Monthly Archives: December 2013

Its Christmas time IRL, but 31st of August 1998 in Geocities time — the 1st anniversary of Diana’s death. On this occasion I collected ten tribute pages to the Princess of Wales, created and last updated from the 1st of September 1997 till “today”.

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the 31st of August 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/1564/


the 30th of August 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/6060/


the 24th of June 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Gallery/3304/


the 16th of April 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/4446/


the 7th of January 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Augusta/2826/


the 3rd of November 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/7034/


the 13th October 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/7161/


the 19th of September
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/9966/

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the 2nd of September 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/3339/

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the 1st of September 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/6069/

On the 26th of August 1998 one Geocities home page was “last updated” every 25 minutes.
On the 26th of August 1997 — every 45 minutes.
On the 26 of August 1996 — every 8 hours.

I visit Blingee.com a lot these days, because I miss the wildness of Hyves and because there so many new GIFs around made with a new Google tool — AutoAwesome — that automatically adds a snow fall effect to photos that it recognizes as winter landscapes; or a twinkle effect if lights are detected. Autoawesome GIFs are monumental and elegant. They are like a proper reincarnation of snow Java applets, and this time it is real magic because it always works and because it doesn’t even take one click to make them.

But I don’t really think about the applets. Every autoawesome GIF that comes across my way makes me type the B word in the location bar to check what are users up to on Blingee. How is it snowing and twinkling there? Well, it is different: pictures are much smaller, the amount of effects applied is much bigger.

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see the gallery

Apart from Christmas motives, Blingee users are as always busy with the usual emo and girly stuff. In recent days, a big thing were tributes to Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela.


see more at the gallery


see more at the gallery

P.I.P tribute graphics are a vivid part of Blingee culture, which is usually ridiculed outside of the community. See for example the tumblr blog Blingees in Memoriam that collects the most naive examples.  Though I don’t know what would make any of the GIFs featured there more ridiculous than “like” orgies on Facebook R.I.P. posts and communities.

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On Blingee you can see the elements (“stamps”) used in each picture and trace their origins, which is a unique feature that deserves a proper research. So I looked at the “source code” of Mandela and Walker GIFs. There are usually around 8 stamps involved in the animation, i found examples with 20 ones, theoretically more are possible.

For example this image was made using 7 stamps uploaded to the system by 6 different users.


Stamps are not only chosen from the library. They are scaled, rotated, moved around … Blingee users are facing a hell of work every day.

How will mourning pics be made autoawesomely? I expect two solutions:

  1. If the face of a dead person is detected, appropriate stamps (R.I.P, crucifix, black frame) are applied.
  2. If a coffin, a tomb stone or people dressed in black are detected, the “raindrops on window” effect is added to the picture.

There is a bunch of Geocities websites that were last updated in the second half of 1998. It is very likely that they were created the same day they were abandoned. The websites are empty, look very similar, appear one after another on the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Tumblr, don’t evoke any memories … a real nightmare.

Apart from the rulers, a missing Java applet, Tesla coils and a dripping faucet …

… they all contain a link to a page on Intel.com that does not exist anymore. The paths to  elements used in the java applet’s parameters lead to the source on archive.org:

Most images are broken, but the context is clear now: in 1998 Intel was trying out a web page builder, or a Web Page Wizard.

There’s nothing to download to start using the Intel.com Web Page Wizard, so get started now, and create a your own home on the Web!

The Intel.com Web Page Wizard was last updated in 1999, the year Geocities was already bought by Yahoo!, which introduced its own builder; the year time of page wizards was over outside of free hosting services anyway.

Sadly, Intel’s effort is not contained in the Geocities torrent, so there are no HTML files, no read_me. But there are also good news: the images of intel/wizard/images/ are still online, so one can still hotlink to them :)

http://p1.geo.sp2.yahoo.com/images/members/intel/wizard/images/dark_top.gif
http://p1.geo.sp2.yahoo.com/images/members/intel/wizard/images/dark_rule.gif
http://p1.geo.sp2.yahoo.com/images/members/intel/wizard/images/dark_bottom.gif
http://p1.geo.sp2.yahoo.com//images/members/intel/wizard/animation/drip.gif

The bars and the faucet leaking Pentium Juice made quite a career online, not as part of the template, but on their own. They appear in free collections. They appear on pages outside of geocities.

On angelfire:
http://www.angelfire.com/on2/CRYSTAL/
http://www.angelfire.com/al/alaaa/

On tripod
http://zombieshellonearth.tripod.com/
http://def777.tripod.com/index2.htm
http://mojazz.tripod.com/

Outside of free hosting services:
http://www.ten-k.com/ (an exceptional example: the layout is as it was designed by the Wizard and the applet still works)
http://www.electricleather.com/
http://skdeitch.com

The Skdeitch site is an interesting example: the only animated appearance of the Tesla coils until now. (Though, every time I see them, I’m surprised that they were not originally animated. Btw, another lame thing: all 4 gifs have an opaque black background. If the background would be transparent, I’m sure we would know them from more pages.)

Other unique animations on this site suggest that Seth K. Deitch is the author of the animated versions.

Intel’s “Nightmare” is interesting on at least two layers:

  1. as a clear source of four graphics that made their way into free collections
  2. as a template of the pre-template era. More of a sample page than a template, scaffold code that users had to edit.

And it is scary as death.


In the end of 2011 I wrote an article about the Dutch social network Hyves and its users — Many backgrounds of Hyves. It ends with the question:

But before it is shut down, will the company give its users time to save their files – and will they bother to do so?

Two years later the answers are here. Hyves, which was seen as a European version of Myspace in its best years, on the 2nd of December 2013 ended up just like Friendster: it turned into a gaming portal.

A month before, on the 31st of October, the announcement was released. I got an email inviting me to request my stuff for download eight days prior the shut down.

According to Frits van der Sloot, Telegraaf Media Groep Platform Manager, around 200’000 users took the offer and clicked The Export Button.

What do these numbers tell us?

Eight days is better then nothing, but it is a pretty short time. Not for the action of downloading (that’s fast), but for reaching everybody who could potentially be interested in rescuing their photos, updates, contacts.

The service was ten years old, there must be a lot of people — I personally know three — who didn’t visit their profiles for years and could hardly remember their user names and wouldn’t read hyves emails … One can say: if they were so inactive, then it is very likely that they wouldn’t be sad when there profiles are gone, so where is the problem? I guess the answer should be that only the person who made a profile is to decide what it means to them, how much to have inside and how often to update. There are different reasons to create a profile. Sometimes the purpose is exactly to be inactive, as absurd as it can sound.

So, it is difficult to say what is the right time to reach out to users with a deletion notice. There is no success story yet. Four years ago, Yahoo gave half a year to Geocities users. Maybe this precedent should become a rule, and social services shouldn’t give less time to say goodbye than it was with Geocities? Isn’t it an elegant solution? Besides the obvious one: that if service is discontinued it shouldn’t mean that profiles and files are deleted. Especially when even small children know that they are not deleted but just made invisible.

Anyway, half a year or one year — this period of time should be clearly communicated in the moment you sign up for the service.

200’000 users. I was so much longing to get to know this number, but now I don’t know how to interpret it. Because personally I think it is a lot. At the same time, on the scale of today’s social networking it is nothing. See for example Wikipedia’s article on Hyves, which calls this network that in 2011 served 11.5 million users a “small” one.

200’000 is 2.2% of 9’000’000 of the profiles the ArchiveTeam managed to grab, 1.7% of the total amount of Hyves users. What about the other 98,3%? Not enough time? No interest to have their online files offline? No interest at all? Maybe they saved their stuff without using the tool?

More research, more references and precedents are needed to understand what really happened, and what those percents mean.

And another number. Hyves Archive made by Archive Team is 25 terabytes. 25 times bigger than the Geocities archive. ~23 times more profiles than Geocities. Impressive, but also quite sad, because there are no tools and not enough competence to make sense from it. It will be 25 times more difficult to go through the the noise produced by both the system and the users. 250 000 000 times more difficult to grasp user culture of that time and place, compared to Geocities and amateur web culture of the 90’s in general. But the effort should be made, Hyves was not just a page in the history of social networks, it was many many very different pages that looked pretty much the same.

Related:

There is no Export Function
Hyves: The Money
Hyves: Background Class Pimp
Pimp My Profile tool screencast