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Online Ads Then and Now: Looking Back at the Earliest Internet Ads in India

Online Ads Then and Now: Looking Back at the Earliest Internet Ads in India

From flashy GIFs to fitting in a limited set of characters into a pulsating banner, the earliest internet ads were all about grabbing the eyeballs of unsuspecting users, even with pixelated webpage images of yore.

While the internet has been around in India for over 25 years now, for a vast number of people in our country, the internet is a relatively newer concept, with the chapter starting with the advent of the mobile-first era of connectivity. For the earliest internet users, though, most of us have at some point experienced the signature beeping tone of dial-up internet connections, pixelated website images and flickering CRT monitors galore. Alongside this rather primitive internet experience was something that is ubiquitous today – advertisements on the internet.

Things, though, were not quite as contextual and intelligent as they are today. Back then, most internet ads used to be embedded GIFs on websites, which received a far fewer number of clicks owing to fewer users being on the internet on an overall sense. However, brands often attempted to make the most of every website visitor, by making their ads look as flashy, gaudy and attention-grabbing as was possible. Without further ado, here's looking at some of these long-gone GIFs that once served as eyeball-grabbing ad strips on the early days of the internet.


While many may argue that these ads would not be as catchy, or convert to revenue the way targeted ads do in today's internet world, they certainly had their own way of converting clicks to earnings. The default banner ads integrated on websites existed alongside Google Ads, which in the early days of the internet formed a fairly strong revenue stream for many early online entrepreneurs.

Editor’s note: This article is part of News18’s 25 Years of Internet In India series, where we capture how the state of mobile services, home broadband, internet services and content have evolved, particularly in the past few years. We try to understand what the internet means for us, be it for the new reality of work from home, for entertainment of the habit of ‘binge watching’, music streaming, online gaming and more.