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“Just as soon as the material is produced…”

Posted 8th July 2016

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Please join me, as we take a trip back in time through to the early days of the web. Mind your head on that <blink> tag.

Old websites which have (brilliantly) managed to cling to being online have been endlessly discussed; the Warner Bros Space Jam site from 1996 is the classic example. Abandoned projects online are nothing new either, although they endlessly fascinate me. The saddest example I can think of is the Save TV Centre Studios campaign – last updated in 2013, with absolutely no admission that hey, it didn’t work out, but they tried their best.1

I think I may have found the most perfect combination of both, however. Behold: Exposure, “The How-To eZine Covering The Art Of Illusion”. Oh, it’s all there. Six illusionists listed on the front page, all promising to give their secrets… only two of which are links. And when you visit the David Copperfield section, you’re greeted with a list of all his tricks… precisely none of which are clickable, or have any content whatsoever. In fact, there is only one single piece of content on the entire site.

But the real beauty comes when looking at the What’s New page. Please forgive me if I just quote all of it.

October 9, 1997 – EXPOSURE gets an overhaul. A new home page now shows some of the magicians that will be featured. Although David Copperfield is an active link, there are no illusions available for viewing – just a list of his television specials with a sub list of the illusions in each special. The illusions will have active links just as soon as the material is produced. The David Blaine link now includes an illusion breakdown of his recent television special, Street Magic. At this moment, the only available illusion is the Balducci Levitation. Others will be made available just as soon as the material is produced.

September 15, 1997 – EXPOSURE goes online, thanks to free web hosting from GeoCities. The Balducci Levitation is the only illusion available.

Yep, that’s it. A grand total of two updates… both done in 1997. Nearly 19 years ago.

And that’s odd. A site going online in 1997, having a total of two updates, and then being swiftly abandoned wasn’t exactly rare. But the fact the site is still online certainly is. Even more weirdly, the site was obviously originally hosted on Geocities, which has obviously long since closed – but the author bothered to find new hosting, buy a proper domain name for the site, and then continue to do nothing else with the site. Not even remove the little Geocities GIFs. Just to make things even stranger, through checking archive.org it appears the site had some inconsequential changes made in 1999, but the currently online site is an earlier version!

A bit of research indicates that the domain name was bought in 2005, although it seems to have only been active since 2010. Geocities closed in 2009. So it seems that the site was created in 1997, sat idle on Geocities for years until Geocities closed, then moved to its own hosting… but still with no updates whatsoever.

An old site falling off the web is a shame, but understandable. An active site moving hosts and continuing to be updated is understandable. Even an inactive site which has a huge archive of material moving hosts and staying online is understandable. But a website with no content, which is never updated, suddenly moving hosts after years, but still completely abandoned?

That’s just weird. Maybe someone’s got a magic trick up their sleeve and are just playing a really long game.

  1. I have never abandoned a project online, of course. 

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Micael on 8 July 2016 @ 10pm

I could describe it as an emotional attachment, but at the same time some feeling of remorse. It’s very hard to explain but I feel about same with sites I made (long time? Some time? It’s even hard or shameful to myself to put a time to it)

Dave Jeffery on 19 July 2016 @ 7am

I keep thinking about a possible explanations for this and, as always, my theories just get dafter. My most idiotic speculation so far is that the site was designed to be used in conjunction with a shortwave numbers station and spooks are keeping it alive.