Influential reads online: finds about the old Web

A collection of articles I found influential on the topic of the early days of the internet, and my comments on why I found them thought-provoking.

How the Blog Broke the Web

Back then, we didn’t have platforms or feeds or social networks or… blogs.

We had homepages.

The backgrounds were grey. The font, Times New Roman. Links could be any color as long as it was medium blue. The cool kids didn’t have parallax scrolling… but they did have horizontal rule GIFs.

https://stackingthebricks.com/how-blogs-broke-the-web/

This little piece stirred a maelstrom in my head, because it's damn right.

The argument goes by this: before streams or feeds - chronological ordering - websites had their own library system, invented and maintained by the site owner. This resulted in genuinely unique sites, not just on a theme level, but on a fundamental layer, as a reflection of how their creators were thinking.

That said, there are, of course, valid uses for chronological ordering, but for some content, maintaining a table of contents could make a much better structure. Unfortunately making content machine-readable by hand is painful.

It would be interesting to see a reprise of home page builders. Not a by-default-a-blog, but an oldschool website builder, but with up to date features in the background.

Why Do All Websites Look the Same?

The internet suffers from a lack of imagination, so I asked my students to redesign it

https://medium.com/s/story/on-the-visual-weariness-of-the-web-8af1c969ce73

It ties in to the first one: most sites look the same, and that's not how it's supposed to be.

It contains wonderful ideas on how a certain websites could look and be completely unique, and, in my opinion, personal homepages should consider putting energy and time (and a lot of swearing) into making their online home truly their own as well.

The Slow Web (plus: the modern experience of film-watching)

[W]e need a Slow Internet Movement along the lines of Slow Food and Slow Cinema, if we're really going to take advantage of the archival nature of the Web.

http://www.rebeccablood.net/archive/2010/06/a_slow_web.html

I missed out on the golden days of the blogsphere. Not being a native English speaker, being occupied with a community around 2007, and a couple of other reasons contributed to this factor, so when I stumbled upon Rebecca's site, I got reminded how wonderfully packed personal websites used to be with text content. It's a joyful find, with things dating back to 1999, and with a plethora of now completely dead links.

As for this very entry: yes. We do need a slow web, one, where content is generated not for quick fame and likes, but for the love of the topic.

404 Page Not Found - The internet feeds on its own dying dreams

For with the collapse of the high-modernist ideology of style—what is as unique and unmistakable as your own fingerprints, as incomparable as your own body [e.g. MySpace, Geocities pages] . . . the producers of culture [big Internet companies] have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles [glitter graphics, Geocities], speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture [the whole internet].

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/404-page-not-found-wagner

A recent find - this is an article from 2019. A devastating, sour summary, and a frightening reflection on an 1991 essay, describing how recycled nostalgia eats the very thing itself. It also taught me the phrase and the movemenet of vaporwave.

Every single time I try to revive or revisit something I missed out on in the past - BBS systems, for example - I find that they were, in fact, incredibly hard to deal with. They required deep understanding, you had to build a serious amount of things yourself, and it took a long time. While some aspects of this are wonderful - you'll certainly learn it for example -, from another perspective, it's impossible to get people involved if there isn't a simple way to start these days.

Recycling old things is not inherently bad, but in case of the internet, there isn't a simple way to use them without overshadowing the original.

why i’ll never delete my LiveJournal

In truth, I like who I was on the Internet better when I was young and brash though I know not how to do that anymore (and wouldn’t want the burden of it, honestly). My LJ is a space I guard in defense of my younger, wilder, more whimsical self. To alter or destroy this place would mean losing a version of me with an honesty I can no longer afford.

https://medium.com/@emroselarse/why-ill-never-delete-my-livejournal-3ef54bd904af

I never thought I'll find an article that summarizes feelings and drifting thoughts on what is now lost from the internet. Being online in the early 2000s meant to retreat from the world, it was another plane - it was not a connected world yet, but a text-based reality, away from the people you know in your physical existence.

It even touches an extremely important aspect: we need to be reminded how we used to be, and an unchanged, or archived version of our ancient journals or websites websites is a good start.

Patient Zero of the selfie age: Why JenniCam abandoned her digital life

"I keep JenniCam alive not because I want to be watched, but because I simply don’t mind being watched."

http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/news-story/539cd1b26016fcee1a51cfca3895a7b5

In 1996, I was in elementary school, in Hungary, my English was enough to understand 2 stupid dogs1 and some of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest2.

So when I bump into articles talking about a certain Aussie who set up a non-stop webcam in 1996 about her life, it feels like a lightning strike about things I never heard of.

I'm not completely certain why I wanted to add this to the entry. Maybe it's because it feels like history is just sort of repeating itself, but is becoming more smoke and mirrors with each iteration; maybe to recognise that the early internet already pioneered most things that became mainstream(ish) 20 years later.

jennicam
Before Insta fame, there was Jenni

Be more, or less, like Jenni? That is something to decide for everyone for themselves.


  1. https://web.archive.org/web/19990508175315/http://cartoonnetwork.com/doc/2stupiddogs/index.html

  2. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115226/