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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.

In my Geocities Timeline, 2004 has just started. I’m surrounded by bright and loud web pages made for Internet Explorer 6 which, still a monopolist at that time, offered a lot of awesome features for web designers. One of them was changing the colors of scrollbars. Web makers of 15 years ago valued it a lot , incorporating the browser’s interface into their own interfaces, merging aesthetics of the page with the aesthetic of the window containing it, feeling in control. I have an impressive collection of web pages where the scrollbar is visually merged with the background of the web page, creates a contrast to it, rhymes with the title picture, or changes it’s color when moved. Rich User Experience at it’s best!

2004 was the last year of Internet Explorer’s dominance. In November that year, Mozilla released Firefox, with the aim to end Microsoft’s monopoly once and forever.

False Memory is a tribute to both, IE users and developers.
But also my remark on exponentially growing nostalgia about the web’s past. False Memory offers to immerse in netstalgia gilty pleasures: to idealize past, to homogenize past; to rewrite it; to remember things that never happened to you or at all…but you so much want to believe the opposite.

False Memories wouldn’t be possible without Dragan Espenschied’s recollections and scripts.

640×480 interactive online version on view from September 11 to November 30, 2020.
1024×768 AI (automated) version on view at Espace Multimedia Gantner, Bourogne September 12 to November 22, 2020 as part of Something for Everyone.

Commissioned by Espace Multimedia Gantner.
Emulation service provided by Rhizome

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at Espace Multimedia Gantner, photo Samuel Carnovali

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 thank 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
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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“BTW — That house in the “HOME” button below really *is* my house!”

 

 

There are several reasons why you read an interview with Mike Gates.

First: his page attracted my attention when on the 1st of August 2019 its screenshot appeared in the 1Tb of Kb Age timeline. Its design is a great example of an amateur webmaster making a step in the direction of the professionally looking web: less eclectic, more homogeneous appearance;  less HTML, more Photoshop.

Second: I got charmed by the comment Mike Gates left in the bottom of the About Me page. It became the epigraph for this interview.

Third: Mike revealed his real name and the place he lives, I could find him.

And last but not least: Mike agreed to talk to me! That’s not always the case, since people were made believe that making a home page is something they should rather be ashamed of. One of the goals of this interview series is to change the situation. I think Mike’s memories and thoughts about his web past and present can help a lot in understanding what a great role making a web page can have in one’s life.

Our conversation took place on the 3rd of August 2019 via appear.in, with some corrections added in the following days via email and Google Docs.

Olia Lialina: Mike, thank you for agreeing to talk to me. My first question is: the 2nd of February 1999 is the first snapshot of your page in the Internet Archive. Do you think it’s any close to the time when you started your page?

Mike Gates: It’s probably pretty close, it might be just a little bit earlier than that, but that’s pretty damn close.

OL: The early version of your page as in the archive is almost unreadable. Neon green text is put over white background. Probably there was a wallpaper that is missing now, right?

MG: Sure. There must have been a background on there…

OL: But you don’t remember what was it?

MG: No, I don’t recall it.

OL: Did you ever make a copy, an archive of your home page?

MG: No, I never did. I should have had as my daughters would enjoy the look into my past. My youngest will be visiting in a couple of weeks, and I’ll definitely share with her the archive that you showed me….

OL: Why did you decide to make a web page in the first place? What events preceded February 1999?

MG: Well, locally here in Ketchikan, I ran a BBS. People would call up and connect to play online games, download files, chat via RelayNet and so on. I had four dedicated phone lines coming into the house and a network of computers to handle the calls.

The internet existed and was available here in Ketchikan by dialup, but there wasn’t much more than a blinking cursor on the screen, and you had to have knowledge of Unix commands to use it.

But about 1997 a couple things happened.

Internet-wise, a local internet carrier set up shop, and suddenly there was the WEB. My computer BBS, which was my creative project, suddenly went from over a hundred calls from users each day to maybe a dozen or so. Big changes for me personally, and big changes for me as an online presence. My BBS users had migrated almost en-masse to the Internet, and I guess I followed the herd.

For me, personally, in 1997 my marriage of several years came crashing down and I became a single dad to two young daughters. I was a lot on ICQ. I decided since I wasn’t doing my Bulletin Board anymore, I’d start up a web page so people could see who I was. It was just a form of expression.

OL: Sorry to interrupt you, would it be correct to say that the main reason for your web page was to introduce yourself to people you met on ICQ?

MG: Absolutely! I was an insomniac, so I was up till the wee hours every morning looking at pages or whatever and yes, ICQ is always running so if anyone asked who I am I could send them off to GeoCities to look at my page: “I don’t have any secrets! Just me and my kids.”


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Since GeoCities—as a stand-in for the past web, a representative for a certain visual style, or simply as a digital artifact and data set—becomes increasingly popular in mass culture and academia, and we at One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age feel partly responsible for it, there are four statements I’d like to make. Some more obvious than others, but all of them made in oder to restore historical justice.

 

1. GeoCities ≠ Web 1.0

Geocities is not a synonym for the web of the 1990’s. It was a big, well-known, important free hosting service, but it was not the only one. There were Tripod, Angelfire, Homestead, and others. But more importantly there were web sites outside of GeoCities (as well outside of other hosting services). I will not exaggerate and say now that GeoCities was a drop in the ocean, but let’s compare it with a lake in relation to the ocean of personal websites hosted elsewhere.

This fact maybe obvious for my generation and even for millennials, but Generation Z is at stake. They get to know about bright, crazy, cool GeoCities, as something like an app where people were active before Facebook or Instagram. But the point about the web before social networks or before Web 2.0 is not that you had a profile on GeoCities, but that you had a chance to build your cyber home outside of it, you could exist and grow outside of a centralized service.

Today many think that the Internat is the same as the WWW, and the WWW is equal to Facebook services. Critical digital culture circles make quite an effort to fight this delusion. Explaining that web history is more than the history of one company taking the place of another can help too.

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For everyone who wonders what are the most popular screenshots on One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age tumblr after six years of posting, we made a list of eighty one posts with 1000+ notes as on 29th of March 2019.
Your interpretations are welcome!