It all started with a little site called Gaia Online. On this site, you are given a pixel-art, humanoid avatar, which you can customize, everything from eye color and hairstyle to clothes and accessories. There's an accompanying forum to chat on and minigames and events to enjoy.
Over the years since Gaia came around, there have been many similar sites, with their own avatar customizing systems and forums and communities. It was not at all uncommon (and still isn't) to find people who are members of more than one of these sites concurrently. Some lasted years, with thriving communities. Most come and go; some disappear practically overnight, others are been left to rot, broken and abandoned.
I have something of an affinity for these so-called "avatar sites," having joined pretty much every one I could find. My activity and interaction with the sites and their communities varied, but one thing stayed a constant: I love dressing up my digital paper dolls. Add to that my love of collecting, and I've managed to save at least one avatar from all of these sites. Here's my little museum, my Avatar Archive, if you will!