Ahh, the 90’s: a time when Seinfeld and Friends were on TV, Jurassic Park and Titanic were dominating the box office, Clinton was in office, and the internet had just started to work its way into the lives of the public.
In the beginning, the internet as a whole lacked a strong sense of style or direction. Most users were amazed by its mere existence and, therefore, had fairly low expectations. Blayzer came around towards the end of the decade, but we remember the popular trends and styles of websites during the period: hit counters, animated GIFs, and stock imagery were everywhere. For a while, it was tough to find a page WITHOUT a dancing baby. In present times, you can find most of these trends on the endangered list. The Wayback Machine, a site that has been archiving screenshots of websites for nearly 20 years, gives us the power to revisit the internet of the 90’s today. Welcome to the land of dancing hamsters, embedded music and word art!
In the early days of the internet, there was no MySpace, Facebook, WordPress, Weebly or Wix. If you had a website that you called your own, it probably looked something like this:
That’s a screenshot of the infamous “Hamster Dance” meme that went viral in the late 90’s before “memes” or “going viral” were even a thing. You can thank me later for not including the music on loop.
A lot of the 90’s trends have gone extinct due to their lack of functionality. Scrolling text was a huge part of the internet of yesteryear, but with the rise of SEO, it became seen as a negative and was eliminated from most sites. Frames were another common piece of early internet design that became a victim of SEO. Search engines have a hard time reading frames, and they add to the load time of your page while increasing the number of pages you need to update.
If all else failed in the 90’s, you simply slapped on a gradient or drop shadow or beveled a few things, and your site looked “classy”. Those stylized effects have all evolved or gone away completely today. Gradients still exist but are far more subtle. Drop shadows have come a long way, too, and actually look like shadows instead of a black outline. Meanwhile, beveling and embossing things has gone away completely in favor of a more clean-cut, professional look.
With the recurring nature of trends in general, should we expect the return of hit counters, extreme gradients, and dancing babies to the World Wide Web anytime soon? We’re going to be hopeful and say probably not. Many “trends” of the 90’s era internet have simply evolved. Hit counters became obsolete when Google analytics started tracking everything about internet traffic, and animated GIFs have been replaced by live GIFs, Vines, and even YouTube videos.
This info-graphic shows just a few specific ways the internet has evolved.
Twenty years from now, we’ll probably look back at the gross overuse of memes and wonder how they were ever so popular. Do you have any predictions for what will be out of style in 20 years? Did we forget any ridiculous 90’s internet trends? Leave a comment and let us know!