In 1996, Microsoft's Hotmail service debuted, "the Net" and "the Information Superhighway" were common synonyms for the Internet and about 45 million people around the world were online. That same year, an informal group of Internet experts established the Webby Awards. The Webbies are now one of the best-known honors for Internet achievement. This year's winners range from smartphone app Instagram to stand-up comedian Louis C.K., who earned over $1 million after he posted one of his shows for $5 on his website.<p> After the more formalized International Academy of the Digital Arts and Sciences announced the 2012 Webby Awards on May 15, we decided to take a trip backward in time on the Information Superhighway. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we got a glimpse of what some of this year's nominees' websites looked like in 1996. Of course, many of the nominees didn't exist then Facebook's creator, Mark Zuckerberg, was still in junior high but some were older, established companies who had just put up their first website. <p> Click on to take a look. Get ready for a lot of Times New Roman, and for the memories.
Sesame Street's current website features big, colorful pictures of kids' favorite characters and hardly any text, except for navigation bars at the top and bottom. The site won the people's voice award for best home/welcome page.
The 1996 version has a more text, though it looks like the Children's Television Workshop nevertheless strove to keep things visual. The narrow, two-column layout feels tight and uncomfortable, however.
Epicurious' busy homepage now features all the functions people expect in a modern website: highlighted articles, a sign-in for members of the community and several ways to connect to Epicurious with social media. The cooking magazine won a best lifestyle Webby.
Epicurious' 1996 homepage was much simpler and offered text-only options. Its lack of drop-shadows and sophisticated (non-Times New Roman) fonts make it look a little more appealing than many other 1996 sites here.
A video, Facebook sign-ins and an ever-updating newswire characterize The Onion's website now. America's Finest won the people's voice award for best editorial writing.
The missing images on the archived version of the Onion's site make it difficult to judge. The green, textured, drop-shadowed navigation buttons on the left are pretty hideous, however.
NASA's current webpage offers an appealing look and plenty of media to explore. It won the best government website Webby.
In December 1996, NASA turned its homepage into a listing of Mars Pathfinder sites. The tables are emblematic of early HTML. <p> No matter how important, one piece of news would never warrant a homepage overhaul now. Instead, it could get a top slot on a webpage that still showed other modules, such as an image of the day or a Twitter feed.