A Trip Down The Internet Memory Lane

I’m sure you’ve heard of people reminiscing about simpler times, back when the computer and the Internet weren’t available. People would often meet up in person or chat with their friends. Those were the days, they say.

Interestingly, the Internet has existed long enough for us to do the same about it. Despite being available only decades ago, the development of the Internet has been so rapid that we can now speak of it in terms of different eras. In the 90’s, the Internet was made up of Web 1.0 sites, trademarked by hyperlinks and GIF objects.

Today, we have social networking sites, blogs and many others that utilize Web 2.0 concepts such as JavaScript, XML and even cloud computing.

If you were already using the Internet a decade or two ago, you would probably recall the following eight phenomena. Like it did for me, most of these would ring a bell and bring you some sense of nostalgia as you join me on a memory trip down the good ol’ days.

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1. Web 1.0

Remember those simple websites filled with GIFs and blue hyperlinks? That’s how life on the internet used to be. Unlike today’s highly interactive web pages such as forums, social networking sites, and video-sharing sites, these ‘old school’ websites provided information mostly in a one-way and passive manner. Visitors who chanced upon these pages can only read the contents but not actively participate in the site.

They’re static; whatever is there on the page is just there.


Image source: complexify

The designs were awkward at best, with single color backgrounds and crude GIF images and animations that can only be placed in a certain fixed position. Website designs were neither flexible nor creative due to the fact that everything was restricted by template-like HTML tool.

In hindsight, Web 1.0 sites didn’t come close to what we have today, but we didn’t complain back then. At the time, it was revolutionary enough to connect with the rest of the world and gain knowledge through a 14-inch monitor.

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2. Chain Letters / E-mails


Sounds familiar?

That’s the classic chain letter email we used to get almost every other day in our Inbox. Spam was common in the early years of the Internet before they were tamed (somewhat by anti-spam applications and filters). For most of us, we didn’t want to take our chances with the supposed curse, so we naively forward these emails to our friends.


As to why Internet users readily forward such chain mails when they get them, I guess it’s because the act of forwarding mail on the Net is as easy as clicking a button.

If we can avert a disaster with a simple click on the ‘Send’ button, why not? Of course, now that we are all seasoned users of the internet, such threats are widely accepted as empty or and mere additions to the junk mail folder.

3. Web-hosting Services

Do the names Tripod, GeoCities and Angelfire ring a bell? I bet it did. Created in 1992 and released for public use in 1995, Tripod was one of the earliest attempts at building online communities.

Needless to say, its presence and popularity marked the rise of user-generated content. With personalized home page designs, albeit at its infancy, Tripod paved the way for crowdsourcing culture we see today in blogs, forums, social networking sites as well as Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) such as WordPress.


Come 1994, GeoCities started providing web-hosting services to Internet users to create simple web pages with templates and designated themes. You could also upload up to 10 MB of content to your web pages then.


Image source: WebbyZone

Similar to GeoCities (but two years younger), Angelfire provided free space for web sites and is fortunate to be able to continue its services even till today, after being acquired by search engine Lycos in 1998. It has since reinvented itself as a platform for blog building.


Image source: Wayback Machine

4. ICQ / mIRC

Instant Messaging is still alive now, but the platforms have seen some major changes over the years.

I remember using ICQ(I-Seek-You) and mIRC (Microsoft Internet Relay Chat) back in 1998. They were the pioneers of instant messaging services. I recall that the first thing people would ask when they initiate a chat with a random stranger was ‘a/s/l?’, which refers to ‘age/sex/location?’.

My best memory of ICQ was its trademark ‘Uh-oh’ sound that signals a notification whenever a new message is received. For mIRC, I think most of you would remember that there will always be jerks flooding the IRC network to disconnect unsuspecting users.


Image source: kicau punai

Before long, I shifted from ICQ and mIRC to Windows Instant Messenger, which was and is still available whenever you install a Windows OS. Today, Facebook Messenger seems to be the taking over partly due to the popularity of its mother site.

Fundamentally, I don’t think much has really changed across these instant messaging platforms because the core function and purpose remain the same: Online chatting.

5. Character Emoticons

Although simple smiley emoticons are still widely used by most of us today, there was a time when emoticons were made up of long strings of characters such as this: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻). This is the classic Flipping Table emoticon that was commonly used to express rage. There were also many personalized emoticons like

  • <*:oDX (clown)
  • })i({ (butterfly)
  • (_8^(|. (Homer Simpson)

that appeared in our chat with random strangers in ICQ and especially mIRC.

Today we see a smaller variety of hand-typed emoticons because we now have actual smiley images, which we can use in our chats through SMSes, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or any other IMs. Even when we do see those ‘traditional’ emoticons, they are more likely to be very basic ones like :) or :( .

6. Virtual Greeting Cards or E-cards

Before there were social networking sites that provide all-in-one entertainment like games, chat, social interactions, etc, virtual greeting cards were the ‘in’ thing. We would send each other personalized e-cards via e-mail. That was how we used to contact each other rather than send text e-mails.


Image source: 123Greetings

The greatest draw of e-cards then was its interactivity. There was nothing like it before. Compared to the traditional paper greeting card, e-cards can be made entirely out of flash animation, which provides versatility when customizing the e-card. For instance, it can provide the reader with several options for him or her to proceed with the animation.

Other e-cards can also be embedded with videos and games to make the reader more involved with the e-card.

7. Napster

Who could’ve forgotten Napster? It was one of the earliest peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing Internet service that was eventually used as a platform to share free MP3s with other users.

Its popularity peaked in February 2001 when there were close to 30 million users. A lawsuit filed by a renowned heavy metal band, Metallica, in 2000 eventually brought Napster down with its copyright infringement violations.


Napster was considered revolutionary in the sense that it challenged the notion of paid music. It showed us that the Internet is free for all by providing such a file-sharing platform.

After the shutdown, second-generation P2P software like Kazaa and Gnutella rose to fame before giving way to BitTorrent, the third and latest generation of P2P.

It used to be about music sharing during the Napster era, but today it has extended to free movies, applications, and even e-books.

8. Internet Banner / Pop-Up Ads

Like spam e-mails, pop-up ads used to go unblocked. These ads would pop up each time you visit a new site, so your screen would be filled up with them in no time.

Back then it was a problem because we were using dial-up modems, so internet connections slow down when we have too many opened pages. We often clicked on the cross symbol to close these ads in response, but some creators were smart.

They made pop-ups with buttons that look like the ‘close’ buttons so that people would mistakenly press them and be led to yet another pop-up!

Fortunately for us, browsers were then programmed to begin recognizing instances of the problem, and tools were then put in place to block pop-ups.

popup ads

Image source: onlineincometeacher

In any case, pop-ups were growing less and less popular with marketers because people usually close them without clicking or even reading them. Today, pop-ups are usually non-ads that provide visitors with more information, such as privacy policy, legal terms, a nudge to login into your account, etc.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one. I’m sure there are many others I’ve missed out. If you know of any other interesting one which I’ve not included here, feel free to put it in your comment. Maybe we can revive an old-school platform and make it big once more!