Global interest in the computing history is growing. One large part of our technological evolution is the Internet that helped bring so many people together. As early online services evolved over time, many of them disappeared and went extinct. We did not want an important part of our cultural heritage disappear, so around 2011 a long term project started with the goal of preserving and restoring a part of the Internet that existed in it’s early days. Through Protoweb we are bringing these resources as a service to the general public.

Web from the 90s

We chose to preserve web sites mostly from around mid-to-late 1990’s. There are several reasons this timeline was chosen. Around this time, the internet experienced a strong global expansion, with half the population in the US accessing the Internet on a regular basis. 

With the first wave of expansion, many people had their first experience of surfing the Internet. As the online user base grew, many forward-looking individuals and businesses realized the potential of the Internet, and put their presence online. 

Interactive Museum - not a file archive

Our service is an evolution of other web archival projects in some key aspects.
  1. We recreate the 1990’s Internet browsing experience as a whole, with a focus on the browsing experience.
  2. Web sites are restored in an effort to make them entirely functional. Protoweb can be used to study the formation of the World Wide Web and in a variety of other ways, including interactive computing museum exhibits showcasing the early Internet, or for personal vintage surfing experiences.
  3. Web sites are fully browsable with any computer, and even with period correct hardware. 
  4. Download links really work. If you find a game or a piece of software, you can download them straight onto your retro PC. 
  5. Interactive website content, such as web searches, visitor counters, chats and web rings are functional, and more online services are being added.
  6. Historical archives such as the Internet Archive are utilized to restore file download links, including software drivers, applications and games.

The project’s aim is to emulate the look and feel of the early Internet and keep preserved content historically accurate to provide a guide for future generations. We prioritize the accessibility of our service, and put a lot of effort in making the website appear as if they were still online, including work put into restoring interactive website features, such as website counters, search engines, chats, web rings, guest books, etc…)

It is a service that can be utilized by computing history organizations for purposes of demonstrating the early World Wide Web, and by vintage computer enthusiasts. It allows users and interested parties to browse the Internet with classic web browsers. That is the essence of the Protoweb platform. New classic web sites are continuously being brought back online thanks to the Internet history enthusiasts who are working hard to rebuild the Internet of the past.

Quality over Quantity

Protoweb wasn’t created to be an all-encompassing archive of data. It’s purpose is mainly to focus on accuracy of the user experience and present web pages as close as possible to original to the user. Over time the list of accessible websites has grown as our amazing team of volunteers rebuild and restore them using many sources. Emphasis is placed on finding and restoring resources that are extinct, or are at risk of becoming extinct. Online services that no longer exist today are brought back on Protoweb along with pages that link to them. All online resources on Protoweb are publicly available and are free to use.

A team effort to preserve the past

The project is no minor undertaking, however at ProtoWeb, we remain committed to our work in restoring the classic web back to its former glory. The project would not be possible without our volunteers’ help. If you have websites you would like to add to the service, or classic resources, data archives, please contact us! Please follow the social media links at the bottom of the page to get in touch. We greatly appreciate the help of our fellow digital curators.