I was just looking around on the web. No, not really wandering, In prep for an upcoming talk where I want to put the web of 1996 in context, I googled for popular Songs of 1996 (notice the typo!).

Note the top result, above Wikipedia, above some commercial site:

popular songs

As it turns out, this site from a guy named Bob has some sort of index of Billboard’s chart topping music from each year including 1996 (everyone sing Los Del Rio’s Macarena) (sorry for the ear worm).

Bob came in above Billboard themselves.

He even has a script that plays a medley of those 1996 chart toppers.

Who is Bob?

Just a guy with his own domain and web site.

bob borst

My name is Bob Borst, I live in Ithaca, NY and I’m the webmaster at the CBORD Group, a local software company.

When I am not tinkering around with HTML, CSS, ASP, XML and other assorted web acronyms, I enjoy immersing myself in various aspects of pop culture past and present. I’m still working on the pop culture of the future.

This site will deal with my main interests, pop culture and web development. Various tools, games, lists, and puzzles will be posted. I hope you find them useful and/or at least mildly amusing!


He’s got a thing that gives you the number 1 song on any day. I can plug in my birthdate and find not only that the day I poked my head out of the womb, Peggy March’s I Will Follow Him was number 1.

I also get what was #1 on every year after that, for my last birthday I got the Happy song from Pharell Williams, and again, a link that generates a medley. Oh, and my own birth year song as a dynamic generated image.

Bob has a whole treasure trove of things he has built related to pop culture.

I love Bob’s site. It’s everything an individual’s digital presence online ought to be.

With so many small business making Facebook Pages their primary presence, I worry that so many people letting their blogs slide idle, let their old domains expire as their attention goes into not only Facebook but Google+ and Twitter and Instagram… and all the other places that want you to put your stuff inside of theirs.

I’ve had people send me links to such “great tools” app focused ones like “nutshell” or “Croak It” I see the allure of easy. And I am not against easy tools. And I am not saying everything needs to be reclaimed, I end up giving my information trails to the Google Borg.

Yet I look at what a gift, a gem, a unique space is like Bob’s and wonder if sometime in the future I might look back on it the same way we do now about GeoCities, one of the more popular services in the 1990s that spawned the concept of individual digital spaces.

But Geocities was sold, and mothballed, and only for the virtues of folks like the Archive Team and the Wayback Machine can I even show it to you


The concept, ethos of Geocities (before Yahoo bought it all lock stock and quirky neighborhood) is spelled out in one of their 1996 FAQ archived snapshots

Since you’ve gotten this far, you’ve already discovered the power of the Web and its incredible potential for changing the way we work, live and play. One of the main reasons for this is that the Web promotes the free flowing exchange of ideas and information among all citizens on the Internet. The Web has flourished because technology has provided us with a way to link people and their ideas together in a way that was never possible before.
We aspire to be positive contributors to this new culture. We’re committed to developing innovative ways to foster the spirit of community that is so vital to the future success of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Our philosophy has always been that locations on the Internet become easier to relate to when they are rich with content and closely identified with an actual idea or location. In support of this belief and in keeping with the culture of the Internet, we’ve developed a free Personal Home Page program.

Have we pawned the idea of “rich content closely related to ideas” for the “because everybody is on facebook” and “it’s easy, my ________ can do it”? Bob could not offer his treasures of pop culture at all like he does on his site inside of facebook. Well unless Facebook decides to buy his stuff and make it their own.

We’ve committed sufficient disk space and bandwidth to support hundreds of neighborhoods, and we are looking for individuals who are ready to sign-up and create their own Personal Home Page.

Yahoo’s link that supposedly announced the end of Geocities? It now just goes to their cheap web hosting plans

Our homesteading initiative is just the first step in building World Wide Web based communities that are destined to become a vital part of the Net. Please send us an E-Mail if you’re interested in learning more about helping build the societies of the New Frontier.

Just for fun I am trying an email

geocities email

The thing that is obviously different was that in the 1990s, this concept was hinged on a company providing the homesteading. The tools, ISPs, services, capabilities were not available. And thus the future of that web ended up fragile to the whims of Yahoo.

Twas not just the quaint web of the 1990s– how about Posterous.com, a fantastic service where many expressed themselves, bought by twitter in 2013, and completely eviscerated from the web. Every old link cut off and left to die in 404 land.

Google Helpouts just got its own wooden stake self inserted., less than two years old.


It’s not a web we lost it is one we are giving up, walking away from. For convenience, or ease of use, or because “everyone else is doing X”.

“It’s too hard to reclaim?” It’s too easy to give away your own content.

It’s not about total reclamation, but what I call “co-claiming

I had an interesting twitter exchange with Lee; she tweeted a post about someone lamenting the loss of all their blog posts

But the loss only was because they made no space of their own as an anchor. I do not preclude publishing on other web sites, but my domain is my core, my outboard brain, my memory palace.

What a funny belief that some company is going to host your stuff for free forever? What is the precedent for that idea?

I am able to find these tweets because I co-claimed them.

It’s why I give Justin a hard time

I’d guess that Bob is pretty dedicated to his digital Bob space.

As I am here.

Put that in your “like” and +1 it.

Your wholesale donation of your media, your content, your you-ness, to social media warehouses are closer to the future Geocities in terms of destiny than Bob and my places.

Top / featured image credit: cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by me: http://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/9891167554 yes it is on flickr but I maintain the master archive at home and my own sites.

I co-claim therefor I am.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Still smarting about posterous. The pull of Medium is strong for some folk (my lack of writing skills saves me). I wonder did you notice this:
    Interesting ’cause the content stays with me, on my box, in dropbox, but is displayed somewhere else.
    A sort of truwriter in a way. A browser form, that saved to your dropbox and made a link could build a medium like site where folks content is completely on their own hardware (with dropbox backups).

    1. I’m wary of medium. If I do write anything there it will be a copy of what I’ve written on my own site. It will not last.

      No had not seen myword. Need to look close. Not so keen in writing json (or Markdown for that matter). Could be a tad fragile if someone dumps or cleans their Dropbox? And can you render it w/o the myword site? Yeah you’d have your content but how valuable is a pile of json?

  2. Yes, writing json not that much fun. I quite like markdown and sometimes use it for drafting posts.
    I guess TruWriter is sort of like medium as you have no connection to the data. I was thinking of a TruWriter/medium style site that you hold onto your own data ( not necessarily on dropbox, not necessarily in json). Just musing really. Some interesting developments happening.

    1. It’s an interesting approach, different approach for writing. I still wonder about the longer term durability.

      Yes, in a way I guess The TRU Writer is yet another silo. But its not managed by a commercial entity, and is easily set up for one own’s use. But the real aim is to make it dead simple to publish for people who do not do much web writing. I see it sort of that co-claim middle. Or I am just barking smoke.

  3. Hi Alan,
    I am definitely not pushing against TRU Writer. The ability of any group or person to use your stuff set up a medium like frictionless writing spaces is great.
    I am Just sniffing round various things that are probably to hard for me to fully understand but are fun anyhow. Probably using you comments when I should be blogging;)

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