoCities archive and maybe even before my Vernacular Web research took its shape. The reason is that Shawna’s designs, layouts, and graphics were very popular and since they were distributed as “linkware,” many people who used them put Shawna’s button in the bottom of their pages with a link back to her site.

Since 2011 there is one at the bottom of my own home page too. To express my respect and admiration to Shawna’s creations I used 3 of her sets at once. In 2017 her jeweled set “bluegem” became a motive for a Shawna dress and a Shawna skirt, garments of the Webmaster Summer collection.

A registered nurse, Shawna Kaye Green Hall (b.1951) belonged to the early webmasters who came to the web either shortly before or shortly after their retirement. In 1999 she mentions on her me.html that she will retire in 3 or 4 years. Contrary to the common belief that the amateur web was build by 13 year old boys, it were mostly much older people who took care about making, collecting, and organizing interface graphics, like back and home buttons, welcome signs, etc, as well as decorative elements, like bullets, rules, background images. Think of Lucy and Alan Richmond, who retired from NASA to start stars.com, where the first web developers could find tools and elements to make their pages; Royal Frazier, founder of the first GIF gallery; Randy D. Ralph who put together the Icon Bazar; not to mention Chuck Poynter; who we should thank for the Dancing girl and other early GIFs.
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  1. actually three screenshots in a row popped up in the timeline, because Graphics by Shawna existed under three addresses
    http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Coffeehouse/5922/
    http://www.geocities.com/shawnagraphics/
    http://www.geocities.com/~shawnagraphics/
    []

“Thanks to Blingee I discovered who I am”

“2021.2.4 This can be my last blingee… Is too much hard making blingess since I can’t find too much stamps… I wanna thank you all for comments, votes, friendship, I love ya guys.. and thank you Blingee Team for making this site. This site gave me a lot fun. I’m sad it’s end… However still there inside of me, part of me feels that there is a some hope. Anyway thanks for these years here. I’m here almost 9 years, in next month will 9 year in 1st March. I never forget you all ♥ Thanks ♥ PS. on P****x also I am Klaudia1998, I hope you’ll found ;3”

OL: Klaudia (sorry if I assumed wrongly and it is not your real name!), I was very happy you reacted to my tweet about the Blingee community mourning the service and at the same time supporting each other in the hope that it is not the end!Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, and adding me to your circle.
I understood from your forum entries that Blingee.com was (or still is) a big part of your life. And that’s what I want to talk about with you. But let me start with something that puzzles right now.  How come  a few new blingees appeared in your profile 2 days ago? How did you make them if Flash is still dead, and there is no non-flash editor on the website?!

K: I’m also glad I can tell you about my experience and I’m sorry for my not perfect English. Well, on Blingee there are maybe 100 people who are still making. Last year after Flash was discontinued, one of them told me about an old version of flash which I downloaded on my old laptop as well as the Pale Moon browser and tried it on February 2, 2021, but then deleted the programmes because I heard about the risks. Now I installed it again and I’m making new blingees again, because I missed it so much.  I’m not sure it’s 100% safe but there was only one person who got hacked.

OL: What exactly do you mean by “got hacked”?

K: She said she lost her accounts. Later she wrote on Blingee that she got hacked and people were afraid they would lose their accounts too but I didn’t hear anyone else got hacked.

OL: How did you come up with the number of 100 blingee users still being active? And, how many people do you think were still active before the editor stopped working?

K: When I joined Blingee there were a lot of people, but then less and less. People stopped making or deleted their accounts. In the end of 2020 right before Flash was over, people started to make a lot again, me too, because we thought it’s the end. I don’t know how many people are still there, maybe not 100, but very few.

OL: Is 1998 the year of your birth? If I assume correctly after reading the goodbye comment under your “last” blingee, you came to the service in 2012 when you were 14, right? Can you tell me what you remember about that?

K: Yes, 1998 is the year of my birth. I came to this service when I was 13 years old. I discovered the website in February and uploaded photos of my hamster to test the effects and thought it was very cool. So on March 1 I made an account there.

OL: So, 10 years! How many blingees and samps have you made in these years?

K: Over 1800 blingees, and  a lot of stamps, more than 6000 I think.

OL: Which is your favorite one? Or some that you are really proud of?

K: Usually I cut out stamps when I need something for my own blingee but can’t find it on the platform. It takes time to make them, but it is worth it. To be honest I can’t decide which is my favorite, I’m proud of almost all of them, but there’s one which I really like, though it was used only one time and this I used it for one of my favorite blingee, in 2012.

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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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