ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Archive Team: Under Construction —

We’re nowhere near done with the absorbing of as much of Geocities as we can take, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a little time to show off the kind of stuff that’s being scooped up in great handfuls by the machinery.

Among these things are the idea of the “Under Construction” graphic, a perfect example of something that was once ubiquitous, of its time, and rapidly falling beyond just disuse and into the burying of memory and reference. Perhaps it might be shocking to someone to think that others don’t know what’s meant when referencing “Under Construction” GIFs, but this is a natural thing when you have people mere years into their web-browsing experience.

Hence, may I introduce an Archive Team Exhibit:


Feel free to instead just click on this helpful graphic:

Oh, and speaking of helpful, a small warning: the onslaught of nearly a thousand “Under Construction” GIFs may crash your browser. But that’s the price of going to a museum – sudden and terrible crippling death twitching in the face of historical artifacts. We all have to live with that risk.

What I like about this exhibit is that it captures the emotions of the entire Archive Team project with regards to Geocities. Some people scream “WHY!!!!” at the heavens, others grow emotional realizing how much is here, and others just walk along briskly while pointing and laughing and then moving onto the next great thing the web is giving them for free.

There are stories here; stories of why people felt the need to do Under Construction images on their web pages, the people who did ever-more-elaborate images to one-up other designers, and the many ways that a simple idea was turned around and modified for a wide variety of needs and priorities. Notable, for example, is that two or three versions of the same GIF that appear on that page are often re-calibrated to use less space: 15k, say, versus 100k. You know, to get that precious space back. 85k makes a difference and adds up when you have a total of 15mb to store things, or you’re on something like Geocities where there was a per-hour limit on how much you could transfer.

I could probably spend quite a bit of time going into the aspects of these graphics in a historical, design, and technical context. But the fact is, there’s no time to properly do that. I was surprised to see this already the subject of a Metafilter thread.  Some excellent reactions and ideas in there – I hope there’s more.

At least there’s some of this history being saved to have ideas about at all.

Remember, Archive Team needs you, one way or another.

Categorised as: computer history

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Eric says:

    reminds me of the early netscape navigator days..

  2. grawity says:

    s/15mb/15 MB/ – I hate when people not realize that mb actually means millibits.
    Speaking of that, I guess I’m kind of weird because I always make sure my website does not crash NCSA Mosaic…

    • Jason Scott says:

      I use mb and MB interchangeably, with no personal sadness about it. If someone actually thinks I mean millibits instead of megabytes, then they’ve been spending too much time in Mosaic reading usenet threads.

  3. […] Construction images, a reminiscent of the soon to be closed Geocities. Share this on FacebookStumble upon something good? Share it on […]

  4. […] all these ‘Under Construction’ GIFs, rescued by Archive Team from Geocities before it shuts down, in one place1 made me feel thoroughly nostalgic for the […]

  5. deepgeek says:

    You know your an aged cyberpunk when you read and find something you did this year is an anachronism!

    When I started my podcast I decided not to use a CMS, I found backing up counter-intuitive, and as a fan I knew the value of backups. I still think that having a mirror on your local machine and a USB drive or two is a better backup than some weird “web 2.” backup-a-database-to-a-single-file-on-my-hardrive-through-a-webpage-thing (wow, you can’t even explain it simply!!)

    So, there I was, I got a new domain and ran out and stole an “under construction GIF,” just to read on that I was an anachronism!

    I took that down, I’ve had new content regularly ever since.

    BTW, I guess we’re just supposed to stick drupal up there instantly now, but what is the current, not-outdated thing for a non-web-2.0 type to do? Surely not the apache default download directory thing?!\


  6. Darius K. says:

    “Under Construction” has been replaced instead with the “Beta” tag.

  7. jas says:

    i’d like to help out by grabbing sites, but after about 9, they started blocking me.

    do you recommend anything? waiting 1 minute before the next site?

    i was using wget

  8. Ralph says:

    I tried,using WGET also..same problem!

  9. RotJ says:

    If you want a more comprehensive look at 90s amateur web design typified by Geocities, read A Vernacular Web.

    It covers the Under Construction GIFs, Starry Night backgrounds, frames, MIDI, and all the good stuff.

    There’s also a sequel on the 00s amateur web:

  10. Cory says:

    @Darius K. quote: “Under Construction” has been replaced instead with the “Beta” tag.

    It’s all part of web 2.0 ;]

  11. anon says:

    Nice one Jason – good idea to rescue this stuff.

    Yeah, makes me remember the good old web days where we had no google ads and all the ad invasion …

    Today nearly every website i visit, contains google ads, and often the website is so full of it in way that it really sucks … sometimes the ads content is bigger than the content you look for …

    all the flash and animation ads suck i think .. every website should make a special ads section / site .. and if you wanna look at this stuff you can just click on it .. but yes that will be a dream …

    but the mixed up stuff with ads just sucks today .. it is everywhere …

    THANKS again Jason & team for your nice works .. 🙂

  12. […] Archive Team: Under Construction (Jason Scott) […]

  13. Laura Hale says:

    Hi. We’ve been trying to do limited Geocities preservation on We should have information about 10,000 different fansites on our site tomorrow. (We’re currently at about 1,000. We have stuff sitting in a database that needs to be wikified.) We’re also busy screencapping fansites. The caps will eventually all be uploaded, include meta data, and Google extract or DMOZ description. With not much time left, let us know how we can help you. (Or if there is a way you might help us, that would also be appreciated too.)

  14. […] came up because of Jason Scott’s posting hundreds of “Under Construction” animated gifs (warning! that can crash your browser!), […]