10 things from the first-wave internet that no longer exist
We might not have used Yahoo since Dawson’s Creek was our go-to Sunday morning TV treat, Bay Trading ruled our wardrobes and the best way to kill 10 minutes waiting for a train was an enthusiastic game of Snake.
But when it was announced last week that the brand was merging with AOL and losing its name, we got all kinds of nostalgic for a simpler internet time. Here’s what else we miss…
1. The high-pitched shriek of dial-up
Some may say the soundtrack to being a ’90s teenager is Blur’s ‘Parklife’ or Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’. Others – the correct ones – argue that it’s the shrill whistle of the computer trying to connect to the internet for about three minutes so you could check your email before your dad shouted at you to get off the bloody world wide web so he could phone your nan.
2. Which brings us to… landline / internet battles
In a time long ago before mobile phones – or when mobile phones cost loads, at least, even if you had Orange Everyday 50 (get you!) – the landline was king. But sadly, as they shared the same line as the internet, it was an either/or situation.
Probably accounted for 70% of sibling arguments between 1997 and 2005.
3. Clip Art
There are certain things that are so of their time, it’s ridiculous. We could never look at Clip Art – those little images that appeared at the bottom of our email, arguably forerunners of emoji – and not mentally be in Tammy Girl, wondering what was going to happen to Joey in tonight’s brand-new episode of that funny show Friends.
In the ’90s, you actually had options as to which search engine you used (yeah, these days you could use Bing, but… come on, ‘Bing’ will never be a verb). AltaVista and Lycos were the big names back then, and the only reason Lycos isn’t on this list is because check this out! It still exists!
Then along came Google, making them all as defunct as a profile on Friends Reunited.
5. Oh hey, that reminds us… Friends Reunited
Before there was Facebook, Myspace or even Bebo, there was a more niche site based around people who went to school together called Friends Reunited. Weirdly bought by ITV, of all people, in 2005 and sold at a massive loss four years later, the original social network breathed its last virtual gasp and closed down in 2016, leaving the internet bereft of spots where you could keep abreast of someone you hadn’t seen for 20 years and had absolutely no interest in. Oh. Wait.
6. Internet cafés
Kicking back for a browse on your sofa in front of the telly was a bit of a luxury in 1998, so the more likely scenario was that we’d head into a café, pay for an hour, pick up a mouse and go nuts on catching up on the five emails we’d had in the last month (since those were the days before every company in the world sent us spam).
All right, so some internet cafés do still exist, but in most cases you can’t distinguish them from abandoned shopfronts.
7. As Seen On Screen
Sure, it still exists in its more standard shopping guise as ASOS, but when it first launched, ASOS 1.0 was As Seen On Screen, where – randomly – you could buy clothes that you’d seen celebrities wearing on TV. Which back then mostly meant Jordan or Paris Hilton.
If you had a question, and you wanted to get some semblance of an answer to… well, probably not that exact question but something tenuously related to one of the words in it, then Jeeves was your guy. Like Siri, only if she didn’t really listen and was quite rubbish.
Ask.com is still there for those who want to use a non-Google search engine, but the inept cartoon butler has gone the way of actual butlers.
9. Illegal Napster
Ah, the eye-rolling older sibling of Spotify and iTunes, where people could download MP3s of songs they liked. That was pretty novel in 1999, when we all moved into shared accommodation carrying boxes of CDs that we thought would be with us forever (they went to the charity shop in 2012, obviously). A legal version of Napster exists now. But do you use it?
10. Usenet newsgroups
Now we’re really talking first wave: Usenet actually predates the World Wide Web and even the internet, technically. In 1997, when the internet was as sparse as, well, Myspace in 2017, we used to go and sit in front of it and think, ‘What now?’
And a wise, internet-savvy friend would encourage us to go on Usenet and have inane conversations with people we didn’t know because – oh we don’t know, this was the internet! We didn’t understand!
Amazingly, Usenet still exists, so it shouldn’t be in this feature. But we got all nostalgic.