In a recent e-mail exchange, a friend ended a conversation by noting “Just when you thought that the interwebs couldn’t get any stupider . . . ”
But, of course, we both know that the interwebs will invariably generate something even stupider at some point, and we will invariably spend way too much time looking at it and laughing. I know this for a fact, because having been online since the early ’90s, I’ve watched a lot of entertaining internet stupidity over the years.
My friend’s comment got me to pondering some of my favorites from way back when, before instant indexing and social media and simple blogging software and organized web portals made it relatively easy for things to go viral and gain large, instant audiences. Once upon a time, you had to look to find the stupid online, and it was totally worth it when you found it, since you’d really earned the right to giggle like an idiot.
So here are a dozen of my favorite classic time-wasters, in various flavors and shades of stupid or sublime, from those earlier days of the world wide web:
zombo.com: (Sound required). From around 1999, and still possibly the greatest website ever, because you can do anything there!
Alkulukuja Paskova Karhu : (Sound required, mild language warning). Is there’s a better way to teach kids about this particular aspect of mathematics? I do not believe that there is.
snarg: (Sound required). This goes back to about 1995 or 1996, and it is one of the first things I saw online that made me thing that the internet could actually serve as a platform for creating legitimate art. Click around and explore: there’s a synthesizer so you can adjust the music, lots of cool popups and pretty images, and a hidden message board so you can let folks know you were there.
Frog in a Blender: (Sound required). I’m guessing this is among the most well-known items in my list, since it was one of the first interactive Flash animations that was widely shared online at the time, and it launched the Joe Cartoon brand. Still funny. Still wrong.
Annoy the Little Man: (Sound required). This originally appeared on futile.com, which was an amazing portal of time-wasting internet stupidity back in the day, where the Little Man was joined by other pointless gems, like Squish the Bug. I should probably be embarrassed to admit how many times I annoyed the Little Man and squished the bug. Heh heh. Heh. Heh heh heh.
The Stinky Meat Project : Answers the immortal question: “What happens if I leave some hot dogs, a steak, and some hamburger in my neighbor’s back yard for a couple of weeks?”
hell.com : The original website is no longer online or available, so I’ve linked to the Wikipedia article about it instead. What happened at hell.com? Absolutely nothing, for years and years and years. But there was just enough interactivity, and just enough text about membership and secret stuff, that it made you feel like if only you could find the right combination of clicks, you’d enter some amazing Internet Kingdom of the Damned. But you couldn’t, and it didn’t, though you kept on trying . . . for years and years and years . . .
Superbad : One of the first sites that specialized in massive cross-linking of seemingly unrelated images and texts, creating something of an art statement that was greater than the sum of its parts. I kept trying to get to the end of it, and am not sure I ever did.
Applied Solipsism Campaign : Website banners were a hot thing online for a few years. These were the only ones that I flew on my websites, much to my own amusement.
Flame Warriors : I watched the database of Flame Warriors being compiled in real time, one warrior at a time, many of them suggested by readers. The concept was originally themed around online message boards and forums, but it applies just as well to today’s unmoderated blog comment pages.
Tolkien Sarcasm Page : If you understand why this is hilarious, then you are a dork. Welcome to the club.
We Like the Moon: (Sound required). The Spongmonkeys are terrifying and cute in equal measure, and their little song about some of their favorite things is a weird masterpiece.