We Asked People Maintaining 90s Websites 'Why?'
"I know the site looks bad. But it would make no sense if it looked good."
The internet of 20 years ago was a different place. A place of flash animation, OJ Simpson jokes, claustrophobic black backgrounds, and those sounds that dial-up modems used to make. Nowadays, that version of the internet has largely vanished, save for a few semi-abandoned sites scattered through the weeds. And we say semi-abandoned because people are still paying for the domains, and in some cases updating the content. But why?
Who are those people running ancient sites? Why do they continue? And why don't they delete their shit like everyone else?
To find out, we contacted three people running famously old sites.
Not only is Celestino Gianotti the clip director for Eiffel 65's timeless classic "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" but he's also the creator of its iconic blue alien "Zorotl" as well as the webmaster for its site, www.zorotl.com . We spoke to Celestino from his home in Italy.
VICE: Hey Celestino, why are you still maintaining an 18 year old website for that alien thing from "Blue (Da Ba Dee)"?
Celestino Gianotti: It's a piece of history so for me, it's important to continue sharing it. It's not expensive for me to maintain, and as someone who previously made music videos and is now making video games, people are able recognise my work when I propose myself for new jobs. I'm not sure if it's relevant for other people, but it is for me.
"Blue" was such a hit when it came out. Why did you create a whole website for the character Zorotl?
We wanted to grow the character into something more. There was another video we used Zorotl in, the follow-up to "Blue" was called "I Wanna Be." So we built a story about it, but unfortunately back then we were too young to manage a business like that and the project didn't grow as expected.
So you see this website as kind of a portfolio. If that's the case, why not update it?
I don't want it to look better. It would make no sense if it looked good. It's not like I'm a web developer, so I don't need to showcase my designing skills. It's a time capsule, so people can identify me and my work. If I wanted to do another video with the blue alien, okay, I'd start a new website. But I won't delete this one.
Do you have any fans who still follow the site?
The website still gets traffic, but people don't talk to me about it. I've seen posts on Reddit where people say it's a piece of shit, and in their defence it does look like a piece of shit. People are more impressed with the music video. One time, I was in London with the guys who made that video and we met some fans who told us they loved the video and gave us so much respect. In Italy however, it's different. I understand my value when I leave Italy.
Does Zorotl have any future? Will you bring him back some day?
At the moment, no. I'm working on video games and I don't have any intention to bring Zorotl back. Zorotl is a piece of my past, but I need to focus on the future and developing new characters. Maybe someday I'll make a video game with Zorotl but it's not something I'm planning.
Maddox is a former programmer for a telemarketing company, before he became a blogger and best-selling author. He's also been running an independent and fairly angry blog named http://maddox.xmission.com/ since 1997.
Hey Maddox, let's start with your ancient site. Why are you still running it?
Maddox: It's the genesis of everything I've since done. It's my outlet; my catharsis. And people are still following my content. I've got a reach of half a million fans every time I post something. But more importantly, I'm still getting hate mail.
But you know it looks shit right? Why don't you get a nice new Squarespace template like everyone else?
I know my website looks like shit but its only purpose is to deliver articles to the viewer. That's the purpose of a website. Google has that ethos. My website has that ethos. There are millions of websites that look better than mine, but they don't get any traffic.
How do you think the internet has changed since you started?
The internet has changed due to social media, which is bad because it means people are posting on things that aren't net neutral like Facebook, but the worst thing about social media is that it's given everyone a voice, which is terrible. Everyone's voice now has the same amount of worth, so your aunt's shitty opinion is treated the same as The New York Times. It's like going to a pharmacy, and having a wide variety of medicine on offer, but also some poison.
Have you met any of your fans, or anyone who's sent you hate mail?
I've met a lot of fans over the years, and some best friends and girls I dated started off as fans. Thankfully no one who has sent me hate mail has attacked me. But one time, this girl came up to me at one of my book signings and waited two hours just to tell me that she hates me. So I asked her if she wanted me to sign anything, and she didn't. That was a huge waste of her time and a small waste of mine and that's it. Oddly enough, I do have a considerable number of stalkers.
I don't know why but right now, I legitimately have five stalkers. One of them is a girl who's been emailing me every week for about five years and she's probably going to read this. She's not a threat; she's just obsessed with me and thinks I'm sending her subliminal messages via my writing, which to be fair, I am [laughs].
Are you ever going to delete the site?
I will never delete the site. I'm going to keep it going as long as I can afford to.
Nick Morrot is a 40-year-old stay at home father and software developer who has been updating the X-Files transcript website http://www.insidethex.co.uk/ for 20 years.
So Nick, why are you still maintaining an old website for X-Files transcripts?
Because there's still quite a large following. Over the space of 20 years, I've had nearly 1.5 million visits from every country minus a few in Central Africa. I still get a lot of emails from visitors all over the world and it doesn't cost much to keep the website up. People are still visiting and I feel they expect the site to still be there.
Do you feel it's still relevant though?
I do. I often get emails from fan fiction authors who use it as a resource to get as much textual information as possible. People from all over the world who didn't have access to the newer seasons of the X-Files had access to it.
Do you have much contact with your fans?
I do. One email I got recently was from someone in Turkey and they were actually using the transcripts to improve their captions for national broadcast. I also get people who visit the website regularly who tell me they use it to improve their grasp of written English. The fact is it's being used for more than just an X-Files website.
Have you ever been threatened by people running competitor X-Files sites?
Just one email in December of 1999, and it was sent to "Tiny Dancer," who was this person who ran a big X-Files archive based in Toronto. It was sent from a law firm from Beverly Hills regarding the "unlawful use of 20th Century Fox property." They copied me in with a request to remove all audio clips, video clips, and transcripts involving the X-Files, and to publicly support an X-Files book that Fox published. I replied saying "I've got nothing to do with the site you're talking about" and I never heard anything back.
When will the website be complete?
In its current form, I guess when all the episodes are available to read. When that's done, I'll be happy to keep it there as a testament to the show. If one or two people were visiting a week, then that'd be different. I'd be more inclined to call it a day but because I'm still getting 10,000 hits a month, I'll continue to keep it up.
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