January 16th, 2011

Surfing the Retrowebs

Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect

This bookmark fell out of an older (but excellent) book on user interface design found on the P'unk Avenue bookshelf. The book was published in 1994 or so. I hate to discard this bookmark— what could be more adorably retro in 2010 than a list of "Hot WWW Surfing Spots?"

Takes you back to the days when a home page was an exciting thing to have— something your friends actually benefited from because otherwise they would not be able to find things. You were performing a public service. Of course you still are, because of the way search engine algorithms work, but the average person doesn't get the importance of this and the linkspammers outvote us, turning the Internets into a sewer of— but I digress. Back to the bookmark.

How many of these links still go somewhere reasonable? Let's find out!

Sun Microsystems, Inc, takes you to the new landing page for Sun refugees at Oracle. Depressing, but accurate. A

Catalyst InterLink — Solaris Product Expo, Sun Catalyst CDware and Catalyst Developer Programs are Sun 404 pages. That's all three interior Sun pages on the bookmark. I'd give them each an F, but you do wind up with some suggested links for Sun software. D+

What happens if you Google for that Sun Catalyst program? You get Mark Holt's resume. Nice use of Comic Sans! He actually worked on some cool stuff. Resume is a little dated though: his skills include "Netscape Communicator, Internet Explorer, NCSA Mosaic..."

Computer LIteracy Bookshops, Inc. brings us to an "account suspended" message from a snazzy outfit called "HawkHost." Ouch. F-

I really wanted to see Mark's Cool Home Page, but it's another SunSoft 404. This one's suggested links are unlikely to be winners, so call it an F.

Yahoo takes me to some kind of overgrown portal search engine thing. I was expecting a thoughtfully arranged directory of sites on the exciting new Interwebs, but I guess this is sort of relevant. C+

I almost flunked einet.net because of its strong resemblance to one of those awful placeholder squatter sites. But lo and behold, it actually does provide access to an old-school Yahoo-style human-maintained directory of the Interwebs. And the links I tried actually work. Some style updates are desperately needed here, but I have to rate this a solid A-

Commercial Services on the Net, formerly at http://www.directory.net/ (you had to type the http: or it wouldn't work, y'know), redirects you to an ad for "instant background checks" with links to scary neighborhoods, so I won't link to it. F-

White House takes you to the WWW site of some guy named Barack Obama. Seems he ran as a liberal Democrat but now he's co-opting the Republican platform to get reelected. Sounds a lot like the guy we had in 1994 actually. Now that's continuity! A

"Founded in 1994, CommerceNet has been a trusted intermediary, conducting research and piloting programs that have advanced the commercial use of the Internet." Same organization, same goals, good history on the About page. A+

HotWired says people are "tweeting tyrants out of Tunisia," which may actually have been partially the case this time (unlike the overhyped role of Twitter in Iran last year), but it's still the breathless hype one has always expected from Wired. So I guess that's an A

Internet Shopping Network is now one of those generic squatter search engine portal pages that einet.net unfortunately resembles. "Your source for the Internet!" F

... And AT&T 800 Directory is a copy and paste of the Internet Explorer generic in-browser 404 message, with all the images broken. I almost didn't catch that I was seeing this message in Chrome.

Wow. Just... wow. Stay classy AT&T. F-

Overall I have to give the World Wide Web a D- for keeping it up over the years. But to be fair, nobody types URLs anymore. They just use Google. And then complain that it's full of spam. Because they just use Google.
Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect

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