Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
FrontPage 98: Elegant and Exquisite (1997) (telecommander.com)
234 points by soheilpro on Sept 12, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 211 comments

You can say what you want but these were great times! Everyone could make their own little ugly homepage and it was exciting. People didn't really judge each other or bragged about how this tech is better than that. I kinda miss it.

I made some groovy table-based sites by setting up the table layout with the FrontPage GUI and then editing the raw HTML it generated. It taught me HTML and opened the doors to web development for me. Same story using Visual Basic and my segway into programming.

It was pretty amazing to me that you could do WYSIWYG (wow, that's an anachronism itself!) valid HTML development, and then hand-manipulate the HTML and it let you put any invalid shit in there without complaining.

I remeber messing HTML stuff with HotDog

I remember hotdog! I preferred "netobjects fusion" more than any other similar though.

Still have not found anything that makes design as easy, and visual, like netobjects fusion.

Ah, tables…I spent so much time tinkering with them to try to get my pages looking right.

And then came the day in high school when the computer club advisor told us about Netscape supporting frames. Frames were _so_ exciting.

Ah, the good old days where guestbooks and webrings were commonplace. I remember it was an exciting time to be on the Internet. I felt far more connected to people's personal pages back then.

I proudly proclaim to my younger cohorts that I was once in a Space Quest webring. I wear it like a badge of honor!

I still have a buckazoid around here somewhere.

Anyone interested in starting a modern webring?

I've wanted to move my blog content off Medium, but then no one would ever see it.

Here's a modern webring: https://github.com/XXIIVV/webring

I still post my content to my own site. People still see it; mostly finding it through search.

When yahoo categorized results.

Agreed. When the web technologies were more simple and rudimentary and HTML page hosting free and easy for beginners (e.g. geocities), it took very little to start writing HTML, adding some tiling background images, gifs and midis to express yourself. The variation in website look and feel back then was extreme.

Myspace then Facebook (plus forums) obviated the need to build your own site to express yourself online, and disdain for "poorly designed" sites, i.e. general snobbishness, I think discouraged people from messing around. I love that old web! You can still do something similar on Google Sites or similar, but of course it's more constrained.

> People didn't really judge each other or bragged about how this tech is better than that

I judged people - IIS was terrible and you were better off with Apache, mod_perl and CGI.pm. I still can't believe how far ahead of its time CPAN was!

Really? While I developed many sites in FrontPage, it was always looked down on by most people I knew. Many hosts outright refused to do full integration with it or run its extensions. The Generated HTML was far better than Word would generate, but it still was wonky unless you really knew what to avoid or were doing something incredibly simple.

Not running its extensions was mostly a result of the fact that that required running IIS on Windows NT. IIS had a number of high profile problems, and Windows NT 3.51/4.0 (remember, bare metal not VMs) really wasn't ready for running at that scale or in that context. Compared to putting in a SPARC-based machine running Solaris, it just didn't make sense - much harder to manage, less efficient use of resources etc.

How to install the FrontPage 2000 Server Extensions to an Apache Web server


The good old WYSIWYG days. That was the hot thing in the late 90s like NoSQL was a few years ago.

Oh god, the horror.

Not just the ugly webpages, those were the ubiquitous style at the time. No, FrontPage pioneered deep ugliness, because like all Microsoft products of the 90s it regarded interoperability as a threat. It produces ugly HTML that works best in IE, and it has an optional upload mechanism that requires IIS on the server side.


> because like all Microsoft products of the 90s it regarded interoperability as a threat. It produces ugly HTML that works best in IE

Just like nowadays with chrome!

Can you give some examples?

This article from The Verge[0] cites some support Tweets:

- AirBnb[1]: "We'd always recommend that you use Google Chrome to browse the site: we've optimised things for this browser. Thanks."

- Seamless[2]: "Safari is not a good browser to use with our website. Google Chrome work better with our website or you can download the app."

- DirecTV Now[3]

- IDAT solutions[4] (some random thing I found while searching)

- Countfire[5] (ditto)

Groupon said something similar as well but walked it back. Whatsapp's web app didn't support Firefox initially but does now.

Could browse through Web Compat[6] as well, though I'm not sure if this site is more about sites that should work in FF but don't, or Firefox bugs.

[0]: https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/4/16805216/google-chrome-onl...

[1]: https://twitter.com/AirbnbHelp/status/752829250198245376

[2]: https://twitter.com/Seamless_Care/status/942798540396474368

[3]: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/7/15758274/directv-now-googl...

[4]: https://www.idatsolutions.com/faq/

[5]: https://www.countfire.com/

[6]: https://webcompat.com/issues

Even my university’s enrollment system (HISinOne) complains on Firefox Mobile that it only supports Chrome.

First of all: I agree that this is bad and that these developers should choose portable tech when building these sites.

But as of now, Chrome is and has for a long time been the only browser to support:

Shadow DOM: https://caniuse.com/#feat=shadowdomv1

Custom elements: https://caniuse.com/#feat=custom-elementsv1

CSS Paint API: https://caniuse.com/#feat=css-paint-api

> CSS Paint API

That's been in Chrome for, like, less than a year - hardly a "long time". And the implementation leaked history spectacularly [0]. Rushing features out the door isn't necessarily something to be proud of.

[0] https://www.spinda.net/papers/smith-2018-revisited.pdf (see section 3.1)

Google Earth's web client (which is really the only client Google seem to care about) only works in Chrome. It's not a web client, it's a Chrome client.


the whole fucking internet except hn and wikipedia XD

Since an update to vector-based mapping, Google Maps performance and stability is pretty bad on anything except Chrome.

Chrome Google-login integration is one.

Google facets/dive

I love how they laid it on the line. “If you want to do web development, you need to actually learn web technology”

Now if someone would tell web developers that if you want to write desktop/mobile apps, you need to learn native frameworks.....

What are newer FrontPage alternatives?

The Internet and the web have changed drastically since the days when FrontPage was a very common website editor. Almost every modern website editor these days will require you to have some basic understanding of the concepts of HTML, and CSS coding, instead of the drag and drop design that FrontPage used.

Don't forget the first program in this space: Adobe Pagemill.

Wasn't HoTMetaL (Pro) the first actually released (in 1994)? Pagemill was in beta until 1995...

Claris Home Page looks like it also came out in 1994.

Many, many "drag and drop" web based alternatives. Webflow,ukit, even Adobe edge on the desktop.

NetObjects Fusion! In 1996-7, I worked on AT&T's small business web hosting service, and it supported FrontPage and NetObjects Fusion.

I still have sites live that were built with NetObjects fusion. Still the best design / editor I've ever used, and I've tried so many.

I recently found this thing called 'pinegrove editor' (I think that's' what it's called. looks the closest to something like it and modern.

maybe blue griffon.

Sadly drop and drop widgets with wordpress themes is probably the most widely used that is similar.

Yes, that's the one I was thinking about / been looking at tonyedgecombe, thanks!

NetObjects was brilliant, and sometimes miss it when I'm deep in CSS insanity.

The server interaction features also worked on Linux!


And BSD. Early on, we ran the first and largest MS FrontPage 'certified' web hosting provider, we enabled it on BSD with content in the same Unix home directories we gave our dialup clients.

Folks who made web sites in those days and paid $20/month to host them provided a pretty compelling library of content compared to today's pay-per-click 'blogosphere'.

I liked the "put up or shut up" pay-to-host model, driven by your beliefs, not your readers.

And despite the pretty garish things that happened in that web design era that FrontPage memorialized (rollover buttons!), kudos to Vermeer for democratizing web site creation.

Good point. Not a lot of people remembered that Microsoft acquired FrontPage from Vermeer in 1996 for millions. There's a pretty good old book about it "High St@kes, No Prisoners"

At my current job I am rewriting a 25 year-old VB application into a web-based application, and the majority* of our documentation is written in FrontPage. The horror, indeed.

*: Well, sort of.. there are bits scattered everywhere, I had to dig into email archives to find some specifications.

Not too hard to cut and paste into another editor, the convert html with pandoc, or filter it with Python or other script.

Medical sector ?

No, industrial sector

Didn't require IIS, you could run it on a Linux box with Apache. It would remind you at every step that you were a second class citizen and that you really should be running IIS, but you could do it.

Those Cobalt RaQ and Qube boxes came with that support baked in, which was a nice feature until Cobalt died and we had to replicate the functionality on straight Linux boxes.

It wasn't hard, it's just that a little part of me died in side every time I had to do it.

Did you know you can still run RaQ today, on a VM. Its called BlueOnyx now, its been slightly modernized, and we have a few sites running on it to this day. Its as rock solid as ever. Have some sites that are 20 years old and were migrated from original RaQs

Oh man frontpage HTML was ugggly!

I remember I'd use "View Source" and look for Frontpage tags as a cue for whether a site's designers deserved a good mocking

I remember I'd use "View Source"

Rather than look at the actual design?

IIRC FrontPage written-pages and hand-written (by people actually good at it) pages looked pretty similar in-browser, but the HTML that FrontPage produced was an atrocity

> and it has an optional upload mechanism that requires IIS on the server side.

So much time spent, as a small kid, looking for a free webhost that supported FrontPage extensions...

It wasn’t that hard to upload the whole thing with Cute ftp (I figured it out when I was 10...)

Sure, but then how would you then process form data?

Well, they works best in IE because at that time there was IE only. Netscape navigator the other browser charge user, Firefox was just a beginning, as they want to take down IE because of their Navigator failure. It was great because it support some dynamic content. It was the first step to software like Dreamweaver as it bring concept in place. Having said that it was ugly design and I never like them even back then..

Netscape never charged users. Perhaps you’re thinking of Opera.

The reasons IE won over Netscape are many, but bundling with dominant OS and embracing/extending standards such that sites only worked in IE was a big part of it. Heck, there was a whole antitrust case about just that.

> Netscape never charged users. Perhaps you’re thinking of Opera.

No Netscape would officially cost you US$49 until 1998.

"Officially", Netscape had a "free trial" for 90 days. In reality, I personally don't know one person who actually paid. Some companies did buy corporate licenses.


Wow, I had no recollection of that. My mistake.

Here's an article stating that Netscape charged $49. It was in PC Magazine October 22, 1996


@dang can you edit/delete the parent comment? No need to spread lies here!

Ugly html is a very kind way of putting it. To be fair that was the era of 20 nested tables for layout. Microsoft just managed to double down.

It actually found new ways to write HTML that ‘accidentally’ crashed the current version of Netscape Navigator.

Born in 91, I was the perfect age to be obsessed with Harry Potter. When I was around ten, an older kid in the neighborhood helped me make a Harry Potter themed website using FrontPage (the Express version I think it was named).

Small, random event that end up having a big effect on my life. My hobbies, what&where I chose to study, the friends I got there etc. I can trace back to this.

Oh man, I had a similar experience around 2000. I built a Danish website about Goldeneye 64 in FrontPage. The first website I ever made. It used frames, but I feel it was quite pleasing on the eyes, because I avoided a lot of the 'fancy effects' that was common for the time.

I'll admit, being born in 87, most of the site was simply copied from other websites about the game, and translated to Danish. So it was a decent exercise - particularly for someone dyslexic as me - to both built a website and translate from English to Danish.

If only I knew where that website ended up...

Born in 89, I made a webpage for my mother at that time. She still likes it :/

Check the generator tag on the frameset page http://www.roswithavanderzander.de/index_EN.htm

It loads fast. It’s easy to navigate. With just a little bit of work, it would be more appealing than most “modern” web page.

This page is great. It loads instantly, shows you the content up front, has clear navigation, and has clear contrast between elements.

Also, it has frames, which I honestly miss even though I am glad we have moved past them.

And frames have a feature I love that's almost never implemented nowadays: You can click+drag the border to freely resize the frames and see the content better.

Why did and does everyone hate frames so much? Do they not have their place even on modern sites sometimes? (Even if they aren't technically frames?) The top bar of Google Docs is a visual frame and it seems appropriate to me.

It can use some minimal styling but much better than loading 100MB to see less content. I say great job :)

I really dig your mom's erh.. organic art.

web.archive.org supports keyword search, you can try find it that way.

Similar story for me, but with a Dragonball Z fan site. Internet, I'm sorry.

I made a Nintendo fan site with FrontPage 2000 (well the first version was made with Word which made atrocious HTML but I migrated quickly).

It was complete with all the expected features of the time, including an autoplaying MIDI Pokémon background music, Comic Sans everywhere and 3D rotating text gifs made with Xara X3D. Oh and moving text in the status bar.

I'm not sorry at all though.

Made a Pokemon fan site, must have been 9 or something, I didn't know how to link to other pages, so everything was one page and links worked via anchors...

I attempted to make a pokemon battle system in front page by linking pages and hard coding each action.

Oh man, me too. I couldn’t figure out anything about dynamic web pages except that I needed a host with “cgi-bin support”. I wanted to build a Neopets alternative, and when I couldn’t figure out how to do anything dynamic, I figured I could just build out a new page for every combination of variables that could change.

I was like, 7, so my math skills didn’t really allow me to understand the scope of the number of pages that would be required.

But god damn if I didn’t have a blast trying.

Me too. Midis and comet cursor. Sorry

Ditto, but with Power Rangers. I think I was 13.

Wow, I would have loved to be friends with all the guys in this thread. I didn't have a single friend with this kind of interests, none of my friends would be interested in creating stuff instead of just consuming it.

Are you sure you are not me? We have the same past it seems.

You know, good design principles weren't invented in 2006. There was plenty of good design in the 90s in other industries (publishing, newspapers, magazines, advertising, academia, ...), but apparently fucking nothing of that filtered down to webdesign.

I mean: yes, technology was limited. I get that you couldn't have free range with things like typography and that CSS wasn't a thing yet. But for the love of god: a textured red background that made the already shittily rendered text even harder to read?! What were we thinking?

I'm so glad we've learned these days with 10,000KB of JS for 1KB of text rendered in tiny, hairline thin fonts on no-contrast backgrounds.

It's honestly always been bad ... before the web you'd dial into terminal based systems (BBS) and be assaulted with a perverse amount of ANSI escape codes and 8-bit extended ASCII flying around the screen and blinking at you (interfaces like this: https://s0.mundogamers.com/uploaded/bbsmenu.jpg). In between the two eras even IRC and UseNet got full of crufty ASCII art followed by leet-speak spelled weirdly cased words...it was illegible, unappealing and awful.

Having the maturity to know when to stop and having the control to know what not to do have always been talents far more rare than we'd prefer.

Frankly, that was not an artistic example of the BBS scene. Here is one that had aesthetically pleasing features:


And, if you want to see a live version of a sweet looking BBS, check out this one in your telnet app:

telnet: absinthe.darktech.org:23

Well sure, you can always cherry-pick good examples of anything.

But for the love of god: a textured red background that made the already shittily rendered text even harder to read?! What were we thinking?

Form over function. Fun, original formatting was more important than coveying information well.

Keep in mind that displays sucked. Unless you had a Trinitron or similar quality display, you probably had a crappy 14" 4:3 screen with awful dot pitch, wildly inconsistent colors, part of the screen noticably fuzzier than the rest, and you likely could only have 256 colors (and your browser might not even select them optimally). You'd select a different window and the VGA palette would reset, making the now-background window look like a Pollock painting.

There was too much awful going on for people to care. Besides, the vast majority of pages were simple black text and blue links on a white background. As long as you didn't use the blink tag, nobody got upset.

> There was plenty of good design in the 90s in other industries (publishing, newspapers, magazines, advertising, academia, ...), but apparently fucking nothing of that filtered down to webdesign.

You have to remember how primitive web technologies were in those days. CSS was released in December 1996 but didn't get good, consistent browser implementations until the early 2000s. Besides CSS your layout and styling options were frames, tables, <font> tags (and don't forget you can only use the pre-installed fonts on the user's system), or just bypassing HTML altogether by designing your page in Photoshop and exporting it as an imagemap (better hope all your users have 56k or ISDN or have lots of patience). Oh yeah, and don't forget to test your site at 640x480 with 256 colors.

> don't forget to test your site at 640x480 with 256 colors.

Don't forget: you couldn't (or shouldn't) bring your own 256 color palette, because the actual palette would be a compromise between all the applications open - so you were forced/encouraged to use the "Web palette", which contained a fixed set of 216 colors.

Consider the horrible MySpace pages, or the equivalent country-specific alternatives.

It's not that web designers were bad back them, it's that a lot of this stuff was not made by designers at all, and apparently lots of people have a really bad sense of design.

I don't mean that in an elitist way. I think it's great that back then my aunt or nephew could set up a website, however horrible the design was. I'm just saying there's a reason why designers get paid to design. It's not an innate ability, and people are much worse at it than those who are into design are inclined to think.

'Decent' design is kind of a default for many other things, mostly because we often defer to 'designers' when it comes to things like furniture, clothing, etc. But make a visit to your local print shop and look at the self-made wedding invites and the like to see how bad things can be. Or consider the many self-made powerpoint presentations! It'll make your eyes burn.

I think the novelty of the medium is what drove websites to have terrible design. To paraphrase Jurassic Park:

> Your developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should

Just like the early days of desktop publishing.

And today in "modern frontend".

As a frontend developer I'm part of it, but at least I don't encourage it or defend it :-/

What were we thinking?

Nobody was thinking this was 'web design'. You're looking at a consumer product and a specific 'novelty' theme in it. Just like nobody thought Comet Cursor was UI design.

> You know, good design principles weren't invented in 2006. There was plenty of good design in the 90s in other industries (publishing, newspapers, magazines, advertising, academia, ...), but apparently fucking nothing of that filtered down to webdesign.

Actually, when computers started to be used for these things, a lot of traditional media went nuts and threw out their design principles in order to take advantage of new technology.

Remind me when I get home from work tonight, and I can upload some scans of what happened to Marvel Comics letters pages, trade dress, house ads, credits/title pages, and even in some cases dialogue lettering, when they switched over to digital typesetting and color separations in late 1994/early 1995. Splashes of color and awful CGI artwork everywhere. In 1997, they switched to a retro-looking style that pulled back on most of the excesses... but it was still really gaudy compared to early 1994, and it wasn't until the 21st century that they remembered there are principles to good design.

Edit: Actually, I can show you what happened to the trade dresses now, since cover scans are widely available. Images are grabbed from https://www.mycomicshop.com

The cover of Uncanny X-Men #315, released in June 1994 (comics are dated two months in advance). Fairly tasteful trade dress. https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/639727.jpg

The cover of Uncanny X-Men #322, released in May 1995. Look at that CGI X! (Edit: And the teaser lettering looks like WordArt!) But they're not done experimenting yet. It gets worse. https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/861739.jpg

The cover of Uncanny X-Men #332, released March 1996. This is peak mid-90s gaudy. https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/865533.jpg

And if you're wondering what other comics, that didn't have a recognizable symbol made out of simple shapes, used... well, let's have a look at Incredible Hulk #442, released April 1996. Yep, it's a CGI atom. https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/865365.jpg

Or Amazing Spider-Man #411, released March 1996. Three dimensional Spider-Man mask! https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/882953.jpg

(and if you think these are bad, you should see the interiors)

But things got better, right? Well, here's Uncanny X-Men #346, released June 1997, the first month of Marvel's retro look. It's like they wanted to return to the mid-1994 look but didn't quite remember how anymore. https://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/844811.jpg

That's fascinating! Yeah, digital publishing tools really screwed with some classic designs there for a while. Great comment!

The whole domain is amazing.

Just look at this page, updated LAST YEAR: http://www.telecommanderhosting.com/ec/framed_Microsoft_OS.h... Look at the waving Win 95 logo! Not to mention the "office clipart guy" in the homepage...

I am just suprised that the obligatory "under construction" gif is missing!

Where's the hit counter? Don't forget to sign the guestbook.

I remember that was from IRC trolling, would you please /sign my guestbook?, as the /sign command would sign you off of the server.

Don't worry, Ling's Cars will make sure you get your full fix of Geocities design.


What is slightly weird is that the website actually uses HTML5, minified CSS and what not.

see the comment on lines 29-170!

It loaded freaky fast. So there's that advantage over current design.

That Macromedia Flash theme for the cart <3

" You need to have JavaScript turned on for the shopping cart to work. "

That rarely happened on old pages

People laugh, but this is how I learned HTML back then.

I did something in Frontpage and then checked the code it generated to see how to do it with the tags.I still remember the Dreamweaver vs Frontpage vs Notepad arguments.

I'm getting old.

Me, too. Use FrontPage (later DreamWeaver), check code. Delete bit by bit what wasn't needed. Unserstand what the rest was doing. Iterrate on it.

For those who laugh: we didn't have any proper html dev dokus at that point. search engine still sucked. we learned html by copy&pasting&deleting&iterrating.

Same as me here. The day I realised that what I was doing actually generated HTML and that HTML was actually the real thing was so eye opening to me. I got interested in HTML this way and that's how I got to engineering.

I'm wondering how many of the complaints here are to do with FrontPage itself, or the very idea of WYSIWYG web design.

To me, it seems that web design is a visual thing. And if so, then a WYSIWYG editor is the appropriate thing to use. I'm suspicious that some people here don't think visually, and don't see the value in thinking visually.

I don't know what people mean when they say "bad markup". I imagine it might include things like positioning elements using absolute coordinates. But I'm sure this is solvable by previewing the webpage on different resolutions, browsers and device types.

browsers do the following:

By given set of HTML and CSS produce bitmap on screen. That's perfectly determined task (modulo browser differences).

WYSIWYG editor does the opposite task:

With the given bitmap on screen produce set of valid HTML and CSS declarations.

The last task is undetermined mathematically speaking - with modern HTML and especially CSS there are too many ways of get the same rendering using completely different CSS tricks - absolute positioning, floats, display:grid and flexbox etc. etc.

bad markup meant lots of things. frontpage seemed to add tons of extra fluff in the code. Other editors for a while used 1pixel cleargifs to space and align all the elements on the page. That added a lot of extra code just to move over 42 pixels and down 133 for every element.

Then using tables for layouts was better. Cutting graphics for rounded corners worked. The web purists kept posting how bad it was, web visitors never cared.

Once monitors were less standardized (more than just 800 px wide and 1024) - and mobile became a thing- the web purists really pushed to do layout with css only - and they spend years posting about hacks and recreating.. table layout called something else.

Either way lots of extra code that is certainly not needed if using the modern grid css tagging...

I still preferred the table layouts of years past, though I like the new tiny code that is needed for grid, the bloated code of the 90s and 00s is nothing compared to all the hi rez images, video and javascript bloat these days.

One related tool that's often forgotten, I find, is Microsoft Publisher. Publisher 97 had an option to build and export an entire site 100% visually. I had family members use it to build their complete personal sites.

It was a pretty clever system, too. It built layouts automatically using complex tables, split out text where it could, used image maps where it had to, etc. It wasn't something you'd be proud of using but it was the fastest tool for non-technical users at the time and would probably even hold up pretty well now(!)

Oh man, I remember 'upgrading' to Publisher from FrontPage. I do agree that it was surprisingly clever at what it did, but I'm also happy I eventually learned how to write my own html/css eventually!

> Microsoft FrontPage 98 also now provides support for the Channel Definition Format (CDF) which is a really keen way of broadcasting your web content to an end user's Windows desktop. You can "push" content to your visitors without having them seek you out daily for updates.

It looks like this used to be the precursor of RSS. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Definition_Format

And desktop notifications

Back then, we thought those were bloated web pages. Litte did we know.

https://boles.com/ (website the article uses in examples) is now front'd by Bootstrap.

Is Bootstrap is the new Frontpage?

Man, look at that site. Unimaginably fast, works perfect on mobile, no clutter and readable.

It truly has gone downhill since then.

> Unimaginably fast

From the article:

> I also like the load time estimation found in the bottom right corner -- that's a constant reminder how long it will take the page you're working on to load for your visitors. My resume page is pretty good on wait time -- 14 seconds and that includes a graphic in addition to a massive HTML file!

His "unimaginably fast" website took 14 seconds to load. Compare that to today's "bloated" sites like CNN's home page. Loads in 4.3 seconds, and finishes asynchronously loading all the bloat in 7.8 seconds.

That was probably with a 28.8k modem under less than ideal circumstances. He probably could optimize it further though, sure, is that your point?

Yes, technology at the time did limit the kind of bloat that would be tolerated. Is that an excuse to go all in now just because we can?

Zero javascript, zero CSS; it uses <font face...> and <center> only.

Fast, yes.

Really bad on my mobile (equally bad as a number of mobile web sites today, only different).

Web site I dealt with earlier today: lose state when I go back.

This page: unreadable small fonts (and it takes months between every time I complain about that). And when I zoom it doesn't reflow the text so I have to scroll back and forth to read it.

"Exquisite Channeling"

Wow. I worked at Netscape summer of 1997, a team that helped content providers get their web sites ready to showcase the Dynamic HTML and Channel features in Netscape 4.0.

Javascript and RDF. In 1997.

FrontPage 97 was the first WYSIWYG tool I ever used, since graduating from the humble text editors. IIRC, I got a free upgrade to FrontPage98. Coupled with Visual InterDev, it formed the core of my webdev workflow.

At the time Macromedia was making terrific advances in this space. Ca. 1999-2000 I moved to Dreamweaver, Ultradev, Flash and Paint Shop Pro(liked it better than Fireworks; story for another day).

isn't that back to front?

you were supposed to graduate from WYSIWYG tools like FrontPage, which generated utterly awful markup, to writing proper HTML yourself in a text editor

Actually I did this as well. I learned to code in HTML and was forced to use Dreamweaver in school because it was "faster". I could use a template and code most of what I needed to by hand faster than most other students could with the tool. I also made very clean, super fast loading sites because I tried to do everything as simple as possible. On of my final projects fell through despite me building them an entire, completely custom, hand written website that was accessible, clean, and loaded super fast. I've never thought I've had a keen eye for designing new things but I've definitely got an eye for the classics and got a lot of accolades in my class for that work.

Yeah, I guess I started off the hard (wrong?) way. The first few websites I built was typed out on notepad. Progress was slow and excruciatingly difficult. Then, I discovered FrontPage and my productivity went through the roof :) Of course, the markup generated was garbage. I understood none of it and for all I knew, this was the way forward!

"WebMaster". I see this term a lot in older sites. "WebMasters click here !" sort of links.

What does it really mean? The term.

Quite simply, the person in charge of the web site. In those days, it was likely to be the person who wrote the HTML, wrote the content and set up the web server.

There are still quite a lot of them about in smaller companies - they keep Wordpress patched, post news stories, update pages etc.

Ah! Those were the days when there were no admins, there were 'webmasters'! They were the people behind building and maintaining the website. Think webdev + ops. Nothing today compares to the grandeur of being a 'Webmaster' in 1996 :)

It's what we used to call anyone who was a web developer back then. Bit of a mix between a system admin and front-end developer with maybe some perl tinkering in place.

It's embarrassing to say but in my company, I'm still "the webmaster". And by reading your question I conclude that it's because no one has any idea about what I'm doing.

It's too grandiose a term honestly. And it does not really convey the role the role-holder does. It's a really confusing term. I guess the term came around when the web was still young and was used as a precursor to "guru".

Nothing grandiose, it's derived from "postmaster" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmaster_(computing)) — a person responsible for a mail server, which itself is borrowed from the IRL postmaster, a head of a post office. Likewise, "webmaster" is a person responsible for a web site.

What would you user today for someone that takes care of a simple WordPress install or static site?

I think web developer or software engineer is too much, and web editor is too little

It used to be convention that emails to webmaster@[domain.com] would go to whoever was responsible for maintaining the website. I don't think anyone ever had it as an official job title, however.

I don't think anyone ever had it as an official job title, however.

I knew lots and lots of people that did.

there was also this thing between webmasters, called banner exchange. that's how you got new traffic to your website. i remember when i did my first gaming review site up in high school i was trying to get my banner to as many other sites as i could and they would get the place on my site. i remember tweaking my banner in macromedia flash :)

I wish we could go bac to this again.

Link to the pages you find interesting. Forget SEO. Find more pages by following recommendations. Allow ourselves to create "ugly" pages.

Affiliate links from the 90s :) And what a wonderful tool Flash was, before Adobe crapped all over it. Those were the days!

You could also have a webring for that

Person who built the website & is responsible for its uptime.

damn it, thanks for making me feel old at the ripe age of 26 T_T

Although it's just a footnote on this page, Microsoft GIF Animator is still the easiest and most useful GIF animation tool out there. I have yet to find anything quite as easy to make animated GIFs. I haven't used it in years though, not sure if it's still floating around and if it runs on a modern OS.

I loved and used Image Composer for years after I'd moved on from Frontpage; I remember havng to install FP solely to get a copy of it (and some of the other tools like GIF animator)

Loved the gif animator that used to ship with photoimpact. When corel bought it they stopped shipping the separate gif animator with it though. Glad I bought them on cd / dvd back in the day.

I used Netscape’s Composer for a while, then Frontpage. It was the sheer frustration of trying to get it to do what I want that lead me into actually learning and mastering HTML.

I was told by a number of “experts” at the time that I was silly and WYSIWYGs were the way forward. It’s some 20 years later and thus far they’ve still never really worked very well. Also, man that makes me feel old.

in 1997, i had people tell me i would never be a real webmaster if I wasn't using hotdogpro. i never wanted to be a real webmaster, so I guess I dodged a bullet there.

Isn't it funny that the _tone_ for an article written more than 20 years ago can change over time? Honestly, I don't know if the article was written in sarcasm or not.

Hmm. I'm pretty certain Homesite was out by then which I always felt was the best web IDE. Such a shame what happened to it.

Homesite was amazing. I think it was the first 'professional' piece of software I actually spent my own money on.

Wow, this was a trip down memory lane. In fact it was Frontpage 98 that inspired me to try out my hand at building the web, back in 1999. I was just 10 years old back then. However it sparked my interest, because I could create something. Creating a webpage about my then most favorite game Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, publishing it and receiving my first ever e-mail from someone in the UK about a spelling error resulted in an experience that struck me so deeply that I became a web developer. Almost 20 years later I still love what Microsoft FrontPage 98 allowed me to discover.

My first programming job often consisted of us adding buttons and a javascript snippet to third party websites as part of the on boarding process (thinking embedding a webring script). Usually this was easy, but sometimes you'd get a FrontPage site and this simple edition would completely blow up the site.

Fortunately I usually didn't have to use front page to do it and could hand edit the HTML, if it blew up when they tried to edit it in front page again we could blame that on MS, which was believable with their software quality at the time.

I love this! This is a much better example of what things were like in the early days of the internet than a lot of what I saw on the Web Design Museum (https://webdesignmuseum.org, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17891826) -- I'd completely forgotten about the tendency to use garish round images for buttons and weird fonts.

Frontpage came with the all the usual Office software in the bundle which meant that it was often found on most internet cafes PCs. I spent a year backpacking in 2000 and used Frontpage in those cafes to edit and update my travel website. I kept most of it on a floppy disk, and also used FTP. The internet cafes often had scanners too, so I was able to scan a selection of developed print photos to include in the site there.

Back when I was in middle school I used a copy FrontPage 98 at school to generate frames for my Star Wars site and then finished up the rest at home with FrontPage Express. A few years ago I restored the site after finding a broken version of it on the WayBack machine.


> Approx. download time: 2 hours and 9 min. at 28.8 kbps

I was obsessed with this software as a kid. I could never get it to run on my computer though.

My PC had a faulty RAM which would get hit somewhere in the middle of installation and trigger the blue screen of death. I tried that install program a hundred times. Tried different distributions, tried changing the OS (98 to ME and back). Nothing worked.

And we couldn't afford getting me a new RAM. Mom and Dad were still repaying the loan that they took three years ago to buy me that broken computer. No way they could add a brand new RAM to their expenses.

But I really wanted to build my own website. I would watch video tutorials of FrontPage (on pirated CDs), and I'd imagine using all the techniques from the videos to design my own website. You could make links (for some reason, links seemed cool), and dynamic links that didn't reload the page (which meant iframes everywhere). You could add clip arts (those tacky office cliparts), and buttons that react to the mouse (I could imagine building whole games out of those).

The possibilities would be endless... if only I could get the money to buy that new RAM.

After attempting and failing a few ideas to raise the money, I decided that the only way I could get that kind of money would be to... write a book!

The book would be a guide to a software called "Multimedia Builder." MMB was a tool to make Autorun programs. You could make a window with buttons, videos, music, interactivity. It even had a scripting language. It was very popular at the time and my classmates were asking me to show them how to use it. I decided I'd write a book about it (there were none on the market), sell the book to a publisher, and use the money to buy not just a new RAM, but a whole new computer!

I drafted the layout (somehow layout was more important than content for me). Outlined the chapters. Built folders of step-by-step screenshots...

... until Mom surprised me with $36 that she had gotten as extra salary! One of the best days of my life! Off I ran to the computer market. Bought a brand new SDR Ram, put it on my underpowered PC400 motherboard, started the computer, put the FrontPage CD in, and fired up install. I remember watching the install progress bar slowly fill. It was always near the halfway mark that the blue screen would appear. I remember the angst I felt as the progress bar approached the halfway mark, passed it, and the screen remained very not blue!

I outgrew FrontPage in two weeks. Turns out, FrontPage can't really do much :)

What I should have learned was actually HTML, CSS, and PHP. Which I did, right after. Funny things is though, they would've all ran fine on my faulty RAM! I could've started my web dev adventure a whole year earlier! Good times.

Thanks for sharing, cool to read.

I read quite a bit of this but couldn't figure it out: is this writer sort of mocking their own purple prose in a sort of self-consciously over-the-top way? Or is that just their writing style? (It's hard to imagine anyone reading this style seriously. Even the subtitle, "elegant and exquisite" is a weird way to talk about software.)

Do you think they're making fun of something?

It took me until he started showing the themes to realize it was a joke, but after that it becomes a bit more evident.

> My resume page is pretty good on wait time -- 14 seconds and that includes a graphic in addition to a massive HTML file!

Ah, those were the times...

Elegant and Exquisite, Hoo Hoo, Hee Hee, Gufaw!! I was running an ISP at that time. This caused me no end of headaches in getting the FrontPage extensions working on various and sundry web servers. It allowed people to easily create websites, but caused a nightmare of support and infrastructure issues just to keep it working. So glad this piece of tech faded into infamy.

There were sooo many crap webpages created with that software. I used it myself for a while, before I knew better. It produced horrendous, buggy HTML. Table handling was pants - I used to have to hand code tables (used for layout!) to make them work properly. At least we don't have to do that these days... oh, wait, sorry. Ok, we do.

Frontpage was terrible for the web in many ways but damn it if I didn't love it to death when I first figured out how to use it and made my first websites with it. It was my first "code" editor in a long line (Frontpage -> Notepad++ -> Coda -> Sublime Text -> Sublime Text 2 -> PHPStorm -> IDEA Ultimate)

I remember Frontpage 98 along with Outlook 98 they were offered as free upgrades from older versions. I had Frontpage 97 and Outlook 97.

For programming, I used Visual Interdev which resembled Microsoft Visual Code more than Frontpage. Visual Interdev was part of the Visual Studio package.

> Visual InterDev

Haven't come across that word for over ~15 years =)

I skimmed this entire article thinking it is a clever tongue-in-cheek piece, and found it hilarious, only to realise that it was from 1997 and written sincerely.

Wow, I wish I could get back those hours drawing complex tables and placing 1x1 pixel images in strategic places.

I pirated frontpage around 97,98 and used it to make garish homepages with all the elements we consider sins today: frames, lens flare, flame gifs, and background music. This was a formative experience that contributed to my career and life today.

Playing around with a tool is still using it. Who cares if it's ridiculous? Getting anyone to be engaged with something new is way easier if they're passionate about it. If a kid wants to edit a video about farts, they're going to learn what it takes to make that fart video, and I applaud them.

Also, the marquee tag is mission critical.

I miss this. Web pages were just data not programs.


Because you could just read the text and view the images without being disturbed by 3 floating elements you have to close first, then when you scrolled 25% down some new thing popping up in your way, then when you scrolled 50% down some other annoying thing happening, and when at the end of the article suddenly it changes into another one, all while some video starts autoplaying but not without first having a wait during which you cannot pause it, and without following you around in a tiny window at the bottom that automatically appears again when you scroll, even if you tried to pause it. All while some small floating elements on the sides somehow appear on top of small parts of the text you are trying to read left or right.

Yes! And also, because you weren't running a little program to display each page, the back button actually worked. (Compare what HN does when you follow a link then hit back to what Reddit does.)

Are there good free (as is free software) WYSIWYG website editors nowadays?

I was looking for that a while back, too, and a Wikipedia search led me to BlueGriffon (http://bluegriffon.org/), which (through various forks like Nvu etc.) was apparently originally based on the "Composer" part of Netscape / Mozilla.

Hell are there good WYSIWYG website editors nowadays at any price?

Dunno depends on what you like, I liked Microsoft Expression Web and that seemed to be free but they discontinued it. I would love to see VS Code become a reasonable WYSIWYG editor for Markdown and HTML5 / CSS though. I have seen some Electron based editors for Bootstrap that are very good, trick is to do an HTML WYSIWYG editor you really do need a damn browser component to do it properly enough. I would also like to see Mozilla create something similar for Firefox Developer Edition, not just more JS editors.

SeaMonkey (used to be Mozilla) Composer is free and WYSIWYG but the website you make will be very 90s looking.

In the mid 90s while getting my CS degree, I had a side job as an SA at a small ISP. We also provided site hosting. One of our clients designed his site with FrontPage. This story reminded me of that, so out of curiosity I checked to see if the site was still around. Not only is it still around, it still looks like something straight out of the 90s. Behold:


I remember FrontPage Express being pretty good too. Basically a souped-up web developers' Notepad.

It had nowhere near the feature set of full-blown FrontPage, of course.

So much nostalgia... Was just thinking it would be neat to try to make a "Web Classic" version of the web without javascript and which only supports HTML 2.0 or 3.0. Maybe even bring back the 'blink' and 'marquee' tags :) . Kind of goes completely against the "one web" principle though, so definitely not practical. Fun to imagine having that kind of blank slate though.

Good old GruntPage. Yet another technology I let pass by me as it grew to dominance and then faded--I much preferred to work in Emacs, hand-crufting HTML directly, and I never felt unproductive, especially when I used Scheme scripts (outside Emacs) to generate lots of similar pages.

Given the tangle of unreadable, unmaintainable IE-specific garbage that FrontPage produced, I'd say I came out on top overall.

I think WebDAV was of course the best thing about FrontPage and I still use it whenever I can. FP made web development accessible to more people which is fine, but I don't miss all the cruft it added, although, arguably we're in a crazier mess now perhaps :P

I never had the privilege of using Frontpage. I had the program and some books but I felt like good ole notepad was good enough for me, so I never even tried it out.

My mind was blown when I realized I could have different colors on my syntax and people actually indented things.

I don't get it. Maybe someone can explain why these style and many other at the time were so hedious given that in print for a century preceding it, we had beautiful color, font and layout.

It wasn’t obvious at the time that web design should have anything to do with print. Its immediate predecessors were a bunch of online systems like BBSes, Compuserve, Prodigy that either ran inside a terminal emulator with garish ANSI colors at best, or shipped with their own custom GUI app for access.

There was a lot of activity in the late ‘90s around what “authentic to the medium” web design could look like, but I don’t remember people being very interested in emulating traditional print design — which itself was in turmoil thanks to digital publishing systems. Open a 1996 issue of Wired and you’ll probably think the designers were on crack: purple text on garish background images, cut-up barely readable fonts, that kind of thing.

It's a really a complex answer with many facets but the main one in my opinion is that the displays of that era were CRTs with extremely low resolution (e.g. 1024x768) and generally dull color depth. This in turn required things within the page to be large, blocky, and saturated to make it appear pleasant to the eyes. What you see in these screenshots of FrontPage is _not_ what the user nor the developer would experience on such hardware. As a analogue example of a game character on an LCD vs CRT might help illustrate this: https://kayin.moe/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1391807722376-1....

Some other smaller things also contributed but I don't think they were such big deals:

- Lack of good compression on both transfer of data and file formats, necessitating simpler designs and palette-based image formats.

- Graphics acceleration was generally slow so smooth animations were out.

- Image creation/editing tools were practically non-existent and digital cameras were rare so it makes sense that the resulting pages that have had designed assets were scary-looking.

I guess partly because it became easily accessible and also the curiosity to try different things. Cyan fonts on black background? It was beautiful and fun. :)

I remember the excitement of hunting for animated GIFs for your homepage and putting up the ubiquitous “under construction” image on the pages you were still working on.

When the client side ruled, and hosting was democratized. Anyone truly could have had their own websitr. Now everyone uses facebook, Twitter or squarespace.

I remember ogling over the this and Dreamweaver and begging my parents to let me have a copy. It seemed like it could do everything at the time!


It ain't what it used to be!




Fond memories of looking for that free web hosting with Microsoft FrontPage Extensions enabled to make my forms work.

When stuff like this comes up I cannot help but think of websites hosted on geocities and angelfire. Oh the memories.

Was there some kind of html mode for Word? I have a faint memory of actually using word instead of frontpage

Yes, I remember making "websites" in high school with this feature for a class. I think it came out in Word 2000.

Hey. Don’t knock it. I had to use that

"Here's an Automotive theme that is quite unique and pleasing to the eye: ... <BARF>"

Frontpage, the tool of choice for boss's sons and nephews to help save money on a website design.

I remember the pure excitement of tiled background images. Those were the days.

Were we really that color blind back then or did we really have that poor taste?

A bit of both.

The color palette was limited. 216 web-safe colors, 256 if you didn't mind the user's open programs changing how it looked.

Colors displayed differently on different monitors, and 'dead' areas of the screen, where colors would be less vibrant, were common.

And finally... The web was different, so we tossed all the rules. If you liked it, that's good enough! Why pander to anybody else? This was your own thing.

I know a guy in his 70s that still uses it.

I don't miss any of that. I remember having to maintain "FrontPage Extension" on IIS systems back in those days, and it was rough.

FrontPage was based on the Vermeer acquisition by Microsoft.

The book by the founder, "High Stakes, No Prisoners" should be required reading for anyone interested in doing an internet startup IMHO.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact