Web Archeology

Restoring some of the history of the web, the 1994 Microsoft.com homepage

August 11, 2014 •

1994 Microsoft.com

The 1994 version Microsoft.com has been a wonderful piece of the web to recreate. Thanks to Chris Balt and Benson Chan for bringing Paravel into the project. Building a site that pre-dates CSS, <FONT> tags, and even existed at a time where browsers “might not support images” fills you with some awe and respect for how far the web has come in 20 short years.

I got really into this project. In a lot of ways, replicating the original Microsoft.com homepage after helping redesign its modern counterpart felt like restoring an old Mustang. Deciphering how to build a webpage from 1994 unfolded like a procedural drama in my mind.

It’s a very simple site, but if you’re interested in the minutiae of how we built it, we put together a short little readme explaining the underlying “tech”:

1994 Microsoft.com Readme

What comes next?

The Web has always been an exciting place, it seems to completely reinvent itself on a recurring six-month cycle. What Comes Next is the Future is a documentary kickstarted by Bearded focusing on where the Web is headed.1 When I think about where the Web is headed, I often become more interested about its past. I’m comforted to know that others have the same level of nostalgia:

I love the idea of an online museum; curated exhibits set on a timeline or organized by “movements”. Like Greg, after reading Jason’s article, I wondered if an archive could/should function more like a science center than a magazine. A place where Space Jam can live forever. I don’t know what it looks like, who builds it, who curates it, how “archeologists” submit fossils to it, but I’d love to see something like that exist.

This is why I’m so glad Microsoft commissioned a recreation of their homepage. It’s great that such an influential company has grasped on to that nostalgic spirit of the Web. They recognize the value of preserving the past. Despite its small and pitiful beginnings, the Web has grown and now helps bind our modern world together.

  1. Full disclosure; they’ve asked me to participate.