The Vortex was an ancient, ancient website now lost in the mists of time. When i first started seriously using the internet-- must have been '95 or '96 or so-- it was, in my humble opinion, the coolest single resource out there.

Basically all it was was a huge, huge list of links. Anyone could add to it. There was a CGI script that asked you for a site name and a site URL, and then simply appended a link to that site at the beginning of the list. Once a month the list was dumped into an archive, and then cleared. The list had a wholly unnecessary background image of a swirling purple thing that made the page hard to look at.

It was pretty nifty because you just had this swarming mass of whatever whoever passed through wanted to dump. And it was all so random-- just a totally random mixture of badly-coded (this was in the days before usable WYSIWYG HTML editors), content-free personal websites by eighth graders (which at the time included me); mediocrely coded, bland commercial sites (at the time corporate websites were not things that corporations believed served any purpose-- so this was mostly just things like single fishing supply stores in Illinois); genuinely cool things; and porn.

If you have to ask why we didn't just use search engines or something, you're missing the point. Yahoo existed at the time, but Yahoo wasn't what we wanted. We wanted the Vortex; we wanted something unsupervised, alive, decentralized, and most of all disorganized. That was the greatest thing; the hundreds of irrelevant sites. It was largely just fluff, but if you kept looking you'd eventually find something if not meaningful at least interesting.. kind of like e2. When you looked at the Vortex, you knew you were looking at the internet, pure and unfiltered.. this was what the internet was, not a nicely sorted bunch of sites with banner ads, but a huge pile of geocities sites done by porn-crazed insomniac teenagers, most of which sucked but with the occasional diamond that made it all worth it..

In the end, the Vortex was destroyed by its own bulk (pages routinely reached 300 or 500k by the end of the month, which both your 28.8 modem and your netscape 3 would choke on), but more intensely by porn. When it was just a significant but not overpowering number of random porn sites scattered all over the list, it was OK; but then internet porn became profitable. Very profitable. And eventually the entire site became basically the same few non-free, sites being posted over and over with site titles that were basically just strings of random dirty words-- and they weren't even porn sites worth visiting. Eventually it got to the point where if you wanted to post a real site, nobody saw it because it was buried in the pointless porn links; and if you wanted to find a good site of any kind, it took too long because only one in fifty of the links could be accessed without giving a credit card number, and even after that 90% of the links were, as always, crap anyway. Eventually people just stopped coming, and the Vortex died. Some ISP in Pennsylvania tried to revive it; their version specially tagged "adult" links and allowed you to sort and filter all the porn links away, but their incarnation eventually died too.

Now the vortex , like eworld, webcrawler, and the virtual boy, is forgotten, lost in the mist. I'm sure you've never even heard of it. But for a little bit, it was a really cool idea.

Also the final challenge that the contestants in The Adventure Game had to face. On the other side of the vortex lay the entrance to the space ship that would take them home (the space ship looked suspiciously like a tram).

The Contestants had to move across the nodes of a lattice (between the nodes you could see out into space). If they walked into the Vortex the they were banished into space and had to walk home. Each turn a contestant would move onto a new node and then one of the keepers of the Vortex would move the Vortex. Of course the contestants could not see the Vortex and had to guess where to go.

For a while there was a cheat, the contestants could toss something onto an empty lattice point in front of them and if the Vortex landed on the object the object would be obliterated. This helped the contestants to find a safe way across. One day, without anyone saying anything the rules changed. The contestant stepped onto the node on which he had tossed (a burger I think it was) and he was consumed by The Vortex. The other contestants were more than a litte surprised.

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