We like to think of the Internet as a churning, hyperactive thing - a creature obsessed with speed and youth and novelty, prone to adopting and dropping trends faster than you can type the word "meme."
But when the hot new thing gets old ... what becomes of it? What happens to the husks of once-heralded start-ups, or the websites that were all the rage in 2005? Many of them die, of course. (R.I.P. Ask Jeeves.) But some zombie sites thrive in stubborn obscurity, sold off to Russian oligarchs or rebranded entirely. We tracked down the modern iterations of some throwback favourites.
Years after Myspace lost its title as the world's largest social network - and months after it tried to reclaim it, by blackmailing old users - the 12-year-old site is actually doing pretty OK as a virtual "artists' community."
True to its roots as the online hang-out of mid-aughts high-school scenesters, today's Myspace is big into music, art and design, and operates a streaming music platform with more than 50 million tracks.
The site also produces its own editorial content, like Valentine's cards from Kanye. Alas, Myspace's chief basically admitted to the Wall Street Journal that the site's active users - 50 million in the US, as of November - were coming less for the cute cards and more to access their ancient Myspace images. The site sees a weekly boost on Thursdays, when people turn to it for #throwback photos ... to post on hipper, cooler social networks.
The Man may have knocked Napster down, but everyone's favourite late-'90s piracy site did, in fact, get back up again ... just nowhere where anyone heard about it. After years of being batted about by other corporate owners, Napster was bought by the streaming service Rhapsody in 2011 and became the face of Rhapsody's operation in Europe and Latin America.
Quartz reported on Wednesday that Rhapsody now has 2.5 million paying subscribers, making it the second on-demand streaming service behind Spotify. And that's ironic, right? Given that Napster basically started the whole people-not-paying-for-music trend, to begin with.
AOL Instant Messenger isn't quite what it used to be - it has not, for instance, had those nasty anonymous chat rooms since 2010 - but you can still "chat, share and connect" in a window with that lil yellow guy in the corner, if you wish.
Today's AIM basically serves as a clearinghouse for other, more popular chat services: You can chat with your Facebook and Gchat contacts through it, view your Instagram and Twitter activity, and text message numbers in the U.S. Tellingly, the second question on the app's FAQ page is "why did (it) change from the AIM I knew before?"
Livejournal, the popular blogging platform that narrowly predated WordPress, saw the last of its global heyday in 2006. But since then, the site has become kind of a big deal in Russia - in fact, it's the 12th most-visited site on the Russian web.
That bizarre geographical pivot actually happened in the mid-aughts, when LJ was still owned by a company in the US; a number of Russian intellectuals began blogging on the platform, in part because it supported so many languages. Livejournal sealed the deal by selling out to a Russian media company in 2007. Now 80 of the country's 100 most popular blogs are hosted there.
Your personal virtual pets probably died out long ago. But Neopets, which "began way back in 1997," is actually still online for your gaming pleasure ... albeit in a slightly tarnished form. The site has lost money and users steadily since the mid-aughts, which - as any hardcore Neopian will tell you - has really hurt the virtual economy in the game.
When Viacom sold Neopets to the games site JumpStart last March, it hardly made the mainstream press. But there is a tiny, dedicated subculture of people who still obsess over every new pet: There were, as of Thursday morning, 3,500 people playing it.
When Xanga, the blog-based social network, reached the end of its server-facility lease last summer, the 17-year-old site basically had two options: completely relaunch as a modern blogging platform, or shut the whole thing down. After crowdfunding its way to $50,000 and going through a series of tweaks and redesigns, "Xanga 2.0" launched last year, running WordPress software and supporting itself by charging bloggers an annual subscription fee.
You can't actually sign up for a new account right now, though, and the site's been dealing with some pretty significant technical bumps that have left its future looking unclear. It maybe doesn't help that Xanga's official Facebook page consists mostly of jokes about how archaic Xanga is.
Alright, this one's a bit of a stretch - but there is one magical place where Geocities, the Internet's original free web host, still exists. Owing to some vagaries of ownership, Geocities Japan did not go offline when the rest of Geocities did. The company was acquired in 1999 by Yahoo, who moved to shut it down 10 years later; but as a Yahoo engineer explained on Quora in 2011, Yahoo! and Yahoo! Japan are two separate companies, so the actions of one don't necessarily affect the other.
Like Geocities, Friendster - the also-ran of the social networks that launched in the early aughts - has been reincarnated in Asia, of all places. Shortly after the network launched in 2002, it became popular among Asian-Americans in San Francisco, who quickly spread Friendster to their family and friends. By 2006, Time reported, the company was opening sales and engineering offices in the Philippines and Singapore. And by 2008, three-fourths of the site's users were based there.
It made sense, then, that when Friendster's original owner was looking to sell it in 2009, the site was bought by MOL Global - one of Southeast Asia's largest Internet providers. (Facebook bought the site's social networking patents.) MOL Global rebranded Friendster as a "social gaming platform," and it looks little like the original site aside from its logo. Friendster is still relatively popular in India, Malaysia and the Philippines, though!