Updated: Mar 2
Editor’s Note: Part one of a series that spotlights sites that made this fucked up place what it is today.
With almost 5 billion users, a little over 198 million active websites, and 1.86 billion websites overall, the internet is huge. A place where you experience information (or misinformation), chaos, and can find almost anything you are looking for. If you cannot find what you are looking somewhere on the internet, then what is going on here? We have had since the early 1990’s to learn how to use this thing. All jokes aside, if you are under the age of 40, the internet has probably been a part of your daily life for most of your life. If you are over 40, I am jealous. You got to experience the world before the world wide web, smart phones, and social media came crashing into our lives. For better or for worse, the internet is where we go to get a lot of our information, ideas, and more. The late 90’s and 2000’s was the wild west for the internet. It was a censorship free; anything goes attitude where you could find whatever you wanted with ease. Type in the craziest thing into Ask Jeeves (remember that?), AOL, and even Google and the first couple results were usually exactly what you were looking for. Go to the 2nd page and it took what you were looking for to another level. Below, we are going to dive into a couple sites that shaped the Internet as we know it today. Some of these sites are still around, ones that you might remember, and both might give you a little nostalgia.
Ebaum’s World is a perfect example of a site that was a precursor to many happenings on the internet today. A site made by a father and son, Neil and Eric Bauman, this site was its own Florida on the 2000’s internet. It featured pure chaos and (mostly “stolen”) audio and videos from other sites, tv, home videos, music, movies, etc. It was viral before viral was a word. Did I mention most of it was “stolen”? Corporations like Viacom hated it and threatened to sue it for copyright infringement a million times. Other blogs hated it because Ebaum’s “contributors” lifted content for their own content posted on the site. Ebaum’s watermarked all those previously posted videos and all videos that made it onto the site in general. Not the best way to get on the good side of other popular websites at the time. It was so hated that there was a song made to shit on it called ebaumsworldsucks. Kids, teens, and adults could care less and loved it though. It gave all of us a place to see shit we should not have seen but wanted to see along with the most random stuff you could think of. Popular celebrities like AL Pacino had soundboards full of movie quotes and more all over Ebaum’s. There are multiple Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dr. Evil, and Michael Jackson soundboards on this site. Imagine how much time it took in 2007 to lift all that audio and make it into a soundboard. You gotta respect the effort that these “contributors” put into “The Farting Machine” soundboard so that 1.4 million people (and counting) could use it. You could use a variety of soundboards to mess around with people at work, get a laugh out of it, or my personal pre- teen/teen favorite, prank calling. It worked if you stumbled upon enough gullible people, a quite frequent occurrence in the 2000’s. Homemade gross out videos were another popular upload onto Ebaum’s World. They were sick, unedited, unfiltered, and usually a mess. If you wanted to see the best and worst the real world had to offer on the web, it was on Ebaum’s even if it was on YTMND, Youtube, or World Star first. People getting their ass beat, movie quote compilation videos, unwilling participants in pranks, homemade stunts gone wrong, people getting hit by cars, and celebs gone wild was just some of the content featured on this site. A reliable place on the web for debauchery. There were some weird, annoying, and mostly innocent videos that got popular like the “Cute Little Hyperactive Beat Boxer”, (https://www.ebaumsworld.com/videos/cute-little-hyperactive-beat-boxer/941006/) which sits at over 67 million views. The shit that entertained us in the 2000’s huh? It did not take much did it? Not much has changed between then and now. Anyways, in 2007, the company was sold to Handheld for $15 million in cash and $2.5 million in stocks. Not a bad payday for a large treasure trove of the best of the worst. The company retained the founders and employees, at least for a short period. By 2009, both were pushed out and had nothing to do, creatively, with Ebaum’s again. Karma is a bad bitch, isn’t it?
Ebaum’s is still around, and people are still uploading stuff to this day. Check it out: https://www.ebaumsworld.com
A compilation of Ebaum’s World short vids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92nnBe-AEWY
The official ebaum’s world soundboards: https://www.ebaumsworld.com/soundboards/
Ebaum's World prank call page circa mid 2000's
Most have heard about the legendary site Napster. A place where the poor, bored, rich, and anyone in between (80 million people at its peak) could find their fix in terms of music. That site would take a whole post to break down itself. The site was only up for 2 years and was co-created by Sean Parker, who later became the first President of Facebook after Napster got taken down in 2001. Two years later, in 2003, Napster’s European bad ass little brother, The Pirate Bay, came along. Created by a Swedish organization, Piratbyran, and ran by two Swedes, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm, this site was Napster on steroids. Napster only featured music but The Pirate Bay featured links to a hell of a lot more. They allowed the user to search for things, provided links to torrent files, and you were on your way. The classic home page in 2004 was a pirate ship with the phrase under it “The world’s longest Bit-Torrent teacher.” The organization and founders had the slogan of “all information is free” and personally, I agree. These people were the trolls before trolling was a thing. They were the connect for whatever you were looking for. The site featured different categories and torrent files (peer to peer sharing files) of movies, home videos, audio books, video games, music, crime scene photos, porn, bootlegs, live concerts, and more as they came out. You could find everything you were looking for in terms of new movie releases, mixtapes, rare music, demos, leaks, and that is just scraping the surface. Along with entertainment and media, you could find older versions of Microsoft Word or demoed versions of games. Looking for that album you can’t get your hands on? There were probably 20 links at least on The Pirate Bay. Want to watch that movie you could not afford to go see in theaters from the comfort of your own home? It was probably on there. Oh, just watch out which one you downloaded because nobody likes viruses (Trojan Horse sound familiar?), which a ton of their files contained. A 2013 study of the site stated that 44% of uploads were TV shows and movie, 35% were porn uploads, and 9% were audio uploads with the rest being miscellaneous uploads. The site featured a merch store and had a “Donate” option too from 2004-2006. They gave no fucks. When police raided their offices and took down their servers, they put up a message on their homepage mocking the injunction placed against them. Someone even uploaded case documents and autopsy photos of 2 murdered children from the Arboga Case. A founder/spokesperson of the site, Peter Sunde, went on live TV and debated one of the fathers of the murdered children, who phoned in. He stated, “I don't think it's our job to judge if something is ethical or unethical or what other people want to put out on the internet.” He had the mindset of “I am here to provide an uncensored space for information, and I am not the person who should be the judge of that information.” All in all, a bold statement to make to the father who lost their child in the worst way. The site has been taken down from servers many times, was hacked in 2007 (and other times) by suspected group Angry Young Hackers and has been blocked & banned completely in multiple countries, including Australia and the UK among others. You know it is bad when hackers and pro piracy advocates, two anti-establishment groups, are going after each other. The founders, Sunde, Neij, and Svartholm, all were charged, convicted, appealed, and convicted again yet all were out of prison by 2015 and able to live their lives. That’s impressive considering they ran a site for years that was one big “Fuck You” to every establishment and industry that created and produced copyrighted content in the world. What’s just as impressive is The Pirate Bay is still up and running as a fully functional site. If you do not believe me, search “The Pirate Bay” on Google and see what pops up. Wait, did you really think I was going to provide you a link directly to it?
Here are two old school documentaries, Steal This Film 1 and 2, which talk about filesharing, intellectual property, and sharing content you do not own:
Pirate Bay home page classic look 2004
Stay tuned for future How Did We Get Here: Sites That Shaped the Internet features to learn about sites like the above that made the Internet the circus it is today!!