You know you’re a late–nineties kid when you remember spending your days wasting away in front of clunky Compaq computers, clicking away at the screen. When you weren’t playing outside with your Skip-It or watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” you were experiencing the best of pixelated online gaming.
As millennials, we make up the generation that grew up with technology for the first time, watching our gadgets advance along with our years. During our elementary years, we came across an expansive array of sites to peruse, whether they were in computer class—where, let’s be honest, all we learned was how to use PowerPoint and make high scores on Brain Pop games—or at home on the family computer. As a trailblazing generation, kids living in the early 2000s used the world wide web to have fun (which may have led to the social media savvy of most millennials today).
As time has passed, however, millennials have had to part ways with some of their beloved childhood websites. I, for one, am still rather bitter about Virtual Magic Kingdom’s shutdown in 2008 (Disney claimed VMK was never meant to be permanent, but sure, go ahead and rip my preteen heart out). More recently, Club Penguin shut down in March 2017, much to the dismay of past (and active!) users. As a farewell salute, the site’s programmers finally let those darn penguins flip the iceberg.
Even though it’s common knowledge that websites come and go, you can’t help but feel wistful about your childhood. With a little bit of research, however, I found that some of the best sites from when I was a kid are still around. If you want to revisit some of that good ol’ nostalgia from the early 2000s, read on for a trip down (a cyber) memory lane.
Ah yes, Neopets. This site has probably shone across the computer screens of most millennials at some point during their lives. The site’s objective is simple: Users raise neopets (virtual creatures that range from Shoyrus to Chombies) and earn neopoints by playing any of the site’s many games. With its flashy characters and customizable features, kids were able to feel like they were raising a pet, while being able to learn some HTML coding along the way!
I dare you to judge me, but upon revisiting my old account from 2007, I was finally able to paint my Blumaroo with a Royal Paint Brush. For those who played the game, you can probably visualize just how elated my eleven-year-old self would’ve been.
For geeky goobers like me (both past and present, honestly) FunBrain was the place to be. The premise of the site was—and still is—to provide kids with content that educated as well as entertained. Organized by grade level, you could practice reading a graph or try your hand at sign language (pun intended).
The site has undergone a nifty remodel, making it look sleeker and less tacky than before (#aesthetic), but the content is still as addictive as it was in the third grade. The site has also expanded to include some reading supplements for kiddie lit, but hey, we’ve graduated from that section, haven’t we?
I should preface this list item with the caveat that yes, Disney Channel has evolved quite a bit since the days of “That’s So Raven” and “Phil of the Future.” However, users can still access some of the video gaming greats of the 2000s, such as the “Kim Possible” fashion game, and although they took down the ever-iconic Sandwich Stacker game, based off of “Lilo and Stitch,” the seedy underbelly of the internet still has it. I must admit that I’ve spent an undisclosed amount of time trying to beat my personal records from when I was eleven years old.
And while I’m still on this point, now’s probably a good time to mention that Nickelodeon is still active. The best part about this site is that, along with having the ability to replay “The Wild Thornberrys Wildlife Rescue” zoo-tending game, users can also stream episodes of Nick shows, old and new alike. Ah, Nickelodeon—raining Generation Z to binge-watch television like their predecessors!
You probably remember this particular website from your computer classes of yesteryear. This was a site for various age groups that taught phonics and provided users with reading lessons and the like. Despite its puerile interface, Starfall has a magnetic quality about it that would bring users like me back again and again as a kid. I, for one, loved the ancient Greek myths section where you could read some pretty intense fables while playing some sick Flash games (this probably explains my current knack for mythology categories on “Jeopardy!”).
This is another site based off of a TV station (and let’s not forget that this one was brought about by “viewers like you!”). While the site has morphed to accommodate its new generation of viewers, you can still sniff around the archives of the game section to play some of those good ol’ games like Arthur’s (which is currently on its twentieth year!) “Alien: Assembly Required.” I looked around for quite a bit and even found myself on the Cyberchase site—and if you have Flash installed, you can re-watch the entire series. I must admit that this was the site that got me into sci-fi.
Although these websites may seem gimmicky and childish now, most millennials probably have at least a few fond memories spending their afternoons perusing and learning on them. These sites shaped a generation and continue to influence kids today in our ever-digitizing, global community. And, of course, they’re just so darn classic.