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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Did I just shut down the oldest site on the web?


Yesterday morning I turned off a site I believe had a legitimate claim of being the oldest active site on the web. By "site", I don't mean the URL, or the software that it was running, or the hardware it was running on, but the actual site files - the HTML and related data that define what the site looks like when you visit it. Let me explain...

I first set up my personal web site in late 1992 or early 1993. At that time, the web was small enough that there were still people maintaining - manually, no less - lists of every site on the web. A fast connection for your home computer was a  9600 baud modem, though a few lucky people had 14,400 baud modems. DSL existed, but wasn't generally available - anyone with something faster than a phone line was more likely to have ISDN or Frame Relay, costing hundreds of dollars a month.

So the site www.phone.net launched, served by a port of NCSA httpd running on an Amiga 3000 at the end of a 9600 baud SLIP line. Since then, it's been hosted at an ISP twice while I moved, the server software has changed three times - including a high-performance (for the time) Amiga-specific server I wrote for the purpose, it's changed to four different internet connection technologies, the hardware has been upgraded at least four times (I lost count - it's been most of two decades!), it's moved four times to three different states and both coasts, and had the domain changed to www.mired.org.

During that time, the HTML for the site has remained largely unchanged. The most significant change was in 1994 when I started consulting, and the site was reorganized to allow sections for the consulting business and individual users. Later, after XML was created and a new version of HTML based on that standard, instead of SGML, appeared, the HTML on the site was tweaked to conform to XHTML instead of SGML with arbitrary, browser-dependent restrictions. In neither case did the basic site design or appearance change.

So - I just shut down an 18 year old web site. That's older than most of the URL's on the web, much less the software and hardware serving them. Anyone know of another site whose design has been neglected for that long that still remains active?