Old mobile websites?
Reddit has an even older version of their mobile site if you add .mobile to the end of your URL.
Thanks, I used to use old.reddit.com, cuz they new website is simply suck.
Now gonna use this too
Like reddit.mobile? I tried that, and it just redirected me to nowhere. Do you perhaps mean .compact?
Check out their link, it’s actually reddit.com/.mobile
Ooh, I'm an idiot, it's a URL. My bad, for some reason I didn't see that, that makes sense. Thank you for pointing that out, I gave it a try and it indeed works!
One other but it’s not styled: https://text.npr.org/
Edit: one other thing you might want to look for is WAP/WML site archives. It was an old school markup language meant specifically for things like blackberries IIRC.
Thank you very much for the NPR suggestion! I also found minimized versions of The Guardian and The Christian Science Monitor (which doesn't seem to be very religious at all, despite the name), which is really neat. I wish more news sites did these!
Facebook still runs a minimal version at https://mbasic.facebook.com/ -- it even has a functional Messenger, unlike the normal mobile m.-site.
i haven't used FB in a long while (say 4/5 years), but when i used it you needed to spoof the user agent (ask for desktop site) to get the chat functionality on the m. website
I have no idea if there's any merit to this, but have you tried firing up a dumbphone and trying out some popular sites on Opera or similar? Maybe you'd get redirected to a legacy site?
Unfortunately, I don't possess a working dumbphone at the moment, but it's funny you mention Opera because that's actually what started this whole quest. I recently stumbled upon Opera Classic, which was a short term re-release of the original Opera browser for Android, sometime between 2012-2014. I've been giving it a spin and so I wanted to see if there's anything else that would look period appropriate on it. I've so far been taking it to random sites, but most either present a modern mobile version or don't work at all.
I did however rediscover another website, Soylent News, that sort of has that early smartphone mobile look to it. Slashdot unfortunately requires a cipher this thing doesn't possess - though Slashdot has fallen a long way, so I guess that's not such a bad thing. I was born a little too late to remember this fascinating period of internet history too clearly, so I'm trying to recreate it as best I can.
I did a bit of hunting, but largely without success. I was hoping for that hit of nostalgia, but I suppose in its way it's nice to see that most of the sites I remember are still living and evolving rather than being frozen in time 15-20 years ago.
It brought me back to H2G2, which I can only describe as a much more opinionated, much more British, proto-Wikipedia based around the concept of the Hitchhiker's Guide as described in the books. Back in the days when my early-teen self was desperately excited about the ultra modern and impossibly cool Nokia 7110, they had a WAP service - you really could access all of that knowledge from a handheld device anywhere you were. It was the future. It was extraterrestrial technology, just like in the books. I never did get to experience it for myself, but I was thrilled to know it existed. Sadly that, and their simplified mobile view, are now defunct. I have to say that for such a pioneering site, their modern design isn't actually that great on a standard smartphone, either.
Of course, WAP only lasted about 4 years before J2ME browsers raced past and brought the entire internet right to your phone. Once again, it was mindblowing. The market had matured a little, too, so where the 7110 had been a thing of myth, the Nokia 7250i was the actual phone that the wealthier kids at school showed off with. Occasionally, one of them would even open an actual, real website (at eyewatering expense for the few kilobytes of data) on the washed out, low colour gamut, 128x128 pixel screen. It was, once again, glorious. It was, once again, the future.
Looking back with a technical eye, those old browsers were surprisingly capable. S40 was a long-lived OS and HTML 4.01 persists to this day - hardware limitations were the name of the game. I believe there were even some aftermarket HTML 5 capable browsers for the later S40 and S60 handsets. It turns out that the old Nokia SDKs (which included some solid device emulators) are available on archive.org, so if you're interested in playing around it shouldn't be too hard to get them running in VirtualBox.
Not too long after that we started running headlong into the modern smartphone era, and it just became a matter of ensuring your CSS collapsed everything logically on a portrait display. There were a few interestingly diversions along the way - the absurdly designed Nokia 3650, and the surprisingly ahead of its time Sony Ericsson P900, for example - but nobody was really making websites just for them.
[Edit] Minor correction: the 7250i had a real browser preinstalled, not the 7210.
Thank you for the effort! Yeah, early mobile must've been so amazing to people at the time. I was born right before cell phones took off, so I was just a kindergartener when WAP was in its heyday and all. I can only imagine how exciting it must've been to go from browsing the internet only at home or at the library, to having small versions anywhere you go, to having the full size internet (within reason), in just a couple of years. The closest I've ever come was using the PSP's internet browser circa 2009 or so, and I remember that was really cool. Even if it broke on 50% of the sites at the time and was kinda awkward to use, being able to look up stuff or read news without having to share the computer was a real gamechanger - but even that was probably already a lot more powerful than something like the Nokia 7250i!
http://m.qdb.us/ Designed in early 2000s
http://hike.qdb.us/ Designed more recently, but intended to work with any browser.
Wow, so that's where all those IRC clips come form! And can confirm, these work great, this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Thank you!