We live in a world where people say “GIF”, but mean “Animated GIF”. In the 1990′s, and during the first years of the new century — or lets say before this format’s glorious comeback — there were two genres: GIFs and Animated GIFs. There were collections of GIFs and Animated GIFs, there were famous GIFs and famous Animated GIFs. I was reminded about it by the welcome message on the Sailormars Transparent GIF page.

Here are transparent GIFs of my favorite sailor senshi, Hino Rei. I have collected some over the web and made some of my own.

In January 1999, when the page was last updated, it was clear that the GIFs behind the link would be static. Here are some of them.

But why then GIFs and not JPEGs, especially knowing that images are technically scans of magazine pages? It is because of transparency. And the author of the collection manifests it clearly in the title of the site: Transparent GIFs! The ones that will work great on your own Sailor Mars page, regardless the color or texture of your background.

I think that today when we start to acknowledge another retro hero — the clear one pixel or invisible GIF — it is the right moment to remind that in the 90′s, the term Transparent GIF meant not an invisible pixel, but a GIF that is “cutted out”, that uses a principal feature of GIF89a format: transparent color. And their role in web site design can hardly be overestimated.

When a browser encounters the transparent color, the browser doesn’t show any graphic information, which enables the web page background to show through. That’s how Web pages create the illusion of non-rectangular figures.”
Creating Geocities Websites, p.169

Properly anti-aliased images with transparency are the basic building blocks of a third-generation site
Creating Killer Web Sites, p.52

So, GIFs could be rectangular and transparent, static and animated. And there was another subcategory which I would call “GIFs formerly known as animated”. These are graphics that were originally animated, got famous as animated, but can be found as still elements on quite some pages.

The web got static explosion …

… static fire …

… and a cat that is just there.



Why would users stop the animation? I see three reasons:

  1. The animation was stopped to be used in the background in times before animated backgrounds became supported with Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 4. Alternatively, the site’s author used a browser that didn’t support GIF animation at all and got only the first frame. This is BTW what Twitter made earlier this year with all the animated backgrounds of user profiles: it converted Animated GIFs to one frame PNGs. Mine looks like this now. And everytime I open my twitter timeline now I think I’m on Netscape 3 again.
  2. The user screwed up during uploading or downloading the animation or a technical error damaged the file.
  3. The author of the page read web design manuals before designing the page and got convinced that animated GIFs should be used with the greatest caution and be avoided completely if possible.

I know only one design manual from the second part of the 90′s that didn’t object animated GIFs, Creating Geocities Websites, published 1996. Other authors were quite straight about it.

David Siegel in Creating Killer Websites, 1996, mentions:

If you want your visitors to go out to lunch while your page loads, fill it full of 8-bit dithered GIFs …
p.137

Jakob Nielsen in Designing Web Usability, 1999, strongly suggests:

Ask yourself whether your point would be communicated as well by a non-animated graphic
p.143

Paul E. Robichaux in Jazz Up Your Website in a Weekend, 1997, reminds that animation is distracting and prolongs downloading time. He warns:

[...] don’t overdo it. Enough people have expressed annoyance with overuse of animated GIFs that Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.0 both include options to turn off GIF animation all together.
p.202

Curt Cloninger in Fresh Styles for Web Designers, 2001:

The only thing more eye-catching than a transparent gif on a textured background is a transparent animated gif on a textured background. But first, a word of caution: as with all web animation [...], use gif animation wisely and sparingly
p.28

When I read such instructions, I think how great it is that you didn’t have to read any instruction to make a webpage.

Some days ago my attention got attracted by this colorful screenshot:

I went to our archive to enjoy the rainbow flag and other elements animated. But it appeared that in reality, the web page of Italian architect Federico Cribbio looked the same as the screenshot. He used Formerly animated GIFs:

His Italian and European Union flags and even the gay pride flag didn’t flutter, the Welcome sign didn’t rotate, “Chiao a Tutti” was not blinking. He also paused the two hippos, who were born to tramp the backgrounds of early web pages.

Federico Cribbio either got unlucky uploading his images or took design manuals a bit too seriously. On the other hand, maybe he knew that once his homepage will be just a screenshot posted on Tumblr.

P.S. You may also want to read some notes about previously static files becoming animated. And have a look at the comparative gallery of Animated GIFs and Glitter graphics, it features graphics from the beginning of the last decade, when GIFs got huge, blingy and static.

It is the 1st of April 2014 IRL and the 1st of January 1999 in Geocities time (the day of last update of the screenshots appearing on our Tumblr at the moment).

What do we remember about this year?
It was the end of the browser war and beginning of plugin wars. 3D on the web was a reality! Dragan designed sites in VRML and started to teach others to do so.
I got a web design professorship.

The Webby Awards was still giving awards to net artists. Museums started to collect web art. Dot.com reached its zenith. Flash was taking over amateurs’ and professionals’ minds.

What to expect from the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Tumblr in 1999?
First of all, on the 18th of March 1999, we will switch from Netscape to Internet Explorer, since IE 5.0 was relised on this day.
Second, as it seems one Geocities day this year will be almost equal to a day IRL, meaning that we have around 70-80 pages in the Geocities archive abandoned every day in 1999. (72 screenshots appear on Tumblr daily.)

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“Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!” writes the author of the new Sonic website on the first day of 1999 and presents a screenshot of his old one in the Netscape browser. As if he knows that we will be bewildered by it 15 years later.

A curious page was just posted on the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age tumblr. You can’t see, but there is a message behind the annoying AOL pop up window. The author of the site got to know about the Geocities shut down and logged in to say goodbye to those who would visit it by chance or because they are still waiting for an update.

Geocities is closing down later in 2009, so long everyone… It has been a wonderful 12+ years since I created this site.. and it is now vanishing away… (I never update it in the past 10 years anyway).. Well. my love for Hotaru will never fade away with the website. For any inquiry, please contact me at my current email address here…

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone for your visit on my never-been-updated website. Thank you very much.. thanks..s.s. million times……. and sooo long….. (noticed my improvement in english??? =D)

BTW, if you wonder why the page that was obviously updated in 2009 appears on the Tumblr now with the last modified date being December 30th 1998: the reason is the HTML frameset. We observed many cases where the frameset was apparently created when the home page was first published, and references files that have been updated years later.

Because the file that outlines the structure of the page identifies the page’s age inside the Geocities archive, it is not rare that the home pages were actually last updated much later than they are presented on our Tumblr.

null As you may remember one of the most exciting facts about the dancing girl GIF is that there is a blinking pixel next to her left leg. It was forgotten there by it’s author Chuck Pointer. If you can’t see it on the original, look at the contemporary reenactment

Nobody ever cared or dared to remove this dot. At least this is what I thought until the Geocities Archive image search started to deliver the first results some days ago. We only have 33% of all images indexed right now, so these are not the final results, but as for now there are 130 girls dancing through the geocities ruins.
Closer look detected that two of them are LACKING THE PIXEL.

They come from the Thongchai “Bird” McIntyre fan site. Bird is number one popstar in Thailand, if to believe the Wikipedia article. This article btw is nothing compared to information and visuals one can get on him from his fans’ pages on the Geocities. Discography, news, Bird’s appearances in films and TV shows are properly documented.
In the beginning “Bird Thongchai McIntyre Thai Top Superstar of all time” web site was in the Hollywood neighborhood http://www.geocities.com/bbee_bird/, then it moved to the vanity profile http://www.geocities.com/bbee_bird. In 1999 the pages migrated to its own domain http://www.bbbird.com/, only the homepage is there now, the rest is in the Internet Archive.

The dancing girl appears on two jukebox pages


http://www.geocities.com/bbee_bird/birdjukebox.html

and

http://www.geocities.com/bbee_bird/birdsjukebox.html

It would be great to know if it was the webmaster of bbee_bird (or may be even Bird himself?!) who removed the pixel, or did she or he found it like this, with the pixel removed, in one of the collections not known to me. I wrote to all the email addresses associated with this website, but didn’t get any answer yet.

Anyway, please welcome: The Dancing Girl without the Pixel, dancew.gif

Read more about the dancing girl in previous posts:

For a cultural researcher, the amount of material contained in the ArchiveTeam’s Geocities copy is simply overwhelming. The tumblr blog One Terabyte Of Kilobyte Age Photo Op presents one way to make it all accessible, by transforming it into an exciting soap opera of screen shots.

With the Geocities Research Institute’s latest effort, categorizing the home pages can go as easily as checking tumblr: When accessed through the Geocities proxy server, each post is connected with the local database, widgets to view and modify the displayed home page’s metadata are inserted into tumblr.

Tagging is a good way to work with experimental or explorational ontologies, since a hierarchy can be built ad-hoc. Different views on the same material can exist at the same time — a prerequisite for giving meaning to a collection as large as Geocities. Tags are useful before a complete collection of items is fully known and can be created independently by different researchers, without too much prior agreement on a vocabulary.

In conclusion, each new opportunity and context to enter meta information has the potential to be valuable. Meta information does not have to be definite or objective to help structuring items, as long as the system applying it performs reasonably fast and allows quick combinations.

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One year ago, on the 7th of February 2013, the first Geocities screenshot appeared on One Terabyte of the Kilobyte Age Photo Op. Since then a new one was coming every 20 minutes (apart from several glitches that led to some hours of silence).25 666 pages were posted till this moment. And we still have material for 13 more years. There are many things we learned about Geocities and the Vernacular Web in general from observing our own Tumblr: we found examples for our statements and theories about the early web and had to face some facts that we were not aware of before.

And we got almost 9000 followers. Which doesn’t bring us to any Tumblr top list, but we are very happy about this number. Because these are 9000 people voluntarily receiving a snap of the web history 3 times an hour. They like and reblog, they give us feed back and spread the word. Seeing what pages are getting popular and what are ignored helps us to understand what web users of today find exciting about the web of yesterday. It is too early to make statements about it after one year, but the time is right to celebrate our followers’ activity during the first year.

To do so we put together Top Three of the most popular Geocities Screenshots, by manually tracking the activity of tumblr users on the blog. Now we invite you to visit the mirrors of the three restored home pages.

To restore your beloved pages, Dragan dug deeper into our own archive’s subfolders, went to archive.org, reocities.com, examined parts of Geocities still accessible online. Read more about it in Dragan’s elaborate post The Anniversary Restoration.

See the pages in your own browser, surf (external links will be mostly broken), read the guest books!

#3 I HAVE A WEBSITE

Published on JANUARY 4, 2014 (11:20 AM) got 6630 NOTES so far.

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Hi, I’m Bobby from London, England. You might wonder why an Englishman is having a web site in this geocities neighborhood. Well, I’ve had my holiday in the Philippines …

tumblr: http://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/post/72192098002/
original: http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/3269/
restored: http://geocities.contemporary-home-computing.org/www.geocities.com/Tokyo/3269/

#2 Cute Boy Site

Published on AUGUST 3, 2013 (2:20 PM) got 9157 NOTES so far.

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Who do you wanna see as the Cute Boy of the month, March?? Click here to vote!

tumblr: http://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/post/57241197370/original-url
original: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Theater/1048/
restored: http://geocities.contemporary-home-computing.org/www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Theater/1048/

#1 Divirced Dads Page

Published on APRIL 28, 2013 (2:20 AM) got 10412 NOTES so far.

This page is to support all of you divorced fathers that have encountered grave injustice in the Family Law issues due to the blindness of the Canadian Justice System. It is my life long goal to show the Government law makers of Canada, that it is time to change the law.

tumblr: http://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/post/49048451978/
original: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/7172/
restored: http://geocities.contemporary-home-computing.org/www.geocities.com/Paris/7172/

To celebrate one year of our Geocities screenshot tumblr One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op I restored the top 3 reblogged and liked home pages posted there, as tracked by Olia.

The access has been optimized for contemporary browsers and high interactivity. On the Authenticity/Access chart, this restoration is placed in between “screenshots” and “HTTP mirror access, contemporary, browser AddOn”: The pixels generated by contemporary browsers are not be the same as the ones rendered by a 1997/98 browser, the URLs are not the original ones; however, the interactivity comes close to the original, the graphics look fine enough and are animated. As a bonus, a first time in website restoration, the embedded MIDI files have been transformed into audio recordings using timidity and a Soundblaster AWE32 instrument set.1

#3 I have a website

All material except the counter image was present in the ArchiveTeam’s Geocities torrent distribution. The missing image icq.JPG probably never was uploaded by the user, it is not present on any public Geocities mirror.

The counter image was lifted from the Wayback Machine. The original URL http://www.geocities.com/cgi-bin/counter was probably working with browser referrer information to assign the counter to a certain web page.2 The Internet Archive’s web crawler saved the counter showing 0000 over a few years. We will not be able to reconstruct the number of visitors to the page, but at least we can imagine how it looked.

The MIDI file embedded in the page, a version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, is heavily damaged and produces strange noises when played back via timidity. I haven’t verified how it would be interpreted on a legacy system, but since the MIDI file specification is not met in this file it will for sure not reproduce a perfect version of the song. (The file is damaged or not present in all public mirrors of Geocities.)

#2 Cute Boy Site

This simple home page posed no further problems, “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet boys was conserved in a perfect MIDI version. The missing image devlayy.jpg never left the author’s hard disk, it is referenced outside of the homepage’s root directory in a folder called Annies GirlClub.

#1 Divorced Dads Page

From Divorced Dads, the ArchiveTeam’s copy only contains the main page. I took some missing pages and from reocities. The downside of reocities is that there is no Last-Modified header delivered from the server, the upside is that the original HTML is less modified than on the wayback machine.3 Thankfully the wayback machine delivers original Last-Modified dates in extra HTTP headers, so I was able to transfer this metadata to the reocities copies.4

The banner on the bottom was replaced with a generic banner ad from this particular banner exchange service from 2003, as found on the wayback machine.

The top of the page features a Java applet called “GeoGuide” that is referenced on many Geocities home pages. Unfortunately, Java applets have posed issues for webcrawler-based archiving, since they are opaque blobs of code that might load further resources, for example images or object code libraries. Most crawlers wouldn’t even download the applet files because of the low likeliness that they would work later. There is no public mirror of Geocities available that contains this applet, and until now no screenshot or other form of documentation of GeoGuide was found.

The counter used to be delivered from a personalized URL, http://www.geocities.com/cgi-bin/counter/jacquestheman, the first time it was checked on the wayback machine in 2003 was already producing a “file not found”. Since Geocities moved their user tracking to a separate server visit.geocities.com, I decided to look there and indeed found four zeroes printed in a nice font, still alive. This might be the counter the page’s author customized for himself, or it might not be.

All sub pages use a non-standard font called “Paramount” <FONT FACE="Paramount">. A metadata tag <META NAME="GENERATOR" CONTENT="Mozilla/4.01 [en] (Win95; I) [Netscape]"> hints towards Windows 95 being the platform the pages were created on, but there is no information available about what this font might be: There are some freeware fonts with that name, but no font of such a name was ever included in for example the “Microsoft Plus” packs for Windows that gave users extra features and fonts; Microsoft Office never shipped with a Paramount as well. Since the choice of font would be too arbitrary and the likeliness of page visitors having exactly this font installed in 1997/98 to actually see it is very low, I decided to leave the browser’s default font in place.

Enjoy!


  1. If the restorations are accessed via a legacy system, audio authenticity suffers because the original MIDI files have been replaced with OGG and MP3 recordings. []
  2. Upon loading images, browsers send a Referer header to the server that contains the URL of the web page the image is embedded in. Like this, servers can return different images for the same URL. []
  3. Reocities just inserts a Javascript banner after the opening body tag and seems to have done a simple search/replace on geocities.com to reocities.com. []
  4. The headers encountered during crawl time are reproduced by The Internet Archive as starting with X-Archive-Orig-, for example X-Archive-Orig-Last-Modified: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 01:00:05 GMT []

Meanwhile, the Geocities Research Institute got its own ex-libris. The stamp was designed by the inimitable Manuel Bürger, designer of the Digital Folklore Reader, Transmediale festival, Shake Your Tree label and other great books, records and events.

The stamp features the names of GRI founders and surfing (!) Felix, the cat that was there even before LOL cats.

Thank you, Manuel!

Geocities Research Institute Exlibris designed by Manuel Buerger

Its Christmas time IRL, but 31st of August 1998 in Geocities time — the 1st anniversary of Diana’s death. On this occasion I collected ten tribute pages to the Princess of Wales, created and last updated from the 1st of September 1997 till “today”.

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the 31st of August 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/1564/


the 30th of August 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/6060/


the 24th of June 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Gallery/3304/


the 16th of April 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/4446/


the 7th of January 1998
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Augusta/2826/


the 3rd of November 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/7034/


the 13th October 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/7161/


the 19th of September
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/9966/

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the 2nd of September 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/3339/

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the 1st of September 1997
original URL: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/6069/