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Ask HN: What website, from your early days on the net, do you miss?
53 points by cronjobma on Feb 1, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments



I miss Google Reader. I used to read ~100 longer-form blogs that didn't publish daily. After Google Reader went away, I tried other RSS readers but they just weren't as convenient, and my online reading habits shifted to more Twitter. At first that seemed fine but over time it has become hard to keep my Twitter feed free of distracting trivia. Nowadays I just have a much smaller list of blogs I read regularly.

I also miss the way Slashdot made me feel near the dawn of the internet. Before I had the internet, I got my tech news from CNN or from newspapers. Once I got the internet and could read Slashdot, that was just amazing.


What did you try?

I used Inoreader and it's now better than Google Reader ever was.


+1 for Inoreader. After Google Reader shut down there was a lull where no RSS reader was good enough or similar enough to be satisfactory, but Inoreader is now the proper replacement for me


How is Inoreader sustained? The account is free, but TINSTAFL ... is their an upcharge for some services? Are they doing in-system advertising?


It has been a while since I landed on Digg but I tried quite a few web based apps including Feedly, The Old Reader and several more that have already shut down. I also tried a few native tools like Safari's built in reader and Reeder on MacOS.

At the end of the day, nothing has been as good as Google Reader... at least not for the way I want to use it.


I tried Feedly and a couple others, but I think I gave up in despair before Inoreader came out. I should give it another go ;-)


I feel your pain on loosing Google Reader. I have tried dozens of replacements and finally landed at https://digg.com/reader if you can believe that... Also, I am sure you have seen them but just incase you haven't - https://theoldreader.com/home was super similar to Google Reader.

Alas neither of these are the same but perhaps they will be "good enough".


Same here. In fact, I landed here right now from Digg Reader.

Reading the HN feed using RSS is much nicer than going to the main page.


Thanks for digg/reader - liking the simplicity


I've heard this a ton of times, but I really can't grasp it. I've used RSS readers before, switched to Google Reader because it was better and didn't have a problem adjusting to another one after it went down.

But I've experienced this with other things, like for example I've been using Thunderbird since not long after Firefox was still called Phoenix and haven't manage to find anything close to a replacement, so maybe I shouldn't even speak up. :)


I shifted to Feedly and it easily imported all my google reader feeds. Today I have a couple of thousand feeds in Feedly and still find it a bliss to read through them. Their mobile app is quite good too. I ended up buying their Pro lifetime subscription and it has been worth the money sofar.


I use Newsblur now (and even pay $25 or something for the yearly subscription) and it's pretty good but I still miss Google Reader.


Happy subscriber to Newsblur here too, I actually prefer it to Google Reader, primarily due to the high-quality iOS app.


I've managed to replace it with inoreader.


It is interesting that you went from longer-form blogs to twitter.


Feedly is where I have migrated to, but I too miss Google Reader.


Back in the day, there was something called a personal home page. These were simple html pages, sometimes with <blink> tags, where a person would present themselves to the internet. Often there would be a list of bands, or hobbies, a picture, or whatever.

There was a company that maintained an index of home pages made by women. Clearly adolescent in intent, it was otherwise completely benign. There was no leering in the text on the index page, nothing slightly pornographic, nor any apparent selection criteria except that the person represented was female.

Back then, the internet was dialup and very slow. A page took long enough to load that one could perceive the elements as they arrived. It was great. There were hundreds of them. Each page was a little drama of revelation.

The page color would show first (what made her choose vivid purple?). Then headline (Roxie's Place on the Web - who is she?). Then the first text (back then, people admitted to some pretty mundane stuff). A picture probably started loading (duck lips wasn't yet a thing, nor digital cameras). Each detail revealing a portrait painted by some person who wanted to be seen. There was an innocence to the stories told in those early days, before porn, before fake news, even, to some extent, before cynicism.

I think the page might have been maintained by Tucows, now a successful internet company. I have always felt the need to defend the idea that someone could be interested in women on the web without any pornographic intention but, that's what this was. I look back on it fondly and, thanks to whoever did it.


For me it's not so much websites as it is the old BBSes I spent my early teens calling up, and of course the door games. MajorMUD, LORD, TradeWars 2002, Usurper, Fazuul. You can still play these games, but playing with the other nerds in my town was really something special. There was also a MUD I played called MUME which is actually still up and still has an active playerbase [0]. Then there were the phone conferences which I dialed into when I could. And of course the old Unix systems I had access to. Probably the most nostalgic and fun of them all was Telenet. For anyone else that remembers Telenet fondly, there's actually a pretty true-to-life Telenet simulator with tens of thousands of systems to explore, and a quite active userbase [1].

[0] http://mume.org/

[1] http://telehack.com/


Yes, Telenet! And Tymnet! <3


What.CD - not because of the free music but because of the community, recommendations by friends and discovering new music on a daily basis.

Right now I’m just listening to the “For You” section of Apple Music and very rarely discover something new. I also don’t really have a way to keep things that I like around as there’s no nice way to put things in your library if you don’t use iCloud Music library. Streaming services also miss a lot of editions or different recordings and their meta tags are usually very bad.


A very large portion of the WCD community, especially the more active members of the forums, have largely moved to [Redacted] or [God of Music]. In case you never found out and would like to possibly re-unite with some old friends from WCD.


I’m on all of these and it’s not the same and I think it will never be. Mostly because torrenting in general is getting less popular and with the raise of streaming services and them getting “good enough” a lot of heavy users including myself moved on. It was also apparent in the forum activity on What that went down steadily over the last years. I also experienced that a lot of my social circle wasn’t that active any more at the end as they got older / out of university and started to work. I used to be on the site for hours every day interviewing people but once you start working you just want to do something that doesn’t involve a screen in the evening, at least in my experience.


I agree it's not the same - but wanted to put that offer on the table in case you weren't and wanted to contact people you may have lost touch with because of the shutdown. Losing touch with friends because you cannot contact them is terrible.


I figured, thanks for that!


Oink.me was the same but so, so much more in every way


Forums in general.

I'd just check them daily(ish) and participate in various conversations. These days this kind of communication is either in chat groups on Telegram or ephemeral threads on HN and reddit. Rarely are those threads referred back to, unlike topics were. I still do things online that last, such as blogging, pushing to Github and writing stackexchange answers, but none of those are very informal and include joking around sometimes, like we did on forums.


I used to spend many hours daily on entensity forums and something awful forums. I miss that kind of environment which has been replaced by reddit etc, which is not the same.


I used to be the Administrator of several different iPBFree forums before iPBFree suddenly disappeared.

I really miss the graphics/writing communities that were scattered around forums - it's actually how I learned how to use Photoshop and do front-end programming with HTML/CSS/JS!

Messing around with free forums is what landed me my career today - but forums are all but dead due to social media platforms. Even dedicated forums for games are either dead or have moved to Reddit.


Actually, you might find something on JCInk, a lot of the IPBFree communities moved there (having abandoned Invisionfree/Zetaboards).


I actually knew John quite well and helped write plenty of tutorials for how to use their ACP back in the day. Since Vipul (the admin of iPBFree) was basically M.I.A for 80% of the time I had been on iPBFree I had once thought of switching over to jcink. Even since not using the forum since 2008 I'm one of the Top 10 pages of posters on the support forum. :)


I have a lot of fond memories of Harmony Central. It was a guitar / musician / gear site. It had a bunch of gear reviews.

I pretty much learned to play guitar off that site and off the early web in general. I took one year of guitar lessons, and then after that it was all learning on the web. This was 1994-1997 or so.

EDIT: Woah I just checked and they're still around!

http://www.harmonycentral.com/

But they got acquired a long time ago, and the site changed. IIRC it was started by an MIT student, and was acquired around 2000.

Oh it appears that Harmony Central used to be owned by Guitar Center, and then Gibson Guitars in 2015. I had no idea!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guitar_Center


OLGA.net : On-Line Guitar Archive. Basically a collection of text files people submitted of guitar tablature for popular songs. If I remember right, they got slammed with DMCA and were forced to shut down. Now we have fantastic tools like Songsterr and anti-user pieces of shit like UltimateGuitar.

I miss OLGA.


OLGA was heaven. I still have the print-outs of Metallica tabs I made all those years ago. My first experience of bitterly hating the 'thorities... Iirc there was a torrent which had hundreds of thousands of tabs saved in plaintext from OLGA.


This was probably around 1995, I was a young kid just starting to be interested in computers and the internet, and we had a typical slow loading connection.

I remember at one point my dad and I found this random choose your own adventure set of webpages staring Paper Bag Head Man (or something similar) which often left him dead in comical ways. It wasn't a cartoon, just a photo of (presumably) the creator with a paper bag happy face on his head, with some descriptive text, that would take far too long to load on our slow connection.

It was one of the first "internet is weird" moments in my life, and it was fun exploring it with my dad. Ive remembered it in my adult life and have never been able to find any reference to it.


fuckedcompany.com - it was full of brilliant stories about the crazy things dotcom companies were up to. I'm sure a version for current startups would be equally fun.


I've wondered the same thing: would a site like FC survive these days?


I FC and those days.


Homestarrunner.com


* Personal websites from before blogging become commonplace - often part of web rings where you could visit one after another page.

* My own and my friends silly pages.

* Not a page but a feature: referrers weren't blocked so we could check who sent us traffic and visit their pages.

* searching with the old google.com before SEO became popular.


I visit https://monkey.org/ every couple of years just to bring back memories.


"searching with the old google.com before SEO became popular"

I wish I could give people these days an idea of what this was like.


ah, you made me remember my visits to google.stanford.edu... :-)


I miss the old fandom communities, like pre-strikethru LJ. Currently the bulk of fandom activity takes place on Tumblr, which is awful for a variety of reasons (the platform as designed isn’t a good fit for the type of activity, and the community is terrible)


For people that respond, could you also give reasons to why you miss the site?


I don't recall the domain, but circa 1994 "what's new" was a succinct, daily list of new websites. Like, almost all of them :)

I distinctly remember the original website for the Twinkie torture test...


I remember when there was a weekly text file listing all web sites. It was distributed primarily through e-mail (back when we had bang paths), but I think I picked up mine through Usenet.

Also, a revival of Gopher is certainly in order. Hypertext without the hype.


I remember Netscape had "What's New" and "What's Cool" buttons built into the browser.


Google reader, not really early days but I miss it very much.

When they stopped it I couldn't find a good alternative and my reading habits changed, now I don't read as many blogs as I did.


slashdot -- it used to be really useful, interesting, etc. Now HN is much better.


Yeah, I do like Slashdot's time-linear format better than HN's fluid ranking, in that you can catch up from where you left off. However, the discussion in /. has gotten really old and bitter. HN has its own pervasive negative community aspects from the other direction, but certainly has more meaningful content in the discussions overall.

The two sites still share a large percentage of links, though, and I read stories on /. that I didn't happen to catch on HN's ephemeral front page.


If you want a chronological sort of HN, try https://hckrnews.com/ . I don't go straight to the HN main page anymore.


Or just use the RSS feed. It also gives you a chronological views, and your reader will keep track of which ones you've already seen.


Not a website, but I miss IRC from the early/mid 90's. I managed to discover it via mIRC and spent a lot of time chatting with other kids from around the world (in lieu of face to face communication of course). It exposed me to a lot of things, from programming to the hacker mentality (both white hat and black hat) to just talking to people from different cultures. Well, and seedier things like stolen credit cards, pornography and warez, of course.

It was an interesting place then, as hardly anyone in real life was aware what IRC was and online communication was virtually non-existent, but here was this place where people from all over the world could meet in one place and form groups in channels.

It still exists now, but I haven't found a channel that has the same stable group feel of like-minded individuals since the mid-2000's. I have less time, there's more distractions on the internet in general and people tend to communicate with those they already know.


I have been using IRC for as long as you, I guess (mid 90's). And I am active on a large set of channels with very active and stable groups.

They're mostly centred around various technologies on Freenode, so I'd recommend you check there.


There used to be a really good comic strip called Angst Technology, hosted at inktank.com. Then it stopped, and I was sad. The funny thing is that a bit later the domain got reused by a different group of people I also know - the company formed to commercialize Ceph, then bought by Red Hat. All cool, but I still miss the comic strip.

...or missed, I should say. I couldn't remember the exact name of the fictional company, so I googled, and it turns out there's an archive.

https://comics.beardedcoffeemonkey.com/chapter/angst-technol...

Yay! I'm happy again. So I cheated on answering this question, but if you love tech then you should check out this strip.


The Yahoo! directory, especially the editor's picks.


I was a Yahoo site of the day, equivalent to reddit/hn/sd/ph hug now. It was bonkers. No notification just BLAMMO!


excuse me, but what's ph standing for?


Producthunt.com


I'd like to mention Geocities. And not in a completely jokingly manner as others have.

I'm not mentioning them because of the quality of the content on there, which was mostly terrible. I'm mentioning them because they represent a different time, they represent all that was particular about the Internet of that time.

Today's Internet is faster, easier to access, with better services and if really want the weird stuff that used to live on Geocities it's still out there.

But Geocities represents more than just its content. They represent a time when the Internet was literally that. A place where you could do anything you want, and where all content producers were playing on the same playing field.

I believe Geocities is one of the best sites to represent that era.


Geocities was my gateway to learning basics of HTML & JavaScript. Didn't take much to impress friends with coding in those days (high school / early 00's).


EZBoard[0], a hosted forums website where you could register a forum for free and IIRC pay to remove ads. (from 98/99 to ~2004)

For me it was social media before social media. I'm just barely old enough to have used newsgroups in the late 90s, but I was never a friend of the interfaces to that medium (which is interesting, I usually prefer CLI over GUI, just not for communication). The web, on the other hand, was very very interesting.

Long story short, made a ton of friends on various of the board communities (mostly digital artists, graphic/screen designers, and web developers (before that was a term)).

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezboard


Zombo.com

It solved all my Web 2.0 concerns but unfortunately was authored in Flash and not a modern framework. Alas.



No mobile audio. I wonder if it works on desktop.


YES


The original del.icio.us


It's too long ago for me to remember the site's name but the subscription to it came when you signed up for a free Hotmail account back in the late 90s.

You would get an email each day that would take you to the site where you had to solve a reasonably cryptic whodunnit. I've never been good at these sorts of things but I would spend ages reading the story trying to solve the riddle. Pretty fun but years later I can't remember its name and I do miss it from time to time. It was a comfort to know these puzzles were being created and solved in the background but now is no more.


cjb.net - I forget if they only allowed http forwarding, or actually gave you a real DNS entry (might have been either?), but you could get a hostname.cjb.net for free, as long as you kept your account active.


I really miss the "Q&A sites" like The Conversatron from the late 90's/early 00's https://www.everything2.com/title/The+Conversatron

Hours of enjoyment from a very simple concept.

EDIT: Oh, who can forget the Purity Test sites! https://everything2.com/title/Purity+Test


Geocities, the "Bob Ross" of websites. It taught us we all can create and that making a website is not something done by professionals somewhere, all it takes is a motivation and willingness to learn a thing or two.

everything2, which is still around

All the forums of yesteryears. These are the neighborhoods where I grew up and to which I can never return. There were no "kids on my street." My school graduating class was 21 people. I met and talked to people and learned online, instead.


Back in the late 90s and early 2000s I spent a lot of time reading these articles about a guy who'd travel to train martial arts all over the world. It was hosted on Geocities. I thought the site was gone forever, but because of this thread I did a search and found that it's now on its own domain. http://www.global-training-report.com/


There was also a site called "A FISH, A BARREL, AND A SMOKING GUN". (I just googled it.) It was iconoclastic back when that was unusual. I liked reading it.


That site was < suck.com >. It's the first one that came to mind for me.


HotGames. I started on computers playing games, and I remember spending a lot of time on game review websites downloading demo's, trying out cheat-codes, and utilizing the walkthroughs to get through tough spots. It was HotGames that got me into web design by inspiring me to make a website for my own game reviews. After that it was Joe Cartoon and all the similar Flash animators that got me interested in Flash.


The one I miss is one that may still be around, but not for long since it was a Flash page. It was, if I recall, a demo page to highlight the designers skills. I don't even remember the name. It was an anime style video that ended with a girl standing on a cliff with flower pedals flowing along the breeze that was blowing her hair as she stared off in the distance. I would love to find that site.


Try asking on https://www.reddit.com/r/tipofmytongue/

Sometimes they get very obscure stuff from vague descriptions.


Sunsite (and FTP sites in general). Hitoshi Doi's anime page (which is actually still up). MIDI Farm. Maz Sound. Damaged Cybernetics. HappyPuppy back before Jennifer Diane Reitz really lost the plot. FreshMeat. The GIA. I miss webrings. I miss hand-crufted HTML. I miss <BODY BACKGROUND="....">. I miss Gopher and Archie.


Old games forums like BluesNews and TheShack.


https://www.bluesnews.com is still running, which I learned like 1-2 years ago. But I (like you, I suppose) stopped reading a very long time ago. Can't comment if it's the same team, though.


.plan wars. Oh the memories!


geocities and OG digg.com


fark.com even though its demise was relatively recent. I missed the early days when the site wasn't sanitized (and that content, or easy access to it, still felt novel). Felt like one of many "wild west" sites of that time. Before our advertising overlords had come into power.


The Keepers of Lists.

Each day there would be a list title, and the public would add funny items to the list.

Things like "Top xx reasons a grilled cheese is better than a taco."

People could vote entries up and down, helping bury the spam.

I'm not sure when it went away, but I don't think it survived past about 1999.


A site with free handwriting lessons. It taught Italic as a solution for people with serious handwriting problems who could not learn cursive effectively.

They took all the free stuff down and became a consultant. They would still teach you the same thing, but for a fee.


About 2e-1 centuries ago, there was this website called ars-technica.com. Had a pretty good forum, if sometimes kind of rowdy in that early-days-of-the-internet way. East Coast financiers built a suburb in its place, after the closing of the frontier.


webmonkey.com because that's where I learnt a lot of my craft, and TalkCity (which probably still exists) because of the community I discovered when I was going through a rough personal patch, and that community no longer exists.


Was going to say webmonkey too, internet connections at that time were dial up and pretty expensive at the time in Spain (you were charged by the minute)

So I downloaded the entire archive using a shareware scraper , and learned a lot from that offline copy.


menwholooklikekennyrogers.com

That was the sort of site that made the early Internet such a majestic time waster. I used to stay up all night in the university CS lab on a Sun SPARCstation surfing with Mosaic.

Yes, kids, there was a web browser before Netscape.


I am on Internet since 1992 and I do miss absolutely nothing. Websites were horrible, with limited usability and you then had to send a cheque or call.

Today internet life is simply better, with much much more choice.


the original myspace.com

it was a colorful and public social media platform, not this monochromous closed bullshit called facebook. as a user 'you were allowed' (keep that in mind in todays world of restricted fb!) to customize the entire look of your page with strange css/html/javascript hacks. that was really fun to do! things started to get odd when they regularly changed website mechanisms like location based services to invite people to a concert/party. that's how this web service got unreliable and frustrating


Hmm, I'd say CheatEngine Forums used to be a pretty great place in terms of a bunch of geeks, finding various exploits in video games. It's what got me interested in computing in the first place.


I'm still traumatized from the time I would spend on rotten.com


Astalavista.com - Was a site for hackers and script kiddies. Loved it because I wanted to be a "hacker". Google Reader. Best free, web based RSS reader ever.


The old Youtube, before the fake pranks, fake news, stupid kids doing Minecraft, and no suggestion algorithms that prioritize clickbait.


I miss gigposters.com a lot, the community there was awesome with all the big poster artists hanging around and giving beginners advice.


SK8CHAT.com. It was a very 1.0 chat room. It was so pure. Early days for me meant 8-9 years old. My first real instances of the internet.


fatbabies.com was a dotcom era gossip site for people working .com startups to spill the beans on the outrageous behavior at their companies. Often times the person trying to spill beans is turned inside out for being wrong in their position. Very sarcastic and stress relieving. And as side entertainment, you and your coworkers try figure out which posts are about your company.


kuro5hin & MetaFilter ...


Cybertown.com. So much ahead of its time. 3D social network using VRML through a browser plugin called Blaxxun Contact.


Fun fact: Blaxxun was named for the Black Sun, the virtual club from Snow Crash.


I miss segfault.org. It is still there on the wayback machine. It contained well written parody tech stories.


"Mr. T Ate My Balls" - probably the original "meme" as it would be defined today


Mirsky's Worst of the Web, because Gabocorp and FuckedCompany were already mentioned =)


The Fake Steve Jobs Diary comes to mind.


sunsite.unc.edu

I used to check it almost daily for new Linux software, because maybe that next editor, scripting language or window manager would be just what I want -- or at least an interesting experience.


hell.com, gabocorp.com


Eric Conveys an Emotion, still there but not updated


The "Decapitate an Angel" page, of course.


meebo.com

There's nothing like it anymore (web-based, quick, secure). It was fast and excellent. Google killed it.


kopikol.net, an early (2005 until 2007) very nicely designed digg-like


stickdeath.com

Can't find a mirror or archive of it, nor the creator. :(


I'm not sure if they still exist as I won't risk checking them at work, but stickdeath.com, albinoblacksheep.com, neopets.com, rotten.com, portalofevil.com, lemonadestand.com, oilwars/gangwars and others were a big part of my middle school years


I'd forgotten about this. Sad that it's not around anymore.


Fuckedcompany.com


neverside.com // tutorialforums.com


Was going to post this! That was a great community. I bet many of us are still here.


Lowbrow.com


Web Monkey


Geocities


goatse.cx .... or not!


www.fravia.org


av.com




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