This FAQ has been written by Mr Creosote and Elwood in early 2002. We both haven't been in the scene from its very beginning, but entered in 1999. For events which happened earlier, we're dependant on what other people can tell. Our own memories also aren't perfect of course. We've tried our best to be accurate, never relied on one single source, but tried to implement different views to get a picture which is as objective as possible. But complete objectivity and accuracy of course isn't possible for the reasons mentioned above and the fact that we both have been involved in a lot of the things mentioned here, so this document represents a view on the events as we experienced them mainly. No author can do it differently.
To get even more views, check out these FAQs:
The Abandonware Ring FAQ
The Official Abandonware FAQ (formerly used by TUOL)
The definition of Abandonware
What is Abandonware?
Abandonware is an abbreviation for 'abandoned software'. That basically says it all. It is commonly defined as any piece of software (i.e. games and apps) which has been discontinued by its copyright holder. That means it isn't sold in the shops anymore. So the question if something is Abandonware or not can usually be easily answered by a quick check of the publisher's online store.
Some people also add a rule like 'older than three years' or 'older than five years' to the definition. The age of a game doesn't necessarily have anything to do with its availability though, therefore these 'age rules' can only be used as rough guidelines, but not as actual argument for or against something being Abandonware - the only thing that matters is the availability.
Is it limited to PC?
Abandonware isn't limited to any particular system (like for example PC). Even though nowadays, the PC-part of Abandonware is by far the most dominant part, the concept refers to all software, no matter if it was made for a common computer like the PC or the Amiga, a game console like the SNES or something really weird like the Matell Intellivision. If something's not marketed anymore, it's Abandonware. No matter if the downloads offered are so-called ROMs or disk images for emulators to run on a PC or in their native file system.
Sometimes it happens that a game is still being sold for one system (PC in most cases), but not for any others it was made for. In those cases, the PC version isn't Abandonware while it goes along with the definition perfectly to offer a C64 version for example.
Any grey areas?
Even with the best definition, there are some questionable cases remaining of course. 'Not being sold' of course doesn't include so-called 'bargin bins', used copies on places like ebay or GameTZ or the very last copy lying around in the backroom of a local games store. Common availability is the key. And normally only the copyright holder itself can ensure that.
That is one reason why a game being sold by retailers not related to the copyright holder is still Abandonware. If for example Yahoo sells a few copies of some old game, how long will their supplies last? And more important, will the makers of the game see any of the money? In such cases, it's obvious the copyright holder has in fact abandoned its product.
But that doesn't mean only official online stores of the companies themselves count. The important question is if the copyright holder is still aware of the game's existence and if they take care it's available. If they don't want or can't sell it themselves, but place a link to another online store where their product can be bought, it's just as good as selling it themselves - because it shows they care. In such a case, the software in question isn't Abandonware.
Another of these cases is the question of translated versions of a game. Each version has to be seen on its own there. So if only an English or a Spanish version of some game is being sold, only this respective version isn't Abandonware, but all others are.
What happens if the copyright holder decides to re-release its title?
Then this particular piece of software ceases to be Abandonware and downloads of it are removed from every true Abandonware site.
Is it legal?
Simple answer: no. According to current laws, copyright lasts 50 years after the author's death, or in the case of a company 75 years from its initial release. So unless you find copyrighted software made more than 75 years ago, it's not legal to copy. And good luck finding that!
That is the case in most countries of the world. There are always exceptions of course, 'dark corners' of the world where copyright in this meaning doesn't exist. But the Internet is an international thing, so we have to take the 'worst' case into account.
Copying includes everything other than making a backup copy of your own original software for your own use. You're not allowed to 'lend' those backups to anyone who doesn't own an original version. You're not allowed to upload your backups to the Internet for 'storage purposes'. There is no way around it: offering Abandonware is illegal and so is downloading it! The latter unless you own an original version of course. But why download it then?
Conclusion: Don't let yourself be fooled by some lamers who try to put up ridiculous disclaimers talking about a '24 hour period' in which it is legal to try something out or something like that - they're all lying.
The only case in which you can get away with downloading Abandonware is if you're living in a country which hasn't signed the Berne Convention and which doesn't enforce copyrights in the usual way.
If it's illegal, why do it then?
To save old software from being completely forgotten. You see, most of the active people in the scene grew up with these games and they're trying to preserve those memories and present those masterpieces they usually consider better than current software to others.
The computer world is a very fast-lived one. New technology enters the market all the time, old stuff becomes 'outdated'. This trend has always been there, and it's developing faster every year. Only a few years back, it was at least possible to buy a game for a few years, then it disappeared. Nowadays, only the biggest smash hits manage to 'survive' that long!
This disappearing of old material is without any example anywhere outside the computer world. Imagine a book only being sold for 5 years, then not being printed anymore! Imagine an old movie not being shown anymore. Unthinkable! And like with those examples, it should be with software. Because old software doesn't get worse or obsolete just because it's old. Are Shakespeare's works looked down on because they're old? Does Citizen Kane get bad reviews because it's in black and white? Certainly not! Why put a computer game down just because it only has 16 colours then?
Abandonware webmasters don't hurt the makers financially because the offered software can't be acquired in any other way. It is a kind of last resort if there is no other way left but the illegal one. If copyright holders would either just continue to sell their classics or release them as freeware after some time, there would be no need for Abandonware. But until then (if it ever happens at all), we have the moral obligation to do what we do.
If it's illegal anyway, why not also offer newer stuff?
So we've come to the infamous 'Warez'. Warez is any software being copied which is still for sale (age doesn't matter). Unlike Abandonware, Warez doesn't have any moral justification behind it. It's just an extremely cheap and lame way of getting everything for free. There aren't really any argument for it other than "it's all too expensive" which isn't an argument really. Abandonware webmasters don't want to have anything to do with this greed and commercialism Warez sites show.
Are there any chances Abandonware will get legal?
For a positive thinker: yes. The point is a clause in the copyright law which states 'abandoned property' is "property that has been discarded by the true owner, who has no intention of claiming title to it. Someone who finds abandoned property, acquires title to it, and such title is good against the whole world, including the original owner".
If and how this clause can come into action regarding Abandonware is highly questionable though. If a copyright holder would directly say they 'abandon' their titles, it would fit. But then the software would be freeware anyway. Some companies (or their representatives like the IDSA) do actually warn Abandonware sites from time to time, one could interpret that as enforcement of copyrights (as clueless as these organisations may be at times).
So far, there haven't been any big coordinated campaigns to make Abandonware legal.
What is the role of the IDSA/ESA/SPA/SIIA?
Short answer: none. Yes, that's right, they are 'organisations' which are completely unrelated to the Abandonware definition! Something being 'IDSA/ESA protected' does not affect the status of a game being Abandonware!
So, all of them have nothing to do with Abandonware per se (can't repeat that often enough). Still, 'IDSA' (now 'ESA') is one of the most mentioned names in the 'scene'. That is because the IDSA (Interactive Digital Software Association), a representative of some of the biggest publishers, has stepped into the 'scene' several times and sent out so-called 'cease & desist letters'. Those are legal threats to webmasters to stop offering software copyrighted by IDSA members.
These letters are the reason you will find many disabled downloads on big sites saying 'this game is IDSA protected'. It is solely related to these individual webmasters receiving mail from the IDSA, not because these games aren't Abandonware!
The Abandonware scene
The Abandonware scene consists of several parts. It is by no means homogenous, go to different places and you'll see different things. There are no 'central organs' like a 'government'. The general parts can easily be classified into a few groups though. All of those are in some way interconnected, some more, some less.
The web scene
This is most likely the biggest chunk of what is 'the scene'. And as you're reading this, you're in it ;)
Download and review sites
These are the core of the web scene. They deal with the games and apps themselves. Some only offer big lists of downloads, others think it's necessary to write up reviews and comments, offer extras like manuals, editors and so on to do the games justice. Both ways have their pros and cons, even though the history has shown that the latter type normally survives longer while the pure download archives are short-lived in many cases.
Visit the site listings of our network members for examples of this kind of site.
Rings (like for example TUOL) are the most common way of download sites to get exposure. If someone starts a new download site, the first thing he does normally is to submit to several rings. Those (if the new site complies with the ring's rules - those may vary in some details from ring to ring) list the site then and the rings' visitors' attraction is drawn to it.
Unlike most other scenes, the dominating type of ring in the Abandonware community is the pure site listing (like TUOL). Classic webrings (like our own Abandonweb) have a hard time surviving (no attack against them intended).
See the resources for a list of the currently active rings.
With Perl and PHP scripting getting more common, search engines dedicated to Abandonware have grown stronger in number over time. There are two types of searches in the scene: game listings and keyword searches. Game listings can be done in pure html, they normally just list games alphabetically with download sites which carry those titles linked next to them. Keyword searches work more like the normal Internet search engines (e.g. Google): the visitor types in what he's looking for and the script gives out possible results. Unlike Altavista or Google, the latter type isn't usually spider-based though. Webmasters just submit their games lists directly, so there shouldn't be any 'false' search results because one word is mentioned somewhere in another context. These day, most search engines offer both of the above services.
Abandonweb is currently hosting the Abandonware Network's official search engine. See the resources for a list of the currently active search engines not belonging to our network.
A sensitive topic in the Abandonware scene. There have been quite a lot of those in the past years. But their concept - listing sites according to their hits which is no real indication of quality - had been extremely controversial amongst the webmasters for some time. With Topzero coming into action in 2000, most topsites either gave up completely or fell into complete insignificance with no major sites joining them.
Even though Topzero is gone, many webmasters are still extremely negative about topsites and refuse to join them. The Abandonware Network doesn't support this type of site listing, that is why we won't give you directions towards any surviving ones.
Forums are of course mostly directly related to websites, but sometimes they develope some kind of independence and grow beyond their originating sites. These are probably the most community-like places in the scene.
This is the newest craze in the scene, even though it's already wearing off a bit again. Resource sites don't carry games or apps, but they also don't necessarily list sites like rings do. In fact, sometimes it's hard to determine what should be classed as a resource site and what not. So basically, this term is just used for sites which can't be categorized differently. Common examples are sites which review other sites, news sites and any other services not covered by the sites above.
The Abandonware Network itself could be classified as a 'resource site'. See the resources for a list of the currently active resource sites run by other people.
IRC is short for 'Internet Relay Chat'. First you need a client to connect to it. A very popular one would be mIRC which you can get at www.mirc.com. For technical info about IRC in general and mIRC in particular you can find what you are looking for on that same site.
I'd recommend you connect to Efnet as that's the most popular network with many servers to connect to. #pcoldies is the Abandonware Network's official channel. For a list of other channels dealing with abandonware, refer to our resource section.
FTP means 'file transfer protocol'. Unlike the http part of the Internet, it's usually not addressed via browser (although most modern browsers also support ftp), but by a special client. There are no pretty pictures and interesting texts, but just files to download.
Pure FTPs don't exist in the Abandonware scene. There are a few which are part of the web scene (i.e. belonging to sites) or IRC (i.e. promoted through a certain channel).
I guess... noone of us really knows a lot about this.
Where does it come from?
In the days of BBS and the earlier days of the internet the term "non-warez" was invented describing all software that was not recent. This included oldwarez as well as abandonware. It is not known who exactly invented the term "abandonware". Some rumors say it was Trixter - one of the first "heroes" of the abandonware scene. More about him below.
And what exactly happened in the past?
It must have been in 1997 when the first abandonware sites were created. We are not talking of 1000+ games sites here and only of a number of maybe a dozen - but most likely closer to half a dozen sites altogether - the most famous of them probably having been Trixter's Box of Trix. The Abandonware Ring was founded around that time as well. It was then that the SPA (Software Piracy Agency) made its first appearance by closing down sites and sending out Cease and Desist letters - Trixter left the scene and later started MobyGames proving that a passion for classic games can not be killed by any law. The Abandonware Ring went over to Swizzle who is still running it - with breaks in between and a changing crew though.
The year 1998 brought the appearance of a second ring that always kept the image of "the rebel ring" - the Ring of Ages, which was a creation of PsOmA - it has been opened up and closed down for several times making its last appearance in 2001 - it has not returned since. As far as I can tell 1998 was the beginning of a somewhat stable webscene - shaken by some heavier wars between AR and RoA including the hacking of supporting sites on both sides. Wellknown sites like Home of the Underdogs and Flashback were founded back then.
In 1999 the scene is becoming more and more active. TUOL was founded as The Ultimate OldwareZ Linkpage in that year and the number of abandonware sites (and those that called themselves abandonware sites) came close to 100. Discussions about what exactly abandonware is began to get louder. Of course everyone had the right opinion and every other opinion was just WRONG. ;)
2000 - Abandonware Ring and TUOL started to disallow oldwarez sites, TUOL changed its name to The Ultimate Oldgames Linkpage. The number of active abandonware sites made itself comfortable above the 100 mark. Abandonware became more and more known outside of the scene. A campaign against topsites was started (TopZero - ran by The TTG Guy). Quality became an important word. The number of Rings drastically increased. Many smaller rings started up, many closed down again later, some were around for longer, few came back later. One of the few small rings from that period that made its way and is still around is Abandoned Places originally being founded by Mr.Cee and finally being led to fame and success by Vohaul.
The scene of 2001 was already pretty much the same scene we got today. It became almost impossible to run anything but a small site on free webspace providers. What started in 2000 continued this year - the scene began to decentralize. While there were only one or two main boards in 1999 and most people posted there we have way over a dozen big "important" boards and of course zillions smaller ones. No groundbreaking changes took place in this year. However the feared term "Cease and Desist" was heard again this year. While mainly being ignored in tolerated the years before in early 2001 sites got threatened again. In march the SIIA (formerly known as SPA) sent out one of their friendly letters to myself making me close down The Keep. Later the IDSA targetted other sites. But then it happened - a site dared to resist and did not close down! Home of the Underdogs simply didn't close its doors but "just" took down software copyrighted by the members of the IDSA. This became common practice and from that point on the scene didn't see sites going because of Cease and Desist letters anymore (at least not because of that alone).
2002 - the present - abandonware is not exactly ONE scene anymore. However it is too big to be ignored or shut down. Sites get thousands of hits every day - the big ones even up to 10,000 on a single day. Bigger sites have to run their own servers - free webspace providers are out of question for everything but the smallest sites.
More (less coherent) history can be found in our resources archive and the memories.
It started in august 1999 with a mail from HaZZeL to me, Elwood. I had known him for some months - we were both running abandonware sites (or what was counted as that back then). He was asking me what I would think about opening up an alternative to the Abandonware Ring. Back then the AR was basically the only ring - with the exception of Abandonweb, which was a small webring (with a similar concept to today). The Ultimate OldwareZ Linkpage was founded.
One of the first reactions we got was that everyone was happily joining and... oh wait no. Of course not. Noone was really interested in TUOL except for Swizzle who kicked my site Elwoods Groovy Old Goodies from the Abandonware Ring because of a newly inventended "Ring Admins are not allowed to be a member of the Abandonware Ring" rule. Funny though that a whole Ring (Abandonweb) was a member of the AR... when I asked why it was of course removed resulting in some drastic words from Gomi, the webmaster of Abandonweb, towards Swizzle. TUOL's only members were HaZZeL's and my site that didn't receive a serious number of hits because of not being listed on the Abandonware Ring anymore. Not a pretty situation, aye?
However we gave our best to advertise TUOL on boards and sent out direct invitations (not to be confused with spam mails - webmasters got individual mails telling them why THEIR site would be the perfect member of TUOL). HaZZeL left TUOL for a while because of personal reasons after about a month - so I took over as the main webmaster (before HaZZeL was considered "the boss" - I was just helping out). Originally he planned to be back a month later, but it took more than 2 months till he was seen again. After the month was over and I began to give up hope of him coming back I started to change things at TUOL... starting with the design... *coughs* The TUOL color scheme including white, two shades of grey and dark red was invented (later one grey was exchanged with tan). Turnip joined in as the first "real" crewmember (the first crewmember except for HaZZeL and me was Tamax... who admittedly never really did anything and was gone soon - it should be added though that noone has ever asked him to do anything... he was just there). Abandonweb was integrated into TUOL when Gomi left it and agreed to hand it over. HaZZeL returned towards the end of the year and made a few appearances as updater but never got into the crew again.
The year 2000 brought the change in name and rules - TUOL became The Ultimate Oldgames Linkpage and only allowed abandonware sites (using the current definition - read above). Turnip and myself happily commented the european football championships... France won the cup. TUOL gained members this year and made it over the 100 sites mark, but fell behind the Ring of Ages when it made a return (allowing oldwarez). On 08/08/2000 the Abandonware Network was founded and TUOL got the current design.
2001 - NUMBER ONE! TUOL made it to the top spot this year being the ring with the most members and for a short while also the ring getting the most hits (although the AR got that spot back when it made a comeback). TUOL handed out the Abandonware Oscars for the first (and till now only) time.
2002... well... there weren't any bigger changes so far. Abandonweb has started its own search feature and increased hits and popularity - hasn't beaten TUOL yet though. ;)
2003 until now - TUOL has continued its stable course, not much has changed. There (thankfully) aren't any major conflicts between rings anymore these days, and TUOL's services have pretty much been settled. It is now by far the largest ring, outnumbering the no. 2 by almost 100%.
History of Abandonweb (written by Mr Creosote)
Abandonweb was founded in 1998 by Gomi. Running your own scripts was very uncommon then, and Abandonweb was no exception: It was run via the services or Webring.org (which was still 'independent' back then). In those days, there was only two other ring: The Abandonware Ring and the Ring of Ages. Webmasters didn't have much choice what to join and those two rings were in fact constantly 'at war', so joining them both was rather uncommon. The AR's webmaster, then known as NetAssassin, wasn't exactly know to tolerate 'competition' (blatant understatement), but Abandonweb - being a webring as opposed to a mere 'sitelisting' like the AR - was even listed as a member of 'the ring'. This way, Abandonweb was able to stay out of the 'ring wars' for the most part which were so common at that time.
The mid-1999, Gomi was leaving 'the scene' for good. He handed over Abandonweb to Elwood, who had just co-founded TUOL a bit earlier. This way, it became 'powered by TUOL'. Abandonweb wasn't 'integrated' into TUOL though, the rings stayed seperated apart from being advertised through the same main site and being run by the same person. As the TUOL crew changed (and grew), it was usually the 'junior webmasters' who had the duty to maintain Abandonweb in addition to their work at TUOL.
In early 2000, the ring was in a really bad state: many dead sites, updates only occured very seldomly. The prominent links for webmasters to submit their sites to Abandonweb were removed from TUOL's main page. It didn't look as if it was going to survive any longer because of the lack of care. The TUOL webmasters had enough to do with their 'main ring' (which had just undergone a significant change in the rules), but Abandonweb needed someone to care about it primarily.
Still being considered the 'boss' of Abandonweb, Elwood took care of that (mid-2000) and asked John Gotti (who - as Mr Cee - had been the original founder of Abandoned Places) to do the job. He agreed. In addition, I (after nagging Elwood about maintaining Abandonweb better for several month) was 'hired' to support the main webmaster (having no experience with ring work). Gotti reconsidered a week later - he had never actually started working on the ring.
That was an unexpected amount of responsibility. I can't say I did a great job, I mostly just 'maintained' Abandonweb. But compared to how it looked before, things certainly improved (arrogance mode on): the site listing was cleaned up, new site were accepted again (without waiting several weeks as it sometimes happened before). There weren't any innovations or anything fresh really though.
In late 2000, Webring.org was acquired by Yahoo. All ring admins using Webring received announcements how really nothing was going to change with the 'integration'.... but..... people had to get 'Yahoo IDs', the html fragments would be 'slightly changed' (incorporating Yahoo stuff) and there were some strange hints at 'probably' displaying ads. That all was something we (Elwood was still considered part of the crew as well then, even though he mostly had the role of the 'senior advisor') couldn't accept. Elwood took a free webring script from one of the big archives for Perl scripts and installed it. Abandonweb was at last completely independent from any third parties!
This didn't go without problems of course. It basically meant we had to start fresh. Since webrings work through html fragments including links displayed on the member sites, all members had to change the code on their sites. Rings always have a certain percentage of member sites which aren't actually maintained anymore - their webmasters have already left the scene, but the sites stay up. I mailed all webmasters and sent them the new html fragment - but many didn't react of course.
When the member count had just reached the old amount again, something really bad happened: We moved to another server and not being familiar with the type of database the script used (DBI), I screwed up. The backup I had was unusable. Starting again. Again shortly thereafter, our dedicated server was hacked. We lost the whole member database! When we got back up, I started building a new database from the scratch. Fortunately, I could add most old members again 'from memory'. Not a very good way to end the year for Abandonweb.
2001. In spite of all that 'action' (of the negative kind), Abandonweb had stalled again, just like a year earlier. Not in such an extreme way, but the problem was the same: I had worked on TUOL in addition for quite some time and now I had to take over more reponsibility there. No time for Abandonweb. The member list was free of dead sites and free of warez (as close as one can get of course), but it had stayed between 30 and 40 members for months. Again, it needed someone dedicated to take the next step: gaining even more popularity. I couldn't provide that, so I handed it over.
Ionpulse was our candidate for that. He had run his own download site, he had been the guy for everything involving promotion at The Keep and he had worked at TUOL (which he quit to work on Abandonweb) before - seemingly the perfect prerequisites for this job. If he hadn't been on the brink of leaving the scene, which he did only a short time later - without having done much at Abandonweb.
What now followed was a series of constant crew changes. Elwood and I tried to 'activate' people we knew, trusted and could depend on. In the order of appearance: Fieron, Darkside and Lunatic. They all tried their best, they all had their plans - but they all had their reasons why it didn't work out as planned and why they left again after a brief period.
In late 2001, the number of members had shrunk to 11. None of the plans of promotion of the webmasters had worked out while old members shut their doors. It had been a year of conflict between the big rings, and even though Abandonweb was kind of affiliated with TUOL, it had stayed out of this (much like when it was first founded) - with the result it was mostly overlooked (instead of being appreciated for its 'non-political stance').
Eager for some change concerning my own 'routine', I took over Abandonweb again - leaving TUOL. It was clear Abandonweb needed extra exposure or it'd die. The term 'features' had become quite 'trendy'. What could Abandonweb possibly offer in addition to the classic webring? There were several plans, some of which were plainly silly, but some also very interesting and fresh. One thing was for sure though: one person wouldn't be able to do it alone. Miles was supposed to join the crew. We discussed several things we wanted to offer and how we'd spread the work among us. Before anything came into action, we had a personal disagreement (not even related to Abandonweb) and I was on my own again.
Cutting down my own plans, only one new feature survived the planning phase: the search engine. It was added in early 2002 (this is also were our newsarchive starts, so you can follow the development in detail there if you want), based on the old search script by Audun which had been used for Flashware search and Heureka before. Only some days later, it was already replaced again after Tox had offered the vastly superior script formerly used by his late site Agames.
The member count grew again, also due to stronger promotion (not to be confused with spam - I talked to webmasters I knew personally in order to convince them). The search engine got popular, Abandonweb referred more hits to its members than ever before. Notable changes happened in April 2002 when the additions of each member site started to be listed specifically in each newspost and in May when the ability of list games by system (our search engine is the only one in the 'scene' to list games and apps for all computers and consoles) was added to the search script. In June, Jybbe joined the crew and he managed to stand working with me until mid-August. He was 'replaced' by Skree who mostly did 'background work' for the newly established 'TUOL search' (a restricted listing of TUOL members in Abandonweb's search engine). In September, we moved to another server again and the database again made problems (as on every move). Nothing was actually lost, but I was fed up with its inaccessability - so I basically wrote a completely new webring script from the scratch over night (in PHP this time). This time, the 'migration' didn't involve the loss of members though, because we put a forwarding script in the place of the old one. Skree disappeared in late 2002.
2003 & 2004. I'm on my own at Abandonweb and I've also taken over the main responsibility at TUOL. At the moment, it is alright though, because the whole 'scene' is shrinking - not that much work for the rings. Abandonweb had stalled at its 'usual' member count of something between 30-40 again, and lately, it is affected by the mass-dying of sites like every other ring. What will happen next? We'll see...
Up until '99, the Abandonware scene was through and through a 'hobby' one in this issue. Sites were put on free hosts, some of which were better, some worse. But the surprising thing (from today's point of view) is that they actually could stay there! Abandonware was still a very new phenomenon, there were only very few sites, most of which were small - 100 games already counted as a huge archive. That is why free hosters didn't really have to care about it - or maybe they weren't even aware of it all that much.
In '99 though, with the rising of many huge sites like Home of the Underdogs, the hosts switched to a more aggressive stance. While they had at first only asked the webmaster to remove the copyrighted contents (if they did anything at all that is), they now began to delete offending accounts on spot! And they apparantely began to actually search for those accounts and didn't wait for them to be reported anymore.
The next step was a logical reaction from the Abandonware webmasters: they began to move to paid hosting and dedicated servers. The first 'securely hosted' sites with domains were probably the Gamingdepot (on Output's Surfsolutions server) and Tox Games (on Tox' own server).
For most webmasters, 'life' went on as before though - just that they had to re-upload their files more often and 'carmouflage' their accounts better. Common techniques for the latter were renaming downloads to .bmp, spread files across various accounts, put up fake pages and all that stuff.
From early 2000 on, domain names got more and more common. These webmasters sacrificed their anonymity by that, sometimes grudgingly (as a side-effect of having a good URL), but in most cases with the proudness that they don't have to hide for what they're doing. These 'domain-based' sites were mostly hosted on other people's dedicated servers.
The situation with the free hosts grew even worse with every week that passed. At some point it was obvious that sites could only survive for long if they were hosted on some dedicated server. That or they were doomed to stay small forever. More paid hosting accounts and servers were set up, but it's still not nearly enough to provide enough resources for the existing sites.
Today, most sites still start up on free servers. But in many cases it's also webspace from ISPs. If they're lucky, they're offered hosting by someone. Otherwise, they have a hard time once their site grows.
Famous free hosts
There were some 'famous' free hosts which each were very popular during their time. First of all, there was Spaceports which was known for tolerating Abandonware. This was achieved by the friendship between the Abandonware webmaster Dr Cow (webmaster of Abandonware and Beyond) and the owner of Tera-Byte of which Spaceports is a subcompany. From late 2001 on, the quality of Spaceports' services dropped drastically though: they added lots of ads, put up bandwidth restrictions and even started kicking sites. Even Dr Cow's own site was deleted (with the excuse it happened 'by accident')! Nowadays, Spaceports has become almost unusable with many unclosable pop-ups and all that stuff.
In 2001, f2s had its heyday for a short period of time. They offered 25 MB of free webspace without any ads. In addition, their servers supported Perl, PHP and MySQL. In spite of their servers not being the fastest, many sites used it to host their sites (without downloads) - especially the scripted ones. f2s closed their free hosting service a short time later. Maybe it was just used too much...
Organised scene-internal hosting
There have always been efforts from the owners of secure hosting to provide some service to other webmasters - in other words: to host their sites. In '99, there was Pheature Solutions which offered 30 MB on Output's dedicated server. It died with its webmaster's departure from the scene. In 2000, TUOL offered hosting (50 MB) on Tox' server in exchange for one banner per page being displayed. No new sites were taken anymore after a short time, the sites which were already on the server could stay though. In November 2000, the Abandonware Ring started a hosting service on their dedicated servers. They offered 'virtually unlimited' space for one banner per page. As popular as this offer was, the quickly it died again (sites were kicked in February 2001) when it became obvious that the bandwidth requirements could never be financed with just this one banner. Many sites had to look for a new home suddenly, many even died.
At the moment, there are no open hosting offers. Complete site hosting including downloads is normally provided on a basis of friendship between webmasters, not via submission form.