Microsoft recently published a copy of its original website from 1994. And it’s a masterpiece of what the internet was (and what Microsoft was) in the mid-90s.
I enjoy throwback websites because they remind us of how much the Internet has changed and grown in 20 years. Take a look at Microsoft’s website today and the difference is obvious, and the difference is more than just the design.
The 1994 Microsoft home page is mostly dedicated to saying, “We’re here and we have a website.” Most of the links are for fairly small audiences of developers and others with technical know-how. There is one link for sales.
The modern site demonstrates that the internet has changed into a money making machine for Microsoft. More widespread internet access means there are more people from the general public (not just developers) who can come, and they must be marketed to. Rather than link to Microsoft’s ftp and gopher sites, the site is trying to sell you the Surface Pro 3 and other computing machines as back-to-school items.
The products being sold also demonstrate a significant change. Lumina 635 phone fits in someone’s pockets with greater computing power than most desktop PCs in 1994. No one was shopping for cloud services in 1994, but that is now one of Microsoft’s top offerings.
The method of sale, featuring high-resolution images, shows how technology has advanced so Microsoft doesn’t even need to include a “text-only” link.
Along with the greater use of images, the visual appeal of the site is a million times better, too.
As one article describes it, “Microsoft’s 1994 website looked like a Geocities page.”
The very headline brought back memories because I had a Geocities page in the late ’90s. I learned HTML by building a website about a bunch of bands from the ’60s whose music I enjoyed—the Turtles, the Mamas & the Papas, the Monkees, the Association, etc. And had some similarities to the Microsoft site.
Unfortunately, there are no screenshots of Rock a’More Island—the dumb website I ran at the time—to display here. They are lost to history.
So you can’t see firsthand how my web design has changed since that first foray as a teenager.
Just take my word for it, it’s better today.