Spelunking Online

Lock plate, digital art by Mary Warner.
Lock plate, digital art by Mary Warner.

Spelunking is the term used for exploring caves. Urban explorers in London have been spelunking in the underground structures of the city and documenting what they find because most of these areas are off-limits to the public. People love mucking about in hidden places.

On a planet that seems to have had every square inch explored, what might there be left to uncover? As London’s urban explorers have found, human beings have created hidden and forgotten worlds that can now be rediscovered.

We do love mysteries and if we feel there aren’t enough, we’ll make them ourselves, thank you very much.

Here’s another place to go spelunking: Online.

With over 180,000,000 websites in existence at the beginning of 2014, most of them with multiple pages, there are lots of web pages to spelunk. The likelihood is that most pages got very few hits in their prime and are now inactive or abandoned. They are pretty much “lost.”

What’s fascinating about stumbling upon inactive or abandoned websites is being able to judge their age by their style. Old-skool websites are text-heavy on a colored background, with the occasional table to gussy them up.

In writing my post on ants and peonies, I ran across an example of one of these old websites here: peonies.org.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is one way to find old versions of websites, however you have to enter a web address in order to see the past iterations.

I found a number of online articles that feature “ancient” websites. “Ancient” meaning they date back to the late 1990s.

[Mental Floss] 17 Ancient Abandoned Websites That Still Work

{404}Page Found

[Wired] Internet Archaeology: Behold the Most Hilarious Abandoned Websites

[Smosh] 7 Old School Websites That Still Exist

Radiohead has nicely provided a webpage that is an archive of their old websites. Museum people have got to appreciate that. The band knows how to migrate their digital data, giving us a sense of its history.

I built a simple HTML website at woowooteacup.com in 2008. While it’s not that old, it does read like an “ancient” website. Here’s the Teacup Art Show I created for the site. It continues to live online, however it’s not that easy to access. You have to go to my Woo Woo Teacup Journal blog and to find the link at the bottom of the page. (By adding the link to this article, I’ve increased the chances that it’ll be found.)

When I built woowooteacup.com, I was intrigued with creating hidden links within the HTML code. I had a “rabbit hole” link that, if found, would take people to other pages. These I have since taken off the site. I’ve got the code saved on an external hard drive. The Wayback Machine didn’t capture these pages (phooey!) because, well, who knows why? It probably wasn’t paying attention to my website at the time.

If you’re looking for a place to go spelunking, try doing so online. If you run across any interesting “ancient” websites, share them in the comments.

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