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10 Old Internet Trends from Back in the Day

A Look Back on All the Sites and Tools We Once Used on a Regular Basis

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Trends on the Internet are constantly changing, and those changes tend to happen extremely fast. A website or social network that was cool last year is probably at least a little less cool today. That’s just the way it goes when it comes to web culture and better technology. We get bored and move on to newer, cooler things.

The Internet is still young, but we’ve already seen a whole bunch of sites, tools and social trends peak in user numbers and then slowly die right before our eyes. So here’s a blast from the past of some of our most beloved Internet trends we once knew and loved so many years ago – yet hardly even remember today.

1. Geocities

Photo © Yahoo! Geocities
There was a time when it seemed like every single person embracing this new thing called “the Internet” had a really colorful, flashy site hosted for free by Geocities, Angelfire or Tripod. Almost everyone’s site resembled a high-tech disco party of poorly thought out color schemes, HTML frames up the whazoo and really bad animated GIFs that made no sense. Sadly, Geocities.com has been taken offline and buried forever in the past. It was fun while it lasted. Good old Geocities. We’ll never forget you.

2. ICQ

Photo © ICQ LLC
ICQ debuted in 1996 as the very first instant messaging platform. When people figured out that you could sign up and add actual people you knew to your own friend list so you could chat in real-time, it was a pretty big deal. People eventually moved on to other popular messenger apps like AIM, MSN and others, but believe it or not -- ICQ is actually still alive today. In fact, you can even get it on your mobile device. Although nobody really talks about using it much anymore, it’s done slightly alright in terms of keeping up with the times.

3. Hotmail

Photo © MSN / Windows Live Hotmail
Most of us associate Hotmail with the rise of Internet use and email in the mid to late 90s. A significant number of us Gen Yers created horrible addresses like sexy_devil_1988 (at) hotmail (dot) com without thinking twice, and spent a lot of time sending out fake chain letters and messages that asked you to stare at a picture of a room for 30 seconds before a creepy zombie-like face would suddenly appear. Hotmail is actually still around today, but it was recently sort of revamped by Microsoft with the launch of Outlook.com.

4. Neopets

Photo © Neopets, Inc.
In the 90s, there was a huge trend with the whole “virtual pet” idea. After Tamagochis kind of had their run, the rise of the Internet gave way to something new: Neopets – a site launched in 1999 where you could take care of virtual pets and purchase virtual items for them to use in gaming against other users. Some people consider it to be one of the very first, true social networks of the web. The site is still up, and looks just as fun as ever. In 2011, Neopets announced that since it was first created, the site passed one trillion page views.

5. Napster

Photo © Napster / Rhapsody
Napster was the very first peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network that essentially rattled the music and entertainment industry. Most of remember it well. Free music? Yes please. Today, Napster is part of music streaming service Rhapsody. Although Napster really helped kick-off the digital and Internet-based music trend, it went through legal stuff to get us to where we are now. Cloud-based music services like Spotify and Rdio now offer us a new and totally legal way to enjoy music.

6. Friendster

Photo © Friendster, Inc.
Ah, yes. Friendster. The “original Facebook” as some have called it. It first launched in 2002 and attracted tens of millions of users who could connect with another, communicate and share their interests. Although it was considered to be one of the very first social networks, it never managed to maintain its popularity much further into the 2000s – especially as rival Facebook started exploding online. Surprisingly, people still use Friendster these days. That’s right, it’s still alive. Friendster.com.

7. Altavista

Photo © Yahoo! / Altavista
It’s hard to recall a time before Google used to be the go-to search engine for everything. But before Google got as big as it has in the 2000s, we had a lot of other options to search for stuff. Altavista was one of them. Owned by Yahoo!, Altavista’s search engine was shut down in 2011 for failing to keep up with the competition. You can still visit Altavista.com, however punching any keyword into it will return results from the Yahoo! Search engine.

8. Netscape

Photo © AOL, Inc.
Remember when every single PC had a Netscape shortcut on its desktop to surf the web? Back then, Netscape held the majority of the web browser market. That's right. Boy, have the times ever changed since then. By the end of 2006, Netscape went from 90 percent browser usage to less than one percent. It was buried for good in 2008. Today, AOL uses the Netscape domain and brand name to market its own news content.

9. Myspace

Photo © Myspace
Oh, Myspace. Now we’re talking social networking. Compared to most of the sites and tools that made this list, Myspace is actually doing remarkably well. Before Facebook, it was a magical place that people could use to connect with custom-designed pages. A lot of artists and musicians still use the platform to promote their work and connect with their friends. But are we all so totally over Myspace now? We’re not too sure just yet. It was recently given a total UI overhaul, with Justin Timberlake backing up this “new” kind of Myspace. We’ll keep you updated on this one.

10. MSN Messenger

Photo © Windows Live Messenger / Microsoft
MSN Messenger (or Windows Live Messenger) is what got me through my university years. Before we had Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with family and friends, we had MSN Messenger. For 14 years, it was the preferred messenger of choice for many of us. As of March 15, 2013, the service will be shut down for good. Users are being encouraged to take their all their messaging needs over to Skype instead. End of an era!
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