Digging Deep on the Internet

Key sites from Web history on display in New York this week

     It’s kind of crazy that, halfway through 2011, there is no official archive of the Internet’s most influential early Web pages. Thankfully, Jim Boulton of U.K. ad agency Story Worldwide has decided to take on the task himself. Move over Wayback Machine: For the “first-ever archaeological dig of the Internet,” Boulton’s Digital Archaeology project has collected a sampling of the most important sites in Web history and is showcasing 28 of them in an Internet Week exhibition at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

     “The Web has totally transformed the way we live our lives, yet websites from those early years where everybody was experimenting are largely lost,” says Boulton. “If we don’t make the effort now to archive those sites, we’re in danger of forever losing all that history and culture, and I think that would be a tragedy.”

     The chosen sites—displayed on appropriately vintage hardware—span the experimental period through the commercial and social eras, as classified by Boulton. “Back in the early ’90s, the only reason to go to a website was because it had quality content,” he says. “Then all of a sudden, when transactions became a possibility, people went to a website to buy products or service. Now, it’s constructed around the individual; it’s come full circle.”

     Highlights include The Project (1991), the first website created by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee; The Blue Dot (1995), an art gallery created by Razorfish in homage to one of the Web’s first animations, a bouncing blue dot that appeared on the company’s home page; and Word.com (1995), an influential e-zine and home of Sissyfight, one of the earliest massive multiplayer online games. Visit and vote for your favorite site at the end of the week; a prize will be awarded to the winner.

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