Unlike most Internet destinations, official movie websites are useful for a brief moment in time—making them a perfect capsule of a specific moment in Internet history. Like all promotional material, movie sites lose value not long after a film's release. Yet, unlike a Times Square billboard, these sites (at least sometimes) neither get revamped nor get taken down because space out here is seemingly infinite and comparatively cheap. When faced with a choice to take down or continue hosting a site, movie studios probably figure, why bother removing them at all?
Thus we get these neglected pieces of Internet floating around the Web, like this untouched You've Got Mail site, which came to our attention through Twitter following writer-director Nora Ephron's death Tuesday. With its 1998 release date, the website gives us a frozen-in-amber look at the what 1998 Internet looked like. (And this site is oh-so 1998.) Though many movie websites get taken down or have expired domains, we've found a handful of relics still out there, through which we can learn all about our Internet past.
Mid '90s: The Originals
A little Internet research says the 1994 movie Stargate has the honor of putting up the first ever online promotional website. That historical site, however, no longer exists. As a look at early websites as promotional material, however, we discovered this Nickelodeon site for Amanda Bynes' All That persona. (We know, this is a TV show, but it still provides a look into early Internet promotional material.) It is from the late '90s, but done in the style of those from earlier in the decade.* Like early websites, this one didn't use space very well. The bulk of the page is that background wallpaper -- a fad of the moment. And all the links flank that square, which only takes up about one quarter of the site. As for design, it's complete with an early '90s animated GIF headline -- that Amanda Please logo jiggles and sparkles and also has some grating automatic jingle -- something that will become a hallmark of movie websites. (Yay!).