Ah, 1994. "Forrest Gump" hit theaters. The original Sony PlayStation console launched in Japan. You could download a beta version of Netscape Navigator.
You could also visit the freshly launched Microsoft.com. That original home page has now been rebuilt to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its existence.
The 1994 home page looks quaint and antiquated by today's standards, but back in 1994 it was a bit bulky, putting some strain on the dial-up connections of the day. "For most folks at home in that day and age, you would have been able to count to three or five before that picture showed up on your screen," said Mark Ingalls, Microsoft.com's first admin, in a blog post.
One of the chief reasons Microsoft bothered to launch a site at all was that its Knowledge Base was expanding and it wanted to make the information more easily available for customers. The result of the effort is an image that looks like a star field below with a chopped-up rising sun on top with links scattered across it. There's a helpful note that reads "If your browser doesn't support images, we have a text menu as well."
Web design firm Paravel handled the rebuild of the site. Paravel's Dave Rupert compares the project to an archaeological dig. The builders give a run-down of the technical challenges they faced in reconstituting a site that was created before such things as font and table HTML tags even existed. Paravel also worked on a recent redesign of Microsoft's current home page.
"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," the Paravel team writes.
Perhaps what's most interesting is how many of the links have modern-day counterparts. "Knowledge Base" leads to Microsoft's support site. The "Developer Network Offramp" leads to 2014's Developer Network. While much has changed as far as looks and functionality go, the use of the Web as a portal for information is still very much intact.