Yesterland

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Graphic design by Karen Weiss, 2020


The Yesterland sign in the clouds at the top of the Yesterland.com homepage changed this week. It has a new message: “25th Anniversary.”

I launched Yesterland on May 20, 1995—with around a dozen pages, each with one tiny photo. I’ve been updating it ever since. Yesterland now has more than 600 pages and thousands of photos.

For 25 years, Yesterland has celebrated the history of Disneyland and other parks. Today, I’m looking at Yesterland itself—25 years ago and this week.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, May 23, 2020


Yesterland owes its existence to a 1994 article in Time Magazine.

At that time, the internet (capitalized as Internet in those days) was primarily a tool for academics and researchers. Sharing text required cryptic commands—but, according to the Time article, that was changing because of an ingenious method of linking computers (the World Wide Web or WWW) and something newly available in 1994, the graphical web browser (Mosaic). This could be the Next Big Thing!

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Quotation from Time Magazine, September 26, 1994

At that time, I worked for a network technology company. If I wanted to stay employed, it would be a good idea to learn more about this technology.

I had a Macintosh and a dial modem, but I needed the software. So I signed up for a free trial of eWorld (Apple’s answer to America Online), downloaded Mosaic and TCP/IP extensions to the operating system, found a Chicago-area internet service provider with a local phone number—and cancelled eWorld before any monthly charges kicked in.

To my surprise, the local internet account included 20 megabytes of space for a website. Yay! Building a website would be an opportunity to learn about the content side of the WWW, not just the user side. I taught myself HTML, the tagging system to define webpages. But what content could I offer?

I had old color slides from past visits to Disneyland. Maybe users would enjoy a “virtual theme park” of retired Disneyland attractions. I wrote in present tense about a park called Yesterland. After a horizontal line on each page, I would add historical details in past tense. That’s still Yesterland’s primary format today, although I’ve downplayed the “virtual theme park” angle.

Yesterland went live on May 20, 1995. By that time, Netscape Navigator had become the browser of choice. The Walt Disney Company had an impressive website for its movies, but did not yet have official sites for its theme parks.

I had no idea I would still be doing Yesterland 25 years later.

I hoped a few dozen people might find Yesterland and read it. I posted the URL (which was not yet www.yesterland.com) on a few USENET groups (online bulletin boards) and I submitted it to a few “site of the day” websites. The very next day, Yesterland was the “Spider’s Pick of the Day” (web, spider, get it?). Hundreds of readers came.

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Screen capture from Archive.org

Yesterland in late 1996

I kept adding new content. Readers mailed diskettes and CD-ROMs with their own vintage photos. (Thank you to everyone!)

Netscape kept releasing new versions of its browser. For a few years, the Windows version (but not the Mac version) had Yesterland pre-loaded in its bookmarks. I never figured out how this happened. I can only assume someone at Netscape liked Yesterland.

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Magazine © New York Times / Photo by Werner Weiss

New York Times Magazine, 1997

The recognition continued—not just online, but also in traditional newspapers and magazines.

It’s now May 2020. I won’t go through the intervening years in excruciating detail. If you want to see how Yesterland evolved, visit “What’s New?” and scroll down.

Disney’s parks are temporarily closed due to the covid-19 pandemic. Yesterland remains open and continues to grow. It seems like a strange time to celebrate, but 25 years is a major milestone.

The Yesterland sign in the clouds would get a temporary update, perhaps until May 2021.

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

© 1980 Walt Disney Productions

Disneyland Souvenir Guide 1980

One of my daughters is a professional graphic designer. For inspiration, she looked at how Disneyland celebrated its own 25 anniversary.

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Graphic design by Karen Weiss, 2020

Yesterland in the clouds, based on how the Disneyland sign looked in 1980

The Disneyland sign had been modernized in 1975. A stark, black-and-white-and-blue Yesterland sign without pennants would be historically accurate, but it lacks joy.

Yesterland’s 25th Anniversary

Graphic design by Karen Weiss, 2020

A more subtle approach

Another idea was to add the number 25 into the cloud at the base. But it’s too easy to miss, and unless a reader remembers the design of the number from 1980, the number would be meaningless. Still, it’s a very nice design.

The best idea was to change the message board, as shown at the top of this article. It keeps the original design, while also celebrating the 25th anniversary of Yesterland.

Please visit Yesterland’s Facebook page. “Like” it if you haven’t already done so, and leave your comments about this milestone. Then, use the MiceChat link below to leave comments at MiceChat.

I can’t promise another 25 years, but I’ll try.


  Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.

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Updated May 23, 2020