Ever wondered what the first versions of the main political parties’ websites looked like? No? Fine.
Well I’ve gone and found them anyway.
I used the Wayback Machine to look at the earliest recorded versions for Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives, the Green Party, and UKIP. It doesn’t always make perfect copies of the sites, hence some images being missing, but you’ll get the idea.
Nowadays the internet runs on HTML 5, but in 1996 it was all about HTML 2. Let’s apply Rocky logic for a moment: Rocky II is a superior film to Rocky V, therefore it follows that HTML 2 internet is far better than HTML 5 internet.
The following screenshots demonstrate that Rocky logic is bollocks. Here is the Labour Party’s website, circa 1996:
Anti-ageing product ads bombard you with things that supposedly make you look older. Looking at the photo of pre-PM Tony Blair, they may want to make some additions to that list. ‘Gordon Brown’, ‘The Hutton Inquiry’, and ‘giving PR advice to Kazakh tyrants’ might be good places to start.
Another highlight is the link that just says ‘Women’. It would be easier to smirk if the Labour Party weren’t still pulling shit like this today.
Back in those days, it wasn’t so much about canvassing support as it was about selling the merchandise. History of the Labour Party on cassette, anyone?
It’s hard to remember, but there was a time when the Liberal Democrats weren’t despised by every student in the country. Here’s their 1996 website. Isn’t it adorable how they insist on hyphenating ‘e-mail’ and ‘on-line’?
Back then sites adhered to the ‘90s point and click adventure’ school of design, making you work hard to access their content. I resorted to methodically clicking on every pixel until I was able to get past this page. Eventually, I sussed that I needed to click on that image of a door.
Once I got in, it was very disappointing. Much like when they got in. Take THAT, Clegg. Satire.
The Tories made up for their tardiness by having a WAP version (see the bottom right corner). Remember WAP? It was the first attempt to bring the internet to mobile phones, though there isn’t a single recorded instance of WAP internet working. Usually you would spend ten minutes trying to connect before running out of credit. And if Ben from Year 7 maths is still going around saying he can get his WAP phone to play Flash animations from Joecartoon.com, you tell him he’s a fucking liar.
I couldn’t get hold of a WAP phone to access the site, so I’ve simulated it by pasting their 2001 manifesto on to a 3310 screen. I’m serious, the following statement somehow found its way into a Conservative manifesto:
For extra authenticity, I added a smiley. Back then, there seemed to be an unwritten rule that every packet of text sent or received needed to contain one.
Then there’s the Green Party. Their site is a bit boring because, well, they’re the Green Party:
Finally, I took a look at UKIPs earlier iterations. I could hardly delve into their past without revisiting 2004-5, when MP-cum-talk-show-host-cum-MP Robert Kilroy-Silk briefly joined UKIP’s ranks. I was expecting to find more about him, but it looked like they were concerned that he might try to steal the show. Rightly so, it later transpired. However, I did manage to find the one listicle that Buzzfeed have yet to write:
Surprisingly, they recommended that the site is viewed on monitors with 256 colours. I’m sure many UKIP supporters would prefer their monitors to have just one colour.
With all those animated GIFs, I can only assume that UKIP intended for the site to be the Euroskeptics’ equivalent of Hapmsterdance.com.
Piss taking aside, there’s something endearing about these sites. Most of them look like they were done in Microsoft Word, but they remind us of when the internet was viewed primarily as an information resource. Rather than today, where Labour and the Conservatives respectively pay £10,000 and £100,000 a month to get on to your Facebook feed, these sites were happy to just be there in case you wanted to know more. In a time where algorithms and content sponsorship increasingly dictate what we do and don’t see, it’s nice to be reminded of websites from a simpler time. Even if some of them felt the need to have separate sections for women.