Much of the internet in the early 2000s was defined by websites that ushered people into a new age of social media and online entertainment.
Take Friendster for example – the massively popular site became a household name before MySpace, and then Facebook overtook both of them as the most popular social network.
Friendster is no longer in service, but plenty of the sites that defined the early 2000s are still around, albeit in somewhat different forms.
Here’s what they’re doing now.
MySpace was massively popular in the mid-2000s as a social media competitor to Friendster, before Facebook came out.
Like Facebook, each user had their own wall, where strangers and friends could post comments. The draw was customization – every user could decorate their page and post their own music and blog posts on the site.
MySpace has completely changed since then. The company rebranded and relaunched in 2013, with an emphasis on hitting catering to musicians and record labels.
The site has its own app, which allows users to curate playlists that they can listen to via a player on the bottom of the screen. Unlike Facebook, users make “connections,” not friends, and radio stations and music videos are given the spotlight on the site.
Match.com was one of the first dating sites in the world, launched in 1995. Much of the site’s features – a personal dating profile, the use of big data to narrow down potential partners, and the ability to message with potential partners – have been replicated by competitors in years since.
Today, Match.com still has many of the same features. Not much has changed other than the design, which was updated to be more mobile responsive and feature more photos. The service and some of its basic features are mostly free, but users can also opt for a paid membership to make their profiles stand out or send each other messages.
When registering, users are still asked to go through over a dozen pages of questions – about their desired physical attributes, interests, and ideal salary ranges – to narrow down the pool of potential suitors.
While those pages are skippable, Match.com’s setup process is much less accessible than that of OkCupid, where assembling a basic profile only takes just five minutes and only requires three questions (which you can also skip). Tinder‘s registration process is even easier, since it only involves a Facebook login. Both those services offer free messaging, a significant advantage over Match.com.
LiveJournal was a haven for adolescent blogging in the late 2000s. The site became popular for having both personal blogs (which could be private or public) and “communities” where users could congregate to discuss their fandoms and pop culture obsessions.
Today, the site retains much of the same look, including its popular discussion sections and blog layout. The front page now has a spots for promoted posts, which users can purchase by buying tokens with real money. Most of those spots are now occupied by gossip blogs, like ohnotheydidnt.
For a while, Xanga was also used as a blogging platform, mostly by high school students, though it faced competition from similar blogging services like LiveJournal and Blogger. It had many of the same features as its competitors: a blogging space, comments section and a “props” feature (the 2000’s equivalent of a like).
One of Xanga’s unique features was its sidebars – users could flesh out their personalities by adding biographical information, like favorite shows, and recommend other blogs to follow in a “blogrings” section.
Today, user accounts don’t seem to exist on the site, and the homepage displays the development team’s last note, announcing server on Xanga 2.0, though that was posted in February 2015. A sample blog linked to in the site’s latest update note (shown above) appears to be a Xanga-branded WordPress site.
eBaum’s World became popular for posting viral videos, cartoon animations, and celebrity soundboards. People essentially visited the site for the same reason they’d visit other humor/game sites – to watch crudely animated Flash videos and to play with humorous soundbites cut from interviews.
Today, the site publishes user-shared photo galleries and posts with embedded YouTube videos to garner traffic. Most of the videos come with one-sentence descriptions and slightly modified headlines, and photo galleries feature images and captions lifted from unattributed sources.
Ask Jeeves was a popular search engine before Google rose to the top.
The site provided basic web searches, but its real selling point was that users could pose questions in natural language (like, “What’s the weather today?” or “Has MSFT stock risen today?” etc).
The service was notable for its butler mascot, Jeeves, but he was phased out in 2006 when the service became Ask.com. Jeeves was brought back to Ask.com’s UK site for a brief moment in 2009. But today, he’s absent from all of Ask’s search engine sites.
Flash-animated humor series Homestar Runner captivated young internet audiences when brothers Matt and Mike Chapman first started putting up web shows in the early 2000s.
The show featured the sort of flat, rounded cartoon characters that defined most Flash animations from that time. It had a cast of oddball characters, including the titular Homestar Runner, Strong Bad, the Cheat, and others who appeared in one-off episodes to take part in running gags, tell inside jokes, answer fan emails, and more.
The series endured a long hiatus from 2009 to 2015 and now puts out one or two shows a year, rather than the handful of cartoons the Chapmans used to put out every month. (They’ve started families, after all.)
The format of the shows hasn’t changed much, however. The most recent show, which was 31 minutes long, was released on April Fool’s Day 2016. Interestingly, the video was embedded via YouTube on the site instead of Flash, which was how all the previous videos were presented.
You might not have realized that MTV ran a news service in the early 2000s – after all, the company was mostly known for television shows and music videos that were broadcast to the young audiences who watched the channel in the 90’s.
The headlines from 2006’s MTV News read a lot like a teen magazine. But today, MTV News is maturing with its audience. The MTV News team now produces political features and longer interviews with directors and other big names in the entertainment industry.
Before Google became the world’s most popular search engine, AltaVista was a leading search engine of choice. The site featured many of the services Google offers now – web, image, and video search options. It also featured channels with news about entertainment, travel, and more.
But when you visit AltaVista today, you’re redirected to Yahoo Search.
The site went through a number of hands before it was consolidated into Yahoo Search. It was bought by Overture Services, an ad seller, which was then bought by Yahoo in July 2003, to compete with Google.