Planet Jubyla “has rings like Saturn. It looks like chocolate ice cream. Everything is made of flowers. It is kind of like Earth. It does have oxygen.” The imaginary celestial body is immortalized on jubyla.com, a single-page site that says it was created “by Jubyla, on Tuesday, February 22, 2000.”
In true Y2K fashion, the graphic design is atrocious in a way that I love: a trippy colorful background and mishmash of five different garish fonts make your head spin. The art (titled “butufel things”) is a chaotic collage of flowers and planets. The site is an untouched time capsule from the aughts-era internet where static HTML and neon color schemes filled the web.
It’s immediately clear that the site is the masterpiece of a wide-eyed elementary schooler who has not yet been jaded by the world, a kid in the stages of life characterized by sticky fingers and a sturdy sense of self-importance. Planet Jubyla couldn’t be bothered by the bursting dot-com bubble — it was an intergalactic dreamland with everything that mattered: “restaurant, malls, grocery markets and houses.”
The creator goes on to say, “Little kids go to school there. I named it Jubyla because it sounds like my name. The end... maybe??????”
“GUITAR, JUBYLA, YEAH!”
The site has six audio recordings: three in the category “JUBYLA NEWS” with rambling weather reports and musings about Pokemon, interspersed with the telltale sniffles of little-kid congestion. The other three recordings are short musical performances in the category “GUITAR, JUBYLA, YEAH!”.
Like many people, I am a former third-grade girl, and I saw a piece of my former self in the unabashed enthusiasm for butterflies, sunflowers, malls, the color pink, and chocolate ice cream. It made my heart explode. I didn’t know who’d made it, but I pictured a 9-year-old girl hunched over a clunky Dell desktop on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
I figured that Jubyla’s creator was probably some woman around 30 named Julia or Julie, and I was curious what she was up to. I saw that the website’s domain was registered to a Florida company called “BuildingOnline,” and a bit of digging revealed that the founder of BuildingOnline was a man named Alan Wickstrom whose personal website mentioned his daughter named — wait for it — Julie. A few days later, Julie Wickstrom told me over the phone that she was indeed the mind behind jubyla.com.
The real Jubyla
She told me that she’d been surprised when I reached out to her. “I didn’t even know the website was still up,” she told me. “I haven’t thought about it for a decade. I forgot it existed.”
But when she re-visited the planet she’d created as a 9-year-old, she was filled with nostalgia.
“I was in third grade and in school I did a project about creating my own planet,” she told me. “Mine, obviously, was Jubyla.” When her dad saw how dedicated she was to the project, he offered to help make it into a website. Proficient in the web development techniques of the year 2000, Julie’s dad worked out the technical aspects of putting Planet Jubyla online, leaving Julie to create the digital art, design the layout, and write copy.
Now a full-time content creator and pet sitter, Julie remains an avid internet user. “Jubyla might have been the beginning of me sharing things online.”
“I couldn't be responsible for depriving the world of this, so I left it running.”
But there was still one question Julie couldn’t answer for certain: why was the site was still up? Though efforts like Internet Archive, Archive Team, and others attempt to preserve liminal Web 1.0 sites, many of them (there were once 38 million Geocities sites) have vanished. Yet Jubyla remains untouched. Who was paying to keep the jubyla.com domain — and why?
It’s probably only up because nobody had the heart to delete it. A commenter on the forum Hacker News offered some insight: “A few years ago, the company I work for acquired a small web agency. I was tasked with migrating their client sites to our infrastructure. One of the gems I found was https://www.jubyla.com/. After a little asking around, I learned that it was created by the daughter of one of the agency's employees. I couldn't be responsible for depriving the world of this, so I left it running.”
Perhaps someday a hot startup called Jubyla will shell out to buy the domain, but until then, we can revel in a rare, untouched, utterly wholesome corner of the internet — complete with flowers, chocolate ice cream, and malls.