In 1996, there were only about 100,000 websites in the world. Seems like quite a few…until you consider that now there are more than 160 million. The most popular site on Earth, Google, hadn’t yet been created. But you know who was making their presence felt on the ‘net?
Punks established themselves online quite quickly, and although the internet was more of a curiosity in the mid-’90s than a ubiquitous presence, a number of label sites, news blogs, and message boards began cropping up to take advantage of this new medium of communication and commerce. Hey, what’s more punk than selling a CD and a back-patch via a magic electronic box connected to a phone line?
If you were born in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you’ve grown up alongside the internet. You’ve seen it all, from Geocities to WordPress. But it’s not until you look back that you see just how far we’ve come.
Fat Wreck Chords
Though kind of ugly, you have to admire that Fat Wreck had an effective, simple website way back in ’96 — complete with band bios, audio samples, an online store, upcoming shows, and wacky font. Wait a minute…I think I just described their current site. Freaky.
Oh shit! You’ve just crossed over into the anti-web. Fuck that corporate regular web! Shit is going to go down at Epitaph.com, you won’t even believe all the stuff we’re going to say. It’s going to be pure anarchy, and we’re going to stick it to the man.
I’d enter the site, but I’m not sure my Netscape Navigator can handle images.
(I finally checked the site out in 2000…but by then I guess I missed the subversion.)
Dischord Records was another early entrant into the online world. This screenshot is from 1996, during the time that Southern Records hosted the site. What I love here is that if you go to Dischord.com today, the odds are pretty good that you’ll see these exact same images of Dan Higgs and Chris Thompson on the main page.
Chainsaw Records Message Board
The 1990s were a busy time for Donna Dresch’s Chainsaw Records. The label released albums by bands such as Sleater-Kinney, The Frumpies, and Team Dresch, and also unleashed perhaps the first-ever widely used punk rock/queer internet message board. On her Total Trash music blog, Nikki Levine writes,
“In the early to mid 90s, every wayward queer kid with (typically limited) access to the internet managed to find their way to Chainsaw Records Message Board, a burgeoning social music-based community that quickly blossomed into something much more than a website… I don’t remember the exact year of the demise of the Chainsaw Records message board, but I recall starting a new board with some friends afterward to fill the ever-present void its absence left. This site was called Punkrock.net, and a lot of Chainsaw kids wound up posting there for many years.”
In March 2001, Punkrock.net shut down as well.
Interpunk, you’ve come a long way, in both design and inventory. Summer of 1998: 5,365 items to choose from. Today: 87,636 items. I like that they’ve continued to keep a running tally of their items for all these years. I only wish they’d bring back those two little aliens in the flying saucer.
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