Browse the web like you would have done 20 years ago

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 4, 2015

I'm not sure why anyone would want to go back to the early days of the Internet, but if you do, you can relive that past even more accurately by using an old web browser on top of it.

Probably the best option to check out how a website looked ten or twenty years ago is to head over to the Internet Archive as it stores snapshots of websites in the archive.

If you wanted to know how Ghacks looked like in 2005, you'd just have to enter the address of the site to get started and pick one of the available snapshot dates afterwards.

Oldweb adds on top of that the emulation of old browsers such as Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer 4 or NSCA Mosaic so that you can embrace the past fully.

The service is swarmed by users currently and you may very well get added to a queue before the selected page is rendered in the selected browser.

The emulated browsers are not just a shell either as you can use all buttons and features they provide. You may click on the url field to open another web address, open the options, or make other changes to the browser.

Sessions are limited to 10 minutes however and if you are not finished in that time, you may need to refresh to start a new browsing session.

The service is rather slow currently which likely comes from its popularity currently and not from the fact that you are using old browser versions.

It has been designed for entertainment purposes and it serves that purpose well. While you may be able to get some insights on the Web ten or twenty years ago, it is usually faster to head over to the Internet Archive directly. Yes, those old browsers may add that special feeling to the process but that would work better if the site would not be that slow.

If you need to use older browsers, you may want to consider downloading old versions instead and using virtualization (for security) and the Internet Archive for the same experience. Mozilla offers all Firefox releases on its public FTP site for instance so that you can check out how today's web or the web in the past work in those browsers.

Now You: Is there anything that you miss from the old web?

Browse the web like you would have done 20 years ago
Article Name
Browse the web like you would have done 20 years ago
Relive the past by browsing websites with browsers that you would have used ten or more years ago.

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  1. kalmly said on December 5, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    We were not bombarded by advertising. No horrible little ad munchkins jumping around and flashing. No Dictator Google.

  2. Dwight Stegall said on December 5, 2015 at 4:38 am

    I miss Geopages later called Geocities, HTML Chats, IRC was much better then because millions more used it. I miss gopher:// and news:// and Netscape browser. I always swore I wouldn’t use an editor to write HTML & CSS. But it’s getting so complicated now I don’t see a choice.

    1. Andrew said on December 5, 2015 at 10:37 am

      I still find it interesting that angelfire is still around.

      But yeah HTML chats were pretty cool, especially WBS, I use to chat there all the time back in the day.

  3. An old Fart... said on December 5, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Good Grief! You young people today have no idea about technology and talk about the “good ol’ days” of the 1990’s!

    I remember the internet when it was powered by carrier pigeon. And it worked great until one of the birds stopped to catch a worm or even worse got caught by cat. Then we’d have to reset the whole “shebang” and start over.

    And we were damn lucky to have that technology! It sure beat the hell out of sending information via clay tablets.

    When I was your age…

  4. Andrew said on December 4, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Whoa in 1996…

    I think the thing that I miss the most about the old web is how creative and mysterious it was. I mean before Google (or altavista) you were really limited on what you can search, and it was always like an adventure when your sufing the web. Not to mention that privacy wasn’t as much of an issue as it is now, and the internet was really a luxury, because you had to tie up a phone line and it wasn’t that cheap. That and when you wanted to chat online with your friends, you’d just log onto AOL to see if any of them were on.

    Course, everything looks better through the eyes of nostalgia.

  5. Tom Hawack said on December 4, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Nostalgia, fun, comparison. I remember discovering Windows 3.1, I remember a friend explaining me how PIFs worked, I recall my apprehension to switch from Win95 to XP…. and all this is fun and fertile for comparisons. But in NO way would I have pleasure — now that I know, now that we have better — to even use those old interfaces. No way! The whole layout of those antique, valuable, mighty (forget “mighty”!) predecessors seems so childish, basic, primitive. I know it was fantastic then and I don’t live progress as a credo but… when it’s better it’s… better! And as far as interfaces and ease of use are concerned having a look back fills me but with the sweet feelings of nostalgia….
    Wonder how tomorrow’s digital era will consider ours. The most elaborated matter is an antique piece of work in progress.

  6. Paul(us) said on December 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    The messages on the web page from oldweb today is “478 People waiting for you!”.
    “No thank you that is not for today!” I thought wright away and “I will be old and gray before its main turn”

  7. IAmTheWolf said on December 4, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Not sure why the archive site address was not included, but here is the link for the WayBack machine

  8. DaveyK said on December 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    >> Is there anything that you miss from the old web?

    Oh yes. I miss simple and efficient web pages which don’t require huge gobs of processing power to render.

    Some modern sites are truly terrible with huge amounts of horribly inefficient Javascript, resulting in a site which takes ages to load, ages to display, and pegs one of my CPU cores at 100% for several seconds. When it comes to performance and efficiency, some of today’s sites are truly awfully written.

    In comparison incidentally, GHacks is nice and quick. Just thought I’d better mention that :)

    1. Croatoan said on December 4, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      I totally agree with you about Ghacks. Ghacks loads near instantly (and I have 4 Mbit internet). I wish that all websites load so quickly.

  9. Tamblyn said on December 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    > “I’m not sure why anyone would want to go back to the early days of the Internet…”

    Perhaps for security & privacy benefits of simpler technology.

    The old Text-Only-Browsers, for example, permitted only bare minimum input to one’s PC/Browser from remote servers. Much less opportunity for mischief by the outside world to your PC. Simple browsers have fewer doorways and attack vectors.
    Basic, effective communication does not require exotic internet interfaces in many cases.

    And why do many movie buffs still enjoy old Black & White films when there’s so much super-duper color, 3D, widescreen, digital enhanced, quadraphonic Hollywood production available? Why are old vinyl LP music recordings still popular?

    1. Lurking Again said on December 6, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      The KISS method is always valid for any web page. Far too often, something is implemented because is it “cool” looking that does not enhance the purpose of the page or site. I can remember a period where it seemed like every site had an idiotic flash animation one had to endure before entering the site.

    2. Tom Hawack said on December 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      I understand your comment and I agree, but to a certain point : computers, digital data are tools, not art. I totally agree as I “feel” what you mean when you evoke Black & White films, vinyl recordings, in the same way I love to see those old, antique oldsmobiles in the streets of La Havana, but that’s art! And this artistic approach is so fundamental that nowadays users require more and more the look, the aesthetic of an application to be pleasant as possible. And this quest is everywhere, even in lodging, architecture.

      So I agree that the progress of technology may sometimes impose itself excessively as if it was the hero of the play and may consequently, sometimes (too often) serve a poor play, an empty scenario, a dull picture’s theme, a tasteless audio recording… but at the same time when you compare images from Google Street View filmed only 10 years ago with the most recent ones you feel the difference and prefer the latest images.

      So, when technology serves in that it serves the rendering, makes an interface easier, is lead by a display organization smarter, more fluid and often prettier than in the era of pure functionality, I approve. But when it becomes the aim for itself, I disapprove. This said, between “Casablanca” and “Star Wars”, no doubt the former is my preference; but not only because it’s in B&W, not because it’s old, but mainly because it is, it narrates a story, a dense story which leads us to thoughts and not to hysteria… that’s another topic nevertheless :)

  10. Xibula said on December 4, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    you don’t need to
    just use Firefox 42 and see no meaningful changes under the hood (multiprocess) as it was 10 years ago

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