I've noticed in the last few years the articles about the "early 90's/00's" web has increased. A desire for the older, more personal, mostly text and some cheesy few-framed animated .gif web. A web that felt more person to person instead of corporation to corporation or plastic Barbie doll to plastic Ken doll full with fake personas.
This is why I support Neocities  and host my site with them. You can find all sort of interesting sites if you browse  a while. My personal favorite is browsing all the layers of .
 [Warning: Auto-playing Music] https://mebious.neocities.org/Layer/Wierd.html
But even in the 90s some would argue  that the web was getting too fancy:
> Enough's enough. The World-Wide Web promises a new way to let people communicate. But too many Web designers are being bewitched by "multimedia" - they load their sites with gigantic graphics, embedded sound clips and animation.
There's plenty 'wrong' with the web as it has evolved, but I don't think it's a bad thing to make it easier to use a variety of ways to communicate. Text is just the one that is easiest to implement.
I don't have to copy and paste HTML each time, because I wrote a static site compiler from scratch in Ruby. I don't even use any gems, it's that easy. For an example article, check out: https://zachaysan.com/zero
The web doesn't need to be this horrible bloated thing we've all made it into.
Anyway, you're right, the tools to build a blog and publish content you truly own are absolutely there.
Nobody is more impressed than I am. It hasn't stopped being amazing to me that it works.
I personally think the support model is all about scaling properly - or simply not scaling past a sustainable point. As long as the number of patrons scales with the number of "freeloaders" it is a sustainable model. The issue is if you begin to hockey stick and don't restrict your scaling (because you "want to be larger" or you "hope people will donate as we hockey stick upwards"). Once that happens, donation ran sites tend to collapse under themselves - which, for recent examples, is what has happened to so many pomf.se clones. Becoming too popular can become a death sentence.
As a support-driven site, can you provide any insight into that? Or offer whether you agree/disagree with the idea? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Slow AF, but it usually works. If you feel it's just a Timecube or TempleOS, then I'm sorry for wasting your time.
Thinking about your habits will always be useful to you. Be the architect of this living art and your artful living. Go forth, sir, and be that which creates itself. Build your existential lifetool, reconstruct yourself, and ride your liferaft down the river of happiness
It is about time I reconstructed myself and incorporated a decent existential lifetool into my river journey.
I work on my wiki on a 42" screen, and I've found it very useful to see large bodies of monospace text all at once on my screen (it's part of my workflow). I regularly have 50,000 words worth of tiddlers open at any given time, and I've found the font is useful in development. I'm going to accept the tradeoff for now.
If it ever becomes something which isn't intended for me, but instead primarily for others, I will have to change it.
Also, is computational existentialism a term of your own? If so, could you define it for me?
Currently, it reads:
"Applied Computational Existential is the scientific method loaded with a profound respect for metaphysics applied to my fundamental existential problems. The goal is to balance my self-dialectic with empirical bottom-up reasoning and rationalist top-down modeling from a transcendental realist's position in epistemology and ontology. This is an assay in teleology based on the assumption that the physical world and my mind are almost entirely reducible to computational models while humbly accepting that the final telos of reality exists in metaphysics."
There's a pattern - it happened with smartphones too - where a new technology appears, and at the beginning people engage with it directly. They use it, they do things with it. And in that type of relationship there's the opportunity to have fun with it. But then as the new medium grows - as it becomes more economically lucrative and scales to an exponentially bigger audience - it's made to be more efficient instead. Eventually users no longer use, they consume.
Think about how weird and wonderful the first iPhone apps were, with their kitschy skeuomorphism and novel uses of sensors. The accelerometer-based lightsaber. The sound boards. The odd and interesting domain-specific utility apps. Even Instagram had personality back in 2010. And then people would jailbreak their iPhones, so they could add widgets and toolbars and ridiculous neon color themes. The smartphone started out as a magical anything-object that people looked at as its own entity, just as web pages started out as magical worldwide bulletin-boards that people would put together and decorate for their own sake.
These days the smartphone is boring. It intentionally falls to the background, serving as little more than a stylish content-pipe feeding your every craving. It is minimalist and inoffensive and ever-present. Even apps are supposedly on their way out. The very action of opening an app and doing something is seen as a piece of friction, keeping people from consuming content as effortlessly. Google Assistant and Siri would rather predict what you want and serve it to you before you even ask for it.
Play is how the human brain stays alive, and it can't happen without back-and-forth interaction and tactility, and user agency.
However, game engines companies now offer asset stores. To OP's point, it's not hard to see a future where some successful indie games are made by stitching together assets and mechanics sourced entirely from others. Would it cheapen the result, despite the talent and effort put into those components none the less grand? Perhaps.
Technology and popularity move the goalposts. It increases the amount and/or changes the nature of effort required to attain acclaim.
Asset stores are definitely used to fill gaps in artistic talent/man-hours, though. In fact there's a term for games made out of nothing but hastily slapped-together assets: "asset flips".
I miss existing in that collective weird space.
Furthermore, it could have been just your group. Most people I know from back in the 90’s were just playing games.
Making content for that game was so much more time consuming than grandaddy Quake 1.
I'd like to respectfully disagree, as I think that there are many people out there, a notable example being the XDA forums for many people intensely modifying and changing their android devices. Smartphones and their apps have gotten so much more complex and capable since their inception, someone could pretty much manage all the basics of their online life on one.
> It intentionally falls to the background...It is minimalist and inoffensive and ever-present.
I wish :) There is a real problem of smartphone addiction, where the phone and its apps try its best to entice you into spending as MUCH time as possible, definitely not in the background or minimalist.
> Even apps are supposedly on their way out.
Given the ever-growing user base and size of the Apple and Google app stores, I don't think that's true, people just may just be looking to launch or access their functionality a tad-bit faster (if at all in truth).
Also, the general user adoption sounds a lot like you're describing the general trend mentioned here: https://meaningness.com/geeks-mops-sociopaths, although smartphones aren't necessarily a subculture (more specifically, android and iphone rooting/modding communities might qualify however.)
 = https://www.xda-developers.com/
Jailbreaking is dead, and Swift does not allow swizzling. I agree, smartphones are boring, it's too locked down. Not many people had the skill to write quality apps in Objective-C, so now we're stuck with apps written using React Native. This makes smartphones more complex, but the quality is worse.
One does not have to recompile and flash Android just to change something. Bytecode can be redirected at class load time and native binaries can be individually "replaced" by mounting over them. This is how Xposed and Magisk work, respectively, BTW.
You could try and manufacture all those tasty molecules yourself, or you could outsource the job to mitochondria, and meanwhile you could go off in pursuit of loftier goals, such as how to figure out multicellular life, and so on.
Same with everything else, including personal websites.
It seems quite possible to me that the number of people jailbreaking their iPhones and developing weird apps is actually greater than in the early days, it's just that everyone has a smart phone now, so the percentage of people doing that has shot way down.
Its goal is to bring back the idea of hacking together HTML pages by hand, but with the benefits of modern dynamic content. It's cool and inspiring.
There had been smartphones before iphone, for a long time.
Damn it, the iphone was not even launched as a smartphone. It was launched as basically a ipod that could make calls.
Even disregarding what you're referring to, do you remember walkie-talkies?
I'd say if anything Slashdot was the one that drove people to make chronological posts. Because if you wanted to be on Slashdot, you had to post something new, and the best way people knew if you had something new was if you had a date on it.
Making that (and clones customised for friends), got me into web development and ended up in a 20 year career.
Now we have lame blogs owned by corporations like Techcrunch, or filled with vacation pics and food porn.
I thought it was a little silly when Hacker News began hiding points, but I think it has a lot to do with how Hacker News hasn't turned into a game about scoring points rather than people sincerely trying to express some analysis or opinion.
Getting to the end of a blog post, and wanting to see what other people have to say, then only seeing links to other people's blogs, or garbage comments like "really amazing post! come look at my blog" is disheartening. It even makes you feel unwelcome commenting on the actual content, as though a decadent interest in ideas interferes with a bunch of people trying to do their jobs and put food on the table.
People have seemingly figured out that confronting someone's employer, even about a topic unrelated to their work, is a good way to punish someone for a misdeed. That was never really a concern most people had to be concerned about until recently.
I like to thank that A. I'm a decent person and B. my employer would not drop me over an Internet argument, but I think really anyone who communicates online needs to be afraid of this risk.
Otherwise one day some group will have fun with them until they have no employees left.
My blog is about my city, and there are plenty of things we "can" talk about but probably should't. For example, I don't think the business that's in one of the cornerstone buildings downtown is the right business for the neighborhood. But I'd never say it. It'd be needlessly confrontational, my opinion isn't going to get that business to move, they're paying their rent so they have every right to stay there, and all it would do is piss people off who disagree with me.
On the other hand, we generate minor controversies all the time. People who live outside of the city always want more parking, we're pretty strongly against setting minimum numbers of parking spaces when putting in new buildings. We support new higher-density living in the city, many neighbors are strongly opposed to it. As such, we're the target of smear campaigns and any relevant social media post is often swamped with the people who disagree with us. We've also been factually wrong in the past, and some people do their best to remind us of it as often as possible.
The trick is to ignore it. Haters gonna hate. Don't be unnecessarily confrontational, and just roll on without acknowledging your public critics. They're just trying to piggyback off your success.
It's not really a "one wrong word" situation, it's "one word you really knew you shouldn't have said, but against all better judgement you did anyway" followed by "engaging your critics in arguments", then topped off with "caving and admitting defeat because you knew you were wrong all along".
I can't think of a single collapse of a public figure because of one wrong word that wasn't extremely egregious and then handled extremely poorly.
THAT dynamic is toxic and we need to somehow evolve a social rule against it. Something like Godwin's Rule, back when that worked.
Everybody has at some point said something factually incorrect and everybody has at some point said something that sounds wrong or mean when taken out of context today.
If forever bringing up "Remember, this is the person who said (worst thing ever)!" is a valid move, it's an attack on identity continuity. The existing defenses against that attack seem to be:
(a) completely abandoning identity continuity (eg: 4chan)
(b) trying to appear perfectly accurate and inoffensive at all times by retroactively deleting any posts that might make one look inconsistent or mean and hoping nobody notices or keeps an archive.
There really ought to be more options than those. For instance, one could adopt a statute-of-limitations approach:
Anything said more than two years ago is off-limits as an attack on that person/blog/institution today.
Once the right rule is documented, those who break it are demonstrating they are too dumb or ill-informed to engage with what is being said now and thus have lost the argument.
One example is Bredan Eich. Because he chose to donate to a Prop 8 fund and it got out, his opinion on all subjects is automatically null and void for many people.
Another case is that of reddit user 'Unidan', who became an immediate pariah overnight because he was a dick to someone online, so he abandoned the entire identity. If any of his alternate identities were somehow linked back, it would likely become useless as well. I'd be willing to be his professional career suffered greatly because of that rant, too.
There's also Joy Reid, who has been in hot water lately because people found old tweets and blog posts that were offensive. In that case, people actively went back to look for things she said in the past.
None of these would have been possible pre-internet.
It is best to just ignore them.
This is why the web was better when everyone was operating under a pseudonym.
You only need to look at the kind of stuff the griefers on various other websites get up to to see the extent of the menu of real-world consequences. Those things are not jokes.
So I totally see your 'real consequences' argument, and it goes way beyond just your employment, in some cases it is your life that is in the balance.
But there will always be idiots. Just like there are people using drugs and then driving vehicles I have to share the road with them. But that won't change my attitude towards driving, and neither will the existence of assholes diminish my activities online. But I totally sympathize with those people for whom lines have been crossed that cause them to censor themselves or even to tune out completely. And I'm sure I too have such lines (in fact, I can easily think of several) and if those were crossed I too would bow out.
That, not consequently, is the same time as Facebook became the dominant way for many people to share and consume links on the web.
... And written by "influencers".
It loads slowly, but you're downloading the entire wiki. I'm as transparent as I can be with my thoughts. It's as personal as it gets. If you feel it's just a Timecube or TempleOS, then I'm sorry for wasting your time.
What changed was when people began putting their content into siloes protected by a login wall, and platforms strongly defined by visible indicators of popularity, which didn't really happen until Facebook and Twitter.
Even in the Livejournal and Myspace days, a lot of profiles were public, but quasi-pseudonymous, requiring some effort to actually find. It was Facebook that mandatorily juxtaposed one's real name with one's real words, which quickly led to predictable outcomes: people being doxxed, harrassed, turned down for employment. Within a few years, most people set their profiles to private in an effort to protect themselves from snooping employers, colleges, exes, and trolls, keeping most of what people write and share walled off behind a login and a friend approval gate.
Twitter was billed as "microblogging", where one could publish short snippets with more frequency vs. a long-form blog, but its bizarre interface, unclear direction, and feature competition with Facebook caused it to evolve many of the same mechanisms and signals of popularity as Facebook. Facebook's status updates were a direct assault on Twitter, so Twitter eventually morphed 'favorites' into 'likes'. With it, it was blindingly obvious that most people's content wasn't even being read.
All of this social transition took place in the shadow of the commercialization of the web, where websites were no longer just billboards for businesses, but platforms where one could conduct commerce, consume professional content, and be subject to behavioral analytics that fed back into ads. With the abundance of commercial content, consumption went up and amateur production went down.
1. Google Ads monetized linking and gave birth to the SEO "industry."
2. Facebook mandated real names.
3. Apple and Google completely closed off their mobile platforms requiring pre-approval for all applications.
The last piece of this is that the stewards of the web, the W3C, have completely abandoned their charge and sold the web out to these corporations. The W3C has allowed the evolution of the web to be completely captured by Google and other major corporations. Rather than making the web simpler and more accessible we've seen the W3C bless standard after standard that make the web significantly more complicated. Today nobody but extremely wealthy corporations can afford to develop a browser. HTTP2 means nobody but major corporations can write web servers these days. Abandoning a well-structured web (XML, semantic technologies) for the current html5-js-soup means that the knowledge published on the web is wholly inaccessible... unless it gets exposed via proprietary, one-off json-soup APIs.
The complete corporate capture of the web wasn't driven by "blogging" nor was it in any way a democratic process. It was a deliberate and carefully engineered process that created a web and a computing platform (mobile phones) that is absolutely and completely under the control of corporations, moreso than any previous platform.
At this point there's really only two ways forwards: (1) abandon the web and start over or (2) governments will step up and reign in corporations.
As the price of Internet access decreased so did the average socioeconomic status of users, and so building tools that made content easy to create and easy to consume suddenly became profitable. There simply is no alternate timeline where the web could have stayed the way it was, except perhaps one with a very abrupt ending to Moore's Law.
I was "surfing the net" in 1994 with a computer I built for around $700 ($1,204.59 today's price) and was using an ISP account that was $25 per month ($43.02 today).
I was not an academic or anywhere near the 1% at the time. But I agree with the point you're trying to make, as it did become more accessible for people at a poorer level. Also computers and the internet both became easier to use which contributed greatly to adoption as well.
Preservation and archiving are good things to be doing, and discovering the signal inside all the noise of today's internet can be challenging. Still, inviting everybody is a huge step forward.
Maybe better content in terms of the quality of the best content available, but, as you admit yourself by mentioning the noise-to-signal ratio... The average quality is abysmal.
As an example, my article on Kernighan's writing would simply not have happened if I was still writing HTML. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing which took very little effort thanks to the nice Org amenities.
Digg was great until it became popular. Those who lamented the decline of Digg moved to Reddit. Then a similar thing happened, despite the innovation of subreddits, and some like myself mostly moved to HN.
Couchsurfing was great until it became overrun with people who didn't represent the 'spirit' of CS. Those who lamented the decline of CS moved to BeWelcome or whatever else there is.
I'm pretty sure the same patterns emerge in every human endeavour in existence (musical genres come to mind as very similar, as does the constant protestant splintering, starting with Evangelicals I suppose, followed by Pentecostals).
As an 'early adopter' in tech as well as a few other areas of life, I'm not sure how to respond. Nostalgia is kinda fun. I loved reading this article. But personally I try to remind myself that the cool part, the part that resonates with me, is being an early adopter. I don't feel that it benefits me to start gate-keeping or yearning for the past or whatever. Perhaps a better approach is to consider it a victory: the masses arrived, our passion is validated, what's next?
I am sure there are more people online doing more interesting things and producing more interesting content now then back in 1996.
It is just that now the internet is used by billions of people the signal to noise ratio is much lower.
Back when the internet was a few million people globally it was a very select group. That same group of people using the internet for cool interesting stuff has grown dramatically but it is still probably only a few million people globally. The difference is that now there are a couple billion other people using the internet.
There is nothing wrong with billions of people using the internet for things that interest them (mostly drama, porn, pyramid scams, and cat videos, apparently). It doesnt detract from my ability to grok some avant garde research paper that I would otherwise never have access to, run programs that do research that pulls on terabytes of data published in public databases around the world, have access to virtually every film and television show from anywhere in the world, any newspaper, etc, and collaborate with other weird people all over the world who are doing this stuff.
It is too bad that Google stop actually being a search engine and became an ad trap, but that just means going back to how you found stuff before Google: on chat (IRC then, but lots of places now) and in forums.
On the plus side google translate has transformed access to content. Back in pre-2000 the internet was basically English only. there is now so much more diversity, and google translate makes it possible to access content from a far larger group of people than what was possible in the good ol days.
To advertise, you have to have people come back to the site frequently and check the site frequently.
In order to do that, you have to produce new content all the time, and in order to find that the new content the reverse timeline is the best way.
(Once you have too much fresh content, you have to come up with a way to sort even that).
They are harder to find, I think, and they are easier to ignore when there are slicker, more commercial things competing. I think maybe the real thing that changed is that all of the "hobbyists" with homepages at that time were unusually well educated and specifically knowledgeable about the internet and that's not true anymore. So, instead of the web being written almost exclusively by people with substantial college (or simply very well read and self-educated) and very similar nerdy interests, parts of it are now written by people with other backgrounds and interests.
Chronos is definitely an issue. But I think the bigger issues are: a move away from custom design, the lack of a "home page" feeling, and the hostility toward self-promotion. I know people talk about decentralization a lot - but it doesn't intrinsically solve these other issues.
All I kept hearing in my head while reading this article.
That's exactly what the web looks like in graphical Links , with the grey background and all, only difference being that the GIFs aren't animated.
In the same way that Facebook killed blogging- once a better mousetrap for publishing comes along it finds an audience albeit the great technically unwashed.
"By late 2000, there were still only 1,285 according to Eatonweb. Same disclosures apply on those numbers, of course, but seriously…"
Both Blogger and LiveJournal had launched in 1999. They both had many thousands of blogs by mid-2000.
Yes, chronological blog feeds were hot back then, but now that FB/Instagram have taken over the role of lifestreaming platform, we're starting to see some blogs move away from the constraints of "chronostreaming", and more towards a collection of essays.
Search traffic also tends to have a power law distribution, so the majority of your incoming traffic will be focused on a few popular pages, meaning that in the long term there's really no need for an sequential stream of posts. One of the main benefits of a blog is its ability to earn search traffic for years, so why limit yourself by dating your own content?
This seems extremely fallacious to me. Surely different decisions would have vastly different workloads? I would imagine the impact to be even greater for hand-crafted stuff, because you aren't automating any of the workload. I know that is just one sentence in the whole post, but it also seems like one the core arguments.
And some more context by Anil Dash about the old web / Geocities web dying out https://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/
The idea is to make it a lot easier to build sites with just simple HTML elements, the way I used to do it before CSS. Generally designed for text-oriented sites.
"Homepage production became suddenly a question of economics: Go with the system’s default format: zero work. Customizing the system to your format: way more work than pure HTML ever was"
I noticed that same exact trend even with WordPress or Bootstrap pages. I refuse to get into WordPress as a career. It's just copying and pasting! But if you write a React site from scratch, you really get full control over how everything looks and works.
That's what I'm banking on, that people still want custom websites that don't look generic. Those are the kind of gigs I want to get: make something completely custom and unique, and make it beautiful and still functional. I already have one gig doing this and it's great, I'm in love!
No, it really is not. There's a lot of things about WordPress to not like, but working with it beyond a certain level absolutely involves writing code, and if you know how to write code you can "get full control over how everything looks and works" just as much as you can writing your own custom CMS.
Static sites are easier for the next programmer to modify too (changes often don't require programming), and they can be hosted at no cost at places like Netlify.
I've seen people claim that the big social media silos have "centralized" and "taken control of" the web so often that I'm starting to wonder if it's just hyperbole or if people really do think the rest of the web somehow ceased to exist.
Now, making blogs is easy so millions of people do it and make generic websites. The fact that their quality is much better is irrelevant, the websites look more generic!
You know, you can do that too even with a modern website and a clean blog. I have a website where I wrote everything myself, a complete front- and backend. Blog engine with hierarchical blog comments, all 100% custom. You just gotta put in the work to do this.