1994 Microsoft.com

The 1994 version Microsoft.com has been a wonderful piece of the web to recreate. Building a site that pre-dates CSS, <FONT> tags, and even existed at a time where browsers "might not support images".

Image map

It's a very simple site, but recreating the Image Map navigation was the biggest piece of the puzzle. The image was excellently recreated by Dan Schlitzkus. We converted it to a GIF, but it's possible it could have been an X-BitMap which was in use around the time. For the code, we had to work backwards through some clues to solve the Image Map. It was thrilling, like an archeological dig:

Based on the findings, it appears the website was launched during the time between HTML/1.0 (June 1993) and HTML/2.0 (Dec 1994). The image map probably used server-side CGI image map with ISMAP, which has faded away because it's completely inaccessible. However, being able to pass an X,Y coordinate search parameters via an IMG tag is a neat little HTML Easter egg from ye ancient times.

"Server-side" processing

For the server-side image map processing, we created a faux-CGI image map script using Javascript. The coordinates are specified in an array (using the original syntax of method url x1,y1 x2,y2).

We went with a client-side JavaScript approach since it was relatively easy and we didn't want to introduce security loopholes or technical hurdles to implement such ancient tech on the server. To support our rect method usecase it was less than 100 lines of code.

Personal Note

Researching and working on replicating the original version of the Microsoft.com homepage from 20 years ago after helping redesign the modern counterpart fills you with some awe, respect, and inspiration for how far the web has come in 20 short years. It's a big story with many turns and it makes you thankful for all the people (and companies) who have sought to make the web great. -Paravel