Here’s What These 13 Popular Websites Looked Like When They First Launched


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Website design has changed a lot in the last decades. Things used to be much simpler and more boxy, with a lot more plain text. Twenty or thirty years ago, the internet was still very young, and so were many of our favorite and most-visited websites.

We did a little internet archeology using the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive, a site that keeps a record of what websites used to look like. Here’s what some of the most popular websites on the internet looked like when they were launched. (Prepare for some serious nostalgia!)

Image Credit: Cheapism / McDonald’s / Facebook / Internet Archive.

1. Google, 1998

Google has always had a minimalist theme, and that rainbow-lettered logo is unmistakable, even back in 1998. Technically, this is the second Google website, but the first, published one month earlier, was just text linking to the “Google Search Engine Prototype” and the “Might-work-some-of-the-time-prototype that is much more up to date.” And you can see an earlier alpha version from 1997 here when the domain was first registered but Google the company didn’t technically exist yet.

Image Credit: Google / Internet Archive.

2. AOL, 1996

Remember AOL Instant Messenger (a.k.a. AIM)? And all those countless CDs AOL used to send you in the mail to sign up for internet service? The first iteration of from 1996 is just as nostalgic. We wonder if they ever got that “marginal behavior” online thing figured out…

Image Credit: AOL / Internet Archive.

3. CNN, 1995

CNN felt like a jumble when it was first launched, but it’s also an interesting time capsule of what was going on in August 1995. The country was still captivated by the O.J. Simpson trial while the “Balkan conflict rages.” Critics were also warning of “multimedia ‘hell'” while CNN helpfully reminded us that this website could be “accessed from a home or work computer.” How quaint.

Image Credit: CNN.

4. Fox News, 1996

Fox News was designed for much smaller screens when it launched in 1996. Like CNN, it’s also a tiny time capsule of what was going on in the world at the time. 

Image Credit: Fox News / Internet Archive.

5. Amazon, 1995

Considering everything you can get on Amazon now, it’s almost hard to believe that it started out as a “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” 29 years ago. It had one million titles you could search through, and a river-like logo on a very austere site. Before settling on the name Amazon, Jeff Bezos reportedly considered Cadabra, but his attorney convinced him it sounded too much like cadaver. 

Image Credit: Amazon / Version Museum / Restored by Taran Van Hemert.

6. eBay, 1997

The other big commerce website of our younger days, eBay, also feels similar to its contemporary counterpart. (The company started as AuctionWeb in 1995, but rebranded as eBay in 1997 and pictured here two years later) The multicolor logo is very close to its current logo, and it makes us want to bid on weird stuff like a gorilla-shaped Cheeto. The Netscape and AOL ads feel very nostalgic, too.

Image Credit: eBay / Internet Archive.

7. Facebook, 2004

Facebook actually started out with the URL in 2004 as a way for Harvard students to connect with each other. The extra “The” in the company’s name didn’t get dropped until a year later in 2005. Soon, it was opened to students at other colleges, and anyone with an email address was able to sign up in 2006.

Image Credit: Facebook / Internet Archive.

8. MSN, 1995

Early MSN looks pretty dull compared to the information- and photo-filled homepage of today. The “Custom Start Page” is still a helpful feature that’s going strong, though. (If you’re curious about what that “Internet tutorial” is like, it’s just as quaint as you imagine.)

Image Credit: MSN / Internet Archive.

9. Yahoo, 1995

Yahoo launched as a website to help people navigate the early internet. Besides the typical web search we’re all used to now, there was also a link to Yellow Pages and something called “people search.” Under those tools were links to categories of websites you could browse, like magazines, news, and economics. (You can see an earlier version from the previous year when the site was still hosted on the Stanford servers.)

Image Credit: Yahoo / Internet Archive.

10. The White House, 1995

The White House’s website launched in 1994 (pictured here the following year). It included links for information on the President and the First Family, federal information, White House tour info and history, and welcome messages from the President and Vice President. It was pretty basic, but you better believe there was a guestbook to sign.

Image Credit: National Archives.

11. McDonald’s, 1996

McDonald’s earliest website is adorable. It looks like you’re actually standing inside a McD’s location with Ronald greeting you and some teenagers working. The restaurant’s menu board is where the links are located, and you click on Ronald if you need help. It’s all very kid-oriented and extremely wholesome.

Image Credit: McDonald’s / Internet Archive.

12. Walmart, 2000

Walmart stores were already going strong when the company launched its website in 2000. You could shop online there right from the beginning, and some of those items and prices are a trip. (We bet that exclusive Backstreet Boys performance was really good.)

Image Credit: Walmart / Internet Archive.

13. New York Times, 1996

The first New York Times website was made to look similar to its print edition. Once again it’s designed for very small computer screens, though this one has a very helpful “please open your window to the width of this line of text” at the bottom in case you didn’t know how browser windows worked.

Image Credit: New York Times / Internet Archive.