In celebration of its 20th anniversary of web preservation, the Internet Archive has launched a new search engine dedicated entirely to the vintage GIFs that helped shape the early Internet.

The Internet of the mid-90s was far more simplistic compared to today’s media-rich environment. Video was still technologically prohibitive which meant that if you wanted to spice up a website, you turned to animated GIFs. Again, technological barriers didn’t allow for the complex GIFs we have these days but at the time, even simple animations were enough to impress.

The Internet Archive’s new search engine is called GifCities and is based on the popular GeoCities web hosting service of the era. Yahoo purchased GeoCities in 1999 for a whopping $3.57 billion, a decision that much of the community didn’t approve of thanks in large part to Yahoo’s new terms of service.

A decade later in 2009, Yahoo announced that it would be closing GeoCities. The Internet Archive quickly set about archiving as much of GeoCities as it could seeing as the property was a major cog in the early days of the Internet.

The new GifCities search engine taps into the archive’s back catalog of GeoCities sites which is brimming with vintage GIFs. Those that were around in those pioneering days will immediately recognize some of the more popular GIFs (who can forget the many “under construction” GIFs that littered ‘90s sites?) while newcomers will get to experience first-hand just how far the web has come over the past couple of decades.

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