Cool Site of the Day Backgrounder
The Cool Site of the Day website was created in August 1994 and was originally maintained by Glenn Davis. Linking to one single recommended site off its homepage each day, it soon became an arbiter of taste on the Internet.
Within a few months of its launch, Cool Site of the Day attracted “around 10,000 visitors” each day; within a year of its launch, more than 20,000 people were visiting each day, and the award became a coveted prize among Silicon Alley start-ups. Cool Site of the Day also sparked a great number of similar coolness awards.
The site’s founder, Glenn Davis, became a celebrity, giving interviews to magazines and radio networks such as NPR while fending off gifts from site maintainers who sought his recommendation of their sites.Newsweek celebrated Davis as one of the fifty most influential people on the Internet, dubbing him the “King of Cool.” 
In time for the first anniversary of Cool Site of the Day Davis inaugurated the Cool Site Of The Year award, also known as theWebby, which was first produced by Kay Dangaard and presented at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as a nod to the first site of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars) Hollywood, California, in August 1995. As part of the proceedings, Davis held an email poll on a shortlist of five websites that had previously been distinguished as a cool site. The award was won by The Spot. On October 3, 1996, the second Cool Site of the Year awards ceremony was held at Webster Hall, a nightclub in the East Village, Manhattan.
Davis left the site in November 1995, but it continued to thrive. By the end of 1997, Cool Site of the Day had spawned thousands of imitators, grown into an “eight-person mini-e-publishing empire,”  and attracted millions of page-views a month. Davis’ former employer decided to sell the site at this point.
What’s Cool on Line? The E-mail Basket, Please By JAMES RYANOCT. 7, 1996
In the peculiar lexicon of the Internet, “cool” has become the prime adjective to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff among the 300,000 or so sites on the World Wide Web. Members of the emerging Web design industry wore their synthetic finery last Thursday to toast the best in their field at the Cool Site of the Year Awards held at Webster Hall, a nightclub in the East Village in Manhattan.
The five nominees in each of nine categories were selected by Richard Grimes and his staff from among the 365 sites featured on their Cool Site of the Day Web site, which has become an arbiter of taste on the Internet. Selections, which were then voted on by the public, ranged from the multimillion-dollar Discovery Channel Online site, with a staff of 30, to Gurl, a neofeminist site created by a group of New York University women.
Discovery Channel Online, which changes its content daily and dispatches digital correspondents to the Amazon rain forest, was named Cool Site of the Year over Damaged Californians, a black-humor site created by performance artists; iMusic, a new-music site, and two Web magazines, Salon and Word.
Discovery Channel Online picked up a second award for Cool Design of the Year. Two graphics artists who design Salon, Mignon Khargie and Elizabeth Kairys, won for Cool Web Designer of the Year.
Tongue in cheek, the awards included a category titled Still Cool Site of the Year. Tellingly, all the nominees – Crash Site, Dominion, Internet Underground Music Archives, Total New York and the winner, Hot Wired from Wired magazine – have yet to celebrate their third birthday in operation.
Just what constitutes cool is, of course, open to interpretation. Officially, Mr. Grimes listed his criteria as changing content, usefulness, navigability, downloading time, design and graphics, sense of identity, purpose and entertainment value.
But Ms. Kairys defined it as “simple and elegant but still cutting edge,” while Andrea Meditch, executive editor of Discovery Channel Online, defined it as “something that engages your senses, your emotions, and, if you’re lucky, your heart.” Total New York’s editor, Guy Garcia, had a succinct definition: “Still being in business after two years.”
In general, the evening was intended to celebrate the independent spirit of the Web and its designers. Microsoft’s much-publicized Web magazine, Slate, was conspicuously absent from the nominees and its browser, Internet Explorer, which did receive a nomination for Cool Browser of the Year, was roundly hissed. Netscape’s popular Navigator browser won in the category.
Winning in the Personal Web Site category was Timothy Leary’s home page, a site that chronicled the life and death of the counterculture figure, L.S.D. proponent and, most recently, on-line aficionado.
In other awards, Ask Dr. Science, a lighthearted science site, was honored with Cool Site Script of the Year. The programming language Java from Sun Microsystems was named Cool Innovation of the Year over Real Audio, Pointcast, Shockwave and the Palace.
Alta Vista, from Digital Equipment, which is rapidly catching up to its pioneering brothers Lycos and Yahoo, was named the Cool Search Engine of the Year.
The evening – sponsored by People Magazine Online, the access provider Infinet and Apple Computer – was broadcast live on Apple’s Web site. The master of ceremonies, Penn Gillette, talking half of the comedy team Penn and Teller, did not miss the humor in holding a live-awards ceremony to celebrate accomplishments in a virtual arena. He juggled, performed magic tricks and brought a beautiful model on stage, while a videotape of his introductory speech, playing on a large screen behind him, was broadcast to the Internet audience.
“You’re not missing a thing on the Web,” he assured his virtual audience.
As the Web Matures, Fun Is Hard to Find By LISA GUERNSEY MARCH 28, 2002
GLENN DAVIS, the founder of the once-popular online destination Cool Site of the Day, used to be so addicted to the Web that he called it his “recreational drug.”
He started Cool Site in 1994, after discovering the thrill of happening upon an especially interesting Web site and telling his friends what he had found. Within a year, more than 20,000 people a day were visiting the site, and Mr. Davis became a Web celebrity, giving interviews to online magazines and fending off gifts from Webmasters who were desperately seeking his recommendation of their sites.
Today, Mr. Davis has not only kicked his Web habit but also almost completely given up the medium. The Cool Site of the Day still exists, but it is no longer run by Mr. Davis, who has also lost his enthusiasm for trolling for new pages.
“We lost our sense of wonder,” he said. “The Web is old hat.”
Just 11 years after it was born and about 6 years after it became popular, the Web has lost its luster. Many who once raved about surfing from address to address on the Web now lump site-seeing with other online chores, like checking the In box.
What attracted many people to the Web in the mid-1990’s were the bizarre and idiosyncratic sites that began as private obsessions and swiftly grew into popular attractions: the Coffee Cam, a live image of a coffee maker at the University of Cambridge; the Fish Tank Cam from an engineer at Netscape; The Spot, the first online soap opera; the Jennicam, the first popular Internet peephole; the Telegarden, which allowed viewers to have remote control of a robot gardener; and the World Wide Ouija, where viewers could question the Fates with the computer mouse. The Web was like a chest of toys, and each day brought a new treasure.
Lisa Maira, a computer network administrator at the University of Buffalo, designed the Mr. Potato Head site with colleagues in 1994 (the name was later changed to Mr. Edible Starchy Tuber Head to avoid trademark infringement). It allowed viewers to dress up an online version of the toy. The site attracted thousands of visitors and a dozen “best of the Web” awards.
“It was just amazing,” Ms. Maira said. Now, not only has the site fallen into disrepair, with broken links and missing game pieces, but many of the sites that gave it accolades are also out of business.
That kind of Web activity “doesn’t impress people anymore,” Ms. Maira said, adding that she counted herself among the disenchanted.
The problem facing the Web is not that some of these particular sites have come and gone – there are, after all, only so many times anyone can look at a coffeepot, even online – but that no new sites have come along to captivate the casual surfer.
Bob Rankin, the co-editor of Tourbus, an electronic newsletter, frequently sent his readers to innovative pages. Now the newsletter is more likely to provide information about online charities and antivirus software. “I have a harder time finding the oddball sites that I like to highlight,” Mr. Rankin said.
The lack of compelling content may be contributing to a decline in the amount of time that people spend online. In March 2000, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in Washington, people averaged 90 minutes per online session. A year later, when the same people were polled, that number had dropped to 83 minutes. According to the report, those polled said that they were using the Web more to conduct business than to explore new areas, aiming to get offline as quickly as possible. The toy box has turned into a toolbox.
Web sites also face stiff competition from other online services. Music programs like Morpheus, a Napster alternative, allow people to download files using a piece of online software instead of clicking from one site to the next. Instant messaging has grown exponentially, and many users say they would rather chat with their friends than spend their time surfing the Web.
Even without new technologies crowding the spotlight, the Web today seems to be less than inspiring. About half of Internet users in 2000, for example, said the Internet helped “a lot” in enabling them to learn new things. A year later, when the same group was polled, only 39 percent made that claim.
“For fun Internet activities, users report little or no growth in having gone online for hobbies, game playing or just to seek out fun diversions,” the Pew report said.
Even for newcomers – those who might be most likely to surf around for kicks – growth is tepid, the report added.
There are other signs that all is not well in Webville. For the first time, the number of expiring domain names outnumbers those being registered or renewed, according to SnapNames, an industry research company in Portland, Ore. Although the SnapNames report theorizes that many of the expired domains were simply unused placeholders for existing companies, like those who wanted a .org version of their .com site, there is no counterbalancing rush to build new sites.
In addition, researchers at several online measurement companies have found that the rate of growth in new sites and unique visitors has slumped in recent months. And about 20 percent of public Web sites that existed nine months ago no longer exist, according to a sample studied last week by the Online Library Computer Center, a nonprofit library group in Dublin, Ohio. Separate research shows that of the sites that are still operating, a large number have been taken over by pornography.
How did the Web arrive at this juncture? Some people say that the rush to make money, in which profits mattered more than passion, was a significant driver. Mr. Davis, for instance, said he did not design Cool Site of the Day with profit in mind. The site, which was housed on servers at Infinet, the Internet service provider for whom Mr. Davis worked, was taken over by the company when he left in November 1995. In 1998, Infinet sold the site to Mike Corso, a businessman in Chappaqua, N.Y., who charges $97 to those who submit a site for “priority express” consideration, plus $19 a month if the submission is selected and added to the archives.
The Web’s commercialism dismays many longtime surfers. “Everywhere you go someone is jumping on you to buy something,” said John Walkenbach, an author in San Diego, who has written books about software. “It’s like walking down the streets of Tijuana.”
Other users say they are less inclined to hunt for innovative sites because many of them require plug-ins or browser updates that force users into bothersome downloading. Entertainment sites, for example, usually require a program like QuickTime, and even if Web surfers take the time to download a copy, they are likely to be cajoled later into downloading an updated version.
There are still islands of innovation and creativity on the Web. For example, iFilm .com shows eclectic video clips posted by Web users. Among longtime Web surfers, personal online diaries, known as Weblogs or blogs, are often cited as the last bastion of interesting material.
Lee deBoer, former chief executive of Automatic Media, believes that the downturn in the Web is temporary. In the summer of 2000, his company bought Feed and Suck, two popular online magazines, and started Plastic.com, a Web site that allows users to filter interesting Web content for one another. After just a year, Mr. deBoer’s company was forced to close its doors, killing both magazines and relinquishing Plastic.com to a group of investors. (The site still exists, run almost entirely by volunteers.)
Even after the bruising taken by his company, Mr. deBoer is not prepared to declare the Web dead. “We’ve taken a pause,” he said, citing a tough advertising climate, a lagging economy and a seriousness that has infused society since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “But I don’t think it’s much more than a pause.”
Mr. Davis said he believes that the Web’s malaise is more permanent. He is building an online gaming company that uses the Internet but bypasses the Web.
“I’m a frontiersperson, and the Web is not a frontier anymore,” he said. “It is simply a place.”