Have you ever wondered what one of your favorite websites looked like back in the early days of the internet? We took a ride back in time using the Wayback Machine and found some great screenshots of some of the most popular websites of the 90s.
1. AOL.COM – 1998
You may know AOL as America Online with it’s infamous “dial-up loading” noise and AOL Chat but it actually started as Control Video Corporation in 1985 and had one product: GameLine, a service that hooked your Atari 2600 to your phone line to rent games for a $1. A year later the company went out of business and rebranded to Quantum Computer Services where they would continue to develop their phone line tech. Three years later, they partnered with Apple to launch a similar service called AppleLink.
After the partnership with Apple ended in 1989, Control Video Corporation rebranded to America Online. Two years later America Online for DOS was released followed by American Online for Windows a year later. From 1991-1996, users could gain access using their pay-per-hour system. It was later ditched for a monthly flat rate of $19.95. During the peak of their success they acquired Netscape, the makers of the dominant web browser of the era.
The homepage started to evolve and the iconic light blue branding started to appear only a year later.
Check out this AOL Instant Messenger signup screen!
2. MTV.COM – 1996
MTV launched their cable television channel on August 1, 1981 with the broadcast of “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. After the initial buzz from the launch, the network struggled in it’s early years due to various reasons like having a small inventory of videos, reruns and cable network was still also young and seen as a luxury. The network expanded its library to include R&B artists and the network took off. Some notable singles that released on the network were “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, proving the strengths of the new video format and the ability to propel artists into super stars. Newcomers like Madonna and Duran Duran found success on the network as well. They used creative techniques to make the video as important as the music.
Fast-forward to the mid 90’s when MTV.com was launched. We couldn’t find an exact date but Wayback Machine detected activity on their site as early as May 12, 1996.
We found some shots of the Top 20 music lineup for Dec 13, 1996 that included artists NAS, Sublime, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow and Bush.
Here’s their Daily News section. Check out the first headline!! It’s about Tupac’s murder which happened that same year! 😢 The original article can still be accessed here!
3. SpaceJam.com – 1997
The Space Jam website didn’t change from the original 1997 design until 2021 and now looks a lot more modern. Did you know the original idea for the film came from prior commercial that Michael Jordan did with Bugs Bunny for a Looney Toons campaign.
Below is a screenshot of the Looney Tunes Bios for those who were on the team.
JCPenney is an iconic American department store chain that dates back to 1902 and had over 2000 stores at its peak success. Many of us can remember flipping through the holiday catalogs, circling everything that was on our wishlist. It got us thinking….when did their website come into existence? According to the Wayback Machine, people started visiting the site in on December 02, 1998 but when we clicked to see the screenshot, it gave us an error. The next screenshot was from December 12th, 1998 (shown above).
JCPenney was known for their holiday gift catalogs and the screenshot below is a page where you could order your copy.
Some of the top gifts of ’97 was a CD Shelf Stero (totally wanted that) for $199.99.
In case you didn’t get enough Solitaire on your home computer…take it with you! But wait, theres more!
If you’re more of a golf person, the Monte Carlo Tournament Golf game is perfect for you.
Skatepark of Tampa is known for throwing the world’s largest skateboarding competitions, like the Tampa Am and Tampa Pro, and has always had a web presence dating back to the late 90s.
Disney.com was first registered on March 21, 1990 but didn’t launch their website until February 12, 1996 in partnership with AOL.com and Netscape.
Throughout America, there are still various abandoned or now remodeled Blockbuster buildings with faint signs of their former existence. We also found the remnants of their once buzzing website.
Some popular game titles were Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Donkey Kong Country 3 and Tomb Raider for Sega Saturn!
In the “New Releases” section for video, Bambi, Phnomenon and D3: The Might Ducks were all just hitting the shelves…and were probably all checked out already.
Before Facebook…there was About Face, which owned Facebook.com at the time and redirected to their site. Remember, before Facebook it was TheFacebook.com.
The screenshot below is of TheFacebook.com’s homepage taken on February 12, 2004 by Wayback Machine only 8 days after Mark Zuckerburg launched it on February 04th.
The screenshot below was taken in December of 2004 and includes a lot more schools on the homepage.
If you wanted to announce an event or message at your college, you could buy space called Facebook Announcements that would show up in sidebars and various spots across the site.
Pre-Ad Manager days! This was the screen to access the advertising information in 2004.