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I Miss the Old Internet (terraaeon.com)
383 points by sT370ma2 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 306 comments

I generally agree. I've taken to appending "reddit" to many of my search queries, because flawed though it is, reddit is one of the few places you can read an actual human thought. It feels like nearly all content on the internet is some de-personalized corporate "content marketing" blog at this point. Just give us your email address and we'll send you a PDF (and a drip marketing campaign.)

I think the old internet went away because it was more profitable to create a walled garden distribution channel than it was to develop a syndication protocol like email or rss. I honestly don't see any way around this.

If you tend to do this a lot and use Chrome, you might find the tweak this comment inspired for me useful:

open chrome://settings/searchEngines

add a new search engine, called anything you want, with a convenient shortcut. I use "r". The important bit is the search string this expands to: https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Areddit.com+%s

This does exactly what it looks like: search google for whatever you're looking for, but only for reddit pages. You access it by getting into the URL bar, hitting r<tab>, then you should see whatever you named this, then do your search and off you go.

Sadly, this is substantially better than searching reddit for the same string. (I work at reddit, and hope to help fix this sometime in the first half of next year)

reddit's search has been a running joke for as long as I've been using reddit* and I worry that improving it this late in the game might unexpectedly wipe out the entire site and severely damage the surrounding internet.

*Just checked. 9 years. Gulp.

Johnny come lately, eh? https://www.reddit.com/user/mattknox :)

> I've taken to appending "reddit" to many of my search queries, because flawed though it is, reddit is one of the few places you can read an actual human thought.

Same. It's the only place to find the sort of genuine, informed opinion that used to be common on the first page of Google results, on a wide variety of topics, without an awful lot of digging.

I am six months into reddit detox. The amount of time I have back is amazing. Only semi social site I read is this one. I have internet down to BBCNews, NHK, Reuters, HN, a few comics, Ars, next platform, the morning paper, Matt Levine and el reg. I am much happier :)

I only user Reddit a few times a month, specific focused subreddits, but find it invaluable for hive mind opinion/debate without product shilling (which is all you get on Google or Youtube). Reddit is great. It reminds me of Usenet back in the day

I suppose it can get addictive too, but I haven't found that to be the case for me, not yet anyway. HN on the other hand... :)

The problem with reddit is that you get downvoted simply for going against the hivemind, even if you supply evidence that you are right. It's impossible to have a meaningful conversation on the more popular subreddits, especially on politics.

That totally depends on the subreddit. r/politics? You're absolutely right. But the more focused subs offer a wealth of information about obscure topics. For example, check out this recent thread on r/machinelearning where people have an in-depth discussion about hype versus reality: https://www.reddit.com/r/MachineLearning/comments/donbz7/d_i...

Politics, internet, meaningful conversation - choose two

Can I just have internet?

BBC fell of the wagon for me in the last 2 years especially.

Been checking out The Independent more so lately.

Just thought I’d share as I used to read BBCnews daily.

I stick with BBC News, but I balance it out with news from other sources, and somewhere in the middle of it all, is the 'real' story. In so far as the media are prepared to tell it.

Curious but why do you qualify HN as semi social?

Not OP, but personally I definitely view HN as a comment board that points to links as a way to drive discussion as opposed to a news site that allows comments. Probably not how it is normally described, but it's definitely how I use it.

Agreed. That's how I use it too.

There's no real culture here of meta discussion or throwaway comments/in jokes like there is on more socially engaged platforms.

The majority of discussion here is "on topic" - which is good but very different to Reddit or Slack communities which tend to revolve more around personalities.

Ah, well I guess semi is the wrong word here? I guess I mean HN has a group of people in general that have a shared background. I would guess that a large % of people on HN have some sort of STEM background, which doesn’t match to the reddit community. I do not see many people on /r/the_donald with a STEM background arguing against climate change.

None of those sources of info feel like you're reading information written by a human - there is limited emotional context or web context(ongoing internet history is often excluded)

Some of the stories ARS presents you won't even be able to parse as to why they were written unless you're aware of the general tech and social zeitgeist - which you can see on reddit somewhat

Maybe the old internet is still there but hidden behind the 100th search result page. I often times wish search result were ranked by how genuine the page seems to be, measured by the ratio of content over ads. Indeed, the less advertisement on a page and the more likely it is written by an actual human being with something to say. Sadly, I suspect ranking to works exactly the opposite.

Maybe we need to bring back "web rings" and blog rolls.

Web rings were indeed great. "Sites similar to ..." queri3s in search engines are not a good replacement.

Someone linked me to this on HN a few days ago: https://neocities.org/browse . It definitely brings back that old geocities/webring vibe the internet used to have.

I just read in another HN thread about Million Short. Knock off the top 100,1000,10000... sites in your search results


That's fascinating, thanks for sharing!

A search engine that filters out first (direct marketing) or second (blog spam) degree commercial links would be extremely powerful.

Build it!

Easier said than done. How do you programmatically define "genuine" in a way that can't be easily spoofed?

* let content producers sign their content and discount producers who have a lot of content on the web

* presence/absence of ads from known ad networks

* presence/absence of google analytics etc

* ratio of a page's download volume in bytes versus number of square centimeters of the viewport when rendered by a typical user

* cap the point at which higher update frequency scores you "ranking juice". real human beings doing a website for a non-commercial motive and who set a high bar on meaningfulness of their communication aren't going to update their site multiple times a month. you have to outsource the creation of thin content to achieve that, which is what we don't want.

* cap the point at which younger content ranks higher & cap the point at which older content ranks lower, for similar reasons. information that is great information today because it's topical, and no longer great information tomorrow was probably never great to begin with. and if content is great, then it will age gracefully. -- as a matter of fact you may want to downrank content that's very young for that reason. web search is about searching something that should be a permanent information store / archive sort of thing. if you're looking for something that's more like a newsfeed, discovery mechanisms other than search should be used.

i'm sure i could think of more. but one thing that strikes me about the above list is that a lot of this stuff is the exact opposite of what google is doing right now, so the shittiness of today's web is, to a large extent, engineered. i don't think it's within the nature of the web that it inevitably has to be like what it's like today.

information that is great information right now because its topical, and no longer great information tomorrow, was probably never great to begin with.

I absolutely agree, but if it's true then maybe Wikipedia is to blame.

Step one: don't get paid for showing non-genuine search results.

Votes to get accepted, votes to get kicked out.

Like any "social ring", esoteric or not.

Edit: and vouching, if someone messes up the person that introduced her wll be obstracized as well.

Any community voting system runs the risk of very quickly becoming politicized and then backfiring.

It would be great it a indexing service like Duckduckgo allowed using custom ranking algorithms.

Do you not find Reddit to be a bit of a cesspool? I tend to avoid it for that reason, but how true it is probably depends on which subreddit(s) we're talking about.

It has all the ups and downs of humanity as a whole of course, but as other users have said specific subs (usually less popular and well moderated) are where the gold is.

My main problem with Reddit is the repetitive in-culture jokes, memes, and reposts. A lot of content is pandering to the Reddit audience with a flavour that is calculated to win over the crowd (see all the complaints on /r/pics of political signs or weight loss progress pics - it pisses a lot of people off because there's better places for it, but gets upvotes from the masses).

If reposts are a problem for you then you're spending too much time there.

Had an account for 12 years, lurked for at least a year before. The reposts are extremely frequent. They just get lower resolution as the years go on.

Reddit is now a couple visits a week for me because of reposts etc.

Rule of thumb for reddit: You want a small community or a heavily moderated community and never a (former, I don’t think this concept exists anymore) default subreddit.

Besides some intra-reddit jokes, the site is more like a directory of forums with a unified interface.

There are still the default subscriptions, but the front page has switched over to a more diverse selection of posts. r/askhistorians is I think my favorite example of a very well run and moderated subreddit.

They also have a great podcast!

Spend enough time on 4chan and you'll realize reddit is a safezone kid gloves hug box.

And 4chan isn't even that bad in terms of bad or illegal content so that goes to show how relative it all is.

4chan is outright fantastic in some aspects.

/g/ is actually quite useful and friendly, especially the DPT (Daily Programming Thread), more-so if you're a beginner.

/trv/ (travel) is just good and perfectly slow where you won't feel pressure to keep up with a thread because it will still be there tomorrow.

/fit/ has good information and really encapsulates what happens when the internet meets bro-gym culture.

Compared to parts of Reddit, I would honestly take 4chan over it. I mean even some of the formerly "default" sub-Reddits are cesspools of hatred with the occasional call for targeted violence and Moderators who will ban you by association. Some of the big sub-Reddits openly discriminate based on race.

I know journalists have zero motivation to investigate sub-Reddits or the incestous circle of Reddit moderators that control the groupthink in most of the major sub-Reddits, but one day that will come out and it will be an internet scandal. If they time it right it could sink any hope of an IPO or serious monetization.

Yeah 4chan is great but it differs from reddit in a fundamental way.

You can have a normal thread where someone will casually drop the N word or other slur and it will just sit there, maybe not even acknowledged but also not downvoted or deleted.

That alone is enough to turn people off immediately. They need that sense of retributive justice for a wrong they see in the universe. You're right that reddit can be just as bigoted than 4chan if not more so but I think you realize it's way more subtle and dogwhistley. The only reason a 4chan post will ever dance around being blunt bigotry is usually for the sake of humor not to ban evade.

Also I can't imagine browsing 4chan without something like 4chanX and your average person probably isn't going to bother installing that.

>but also not downvoted

Well, there is no way to downvote. Point-based systems usually turn out bad if the community is too big. Just check big subreddit like the defaults, posts get too catering to group-think. Not having downvotes or even upvotes, means that you have to deal with crap posts.

For some people 4chan has "upvotes", what they call "(you)"s, basically a reply, people post too much bad content just trying to provoke a reaction.

The introduction of the "(You)" feature arguably changed the spirit of 4chan, since now people know that when they get a reply their comment will get more attention because the list of replies is listed on the comment itself. I don't think there was enough pushback against its introduction a few years ago.

If I still had an imageboard, it would never implement a feature like that.

Exactly. It's bigger than an upvote!

Of course, people could still get it from extensions, but not everybody uses them.

Still, the provoking nature on 4chan would still remain even without (you)s as it's the quickest way to get answers.

> You can have a normal thread where someone will casually drop the N word or other slur and it will just sit there, maybe not even acknowledged but also not downvoted or deleted. That alone is enough to turn people off immediately. They need that sense of retributive justice for a wrong they see in the universe.

Choosing not to hang out with people who casually use the N-word makes me vindictive?

If i understand it correctly, its an rather interesting system working as intended. As an open "community" (to use the term very very loosely) image boards have an intrinsic problem of how to keep away unwanted behavior, and with that people, as they are designed to have as low of a barrier of entry as possible. Here the definition of unwanted behavior just differs, the focus seems to be that there is no drastic shift in user base and atmosphere. If you look at an image board a decade ago and compare it to now, the goal of a successful imageboard seems to be to have the impression when coming back as if you have never left. You cant achieve this with just (voluntary) moderators. Something like the far right taking over /r/europe/ over night with the moderators being overrun by to many new posters and old users leaving as a result would be the super gau for an image board. So how do you keep away drama and people who "feel the need to correct every wrong"? Thats how you get some of the profanity and racism. Making unwanted people want to leave instead of relying on unsustainable bans. If you look at the historical development of 4chan, the founding of /pol/ was in 2011, if memory serves right, that was shortly after 4chan introduced stricter moderating of outright illegal content. While granted necessary and the right thing to do, with that the last thing that kept people seriously engaged in the far right away was gone. As such the only option left to protect the remaining boards was giving them their own. Put differently imageboards are designed in such a way that filters for rather specific users by making sure that everyone else would never want to be associated with one and be disgusted by the sight. To give a real example, remember the guy in the first semester of university who brought up streaking in casual conversations and browsed old /b/ in the middle of a packed learnroom not giving a shit? Thats who they are looking for. So if you look at the history of 4chan, apparently you can either have an image board which gets spammed with gore and child pornography or you get one with an active far right userbase. The creation of /pol/ is in my eyes a direct result of former filter strategies no longer working. There is apparently very little that can disgust a Nazi. Who would have thought?

As a long time user of /g/ I must say that it is more and more frequently the case that threads which focus around gender, race or other controversial items, which users do not consider it a requirement to know anything about to speak on them, massively outstrip genuine threads like DPT. They're usually not removed by mods either.

that is because of replies being the only "reinforcement" (gamification of behavior) you get on 4chan. There is no point system or similar, what keeps a thread a float is replies, and some people like having many responses under their posts.

This means that creating inflammatory posts, sometimes is the only way to get attention, or worse, when you actually want information and you post in a way that would get attention otherwise it would be ignored.

Identity politics usually gives plenty of reactions. Just like calling something bad gets more reactions that call something good. Want opinion on something you want o buy? start a thread calling it shit, and wonder why there are so many bad threads there.

4ch is honestly great. In many ways, it's so much better than reddit:

- No "ego"-moderation. Mods and janitors are invisible, and seem to do their jobs well. Compare with the constant mod drama (years of the stuff) on various subreddits.

- No "retaliation culture" via downvotes. If you really really hate something someone said, the worst thing you can do to them is just ignore it.

- No identity. Posting with a name gets you shamed into being anonymous pretty quick unless you have a very good reason to do so. This means there are no karma/score/image issues, you just say what you think.

Like you mentioned, /fit/ and /g/ are great boards. /p/ is solid too if you're into that sort of thing.

Is it still? I thought /pol/ ate the whole site and drove everyone who wasn't a Nazi or edgelord troll away.

It's as good as it ever was. If anything, it's probably better since 8ch imploded.

I disagree. If it was ever good, it was because of the randomness, which generated the occasional gems (in a sea of bad trolling and shitposts). Now it is just repetitive.

True. I learned a long time ago that 4chan is not my sort of place at all, and never bother going there. I do pop into Reddit every so often, though.

The nice thing about google is that it cuts across all subreddits, so if you're looking for something specific there's a good chance you'll find a real, honest opinion about it.

not my experience. I Google "Reddit" plus any podcast I listen to (all popular podcasts) and find little to no discussion. none is more common than little.

No. It's not a monolithic entity. Various subreddits can be extremely well-run and vibrant.

I do and it saddens me. It reminds me of the end days of Slashdot, right before I stopped commenting there entirely after a decade of positive interactions with like-minded people.

More than half of the top-voted content on Reddit is indistinguishable from bot-generated random memes.

Someone please explain to me what "blursed" means and why it's use means that it gets to go straight to the top of "/all" regularly...

“Blursed” is a mix of blessed and cursed, it’s a sweet-n-sour style tension in a comment or picture that doesn’t resolve cleanly one way or the other, and from that it’s more interesting than a basic setup with a 180-degree twist ending that has a definite answer to whether it’s nice or nasty, wholesome or mean, kind or cruel, etc.

And because most of Reddit is young people with lots of time on their hands, looking for entertainment and pastime, content with no particular niche and with a twist that isn’t an explicit joke or reference, is widely engaging.

The default subreddits for sure. There are however some great interest specific subreddits with good moderation and quality posts/discussions. With that said even those good quality subreddits can suffer from the reddit plague which is minimal effort picture posts with a tangentially related subject.

I find Reddit more healthy than HN, to be honest. At least it seems human compared to HN sterility. But of course, it all depends which subreddits you read.

Do you not find Reddit to be a bit of a cesspool?

More than a bit, and quite frankly there's plenty of advertising masquerading as earnest content. Unfortunately it's also got a lot of useful, user-generated content.

Do you prefer discord or slack closed discussion channels that cannot even be searched without being part of their closed community ? There's no sharing there. Reddit shares with the rest of the world.

> Do you prefer discord or slack closed discussion channels

My only experience with either of those is Slack, and that was only in relation to a job. So I have no idea if I'd prefer them or not, really.

Just fyi people now say Hackernews is a cesspool and devto is the new hotness. or is it mastodon? all i know is i keep going back to reddit to actually get some meaningful discussion on a topic and not just an echochamber of "yeah that's what i think too!"(if you sort by controversial)

I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one who did this, but I’m glad to know for sure. I do the exact same thing, because otherwise it seems nigh impossible to actually find decent human conversations online that aren’t in some unindexed walled garden.

You may be interested in https://millionshort.com, a search engine that lets you filter out results from the top 100 to 1,000,000 (your choice) sites. Depending on the search and the number you pick, it'll give you lots of personal websites and small forums.

I also just found https://boardreader.com, which searches forums exclusively.

Yup, I was about to suggest this before noticing that it had already been said.

It is remarkable how many of the top domain that show up on search (amazon, ebay, others) have little or nothing to do with long-tail search terms.

millionshort.com looks promising! I will give it a try. Do you know what engine they use? Google or Bing, or something completly different?

I had to dig for it, but apparently they use "a Microsoft Bing API and some in-house information." https://www.networkworld.com/article/2188911/million-short-s...

I should edit the Wikipedia page; it makes it sound like they rolled their own engine and crawler, which seemed pretty unlikely.

I miss the "discussion" filter that Google used to have. For a while it still worked if you added a parameter to the URL. Now it's often difficult to impossible to search for stuff without 99% blog spam.

What's the difference between blogs and hobbyist sites though?

A defined purpose? monitization?

I suppose it would be a hard fight to get google to specifically favour non-adsensed sites.

I just ran a google search for "Power Inverter Van". All of the results are either direct sales or affiliate advertising brochure sites disguised as a lifestyle blog.

I guess you could argue that if I google that search term I'm probably planning to buy one or something, but if I append reddit I can get a really crappy discussion tab-esque function.

If I try "Solar Powered Van" the results look a bit better but are basically the same kind of lifestyle sales content.

I think we accidentally hacked the internet into some sort of Möbius supermarket magazine aisle.

To find any useful content, first thing you do on the modern Internet is search for relevant forum for the topic you are interested in.

Then you have to wade through miles of posts calling out "blatant astroturfing"(people paid to write positive forum posts) on the site. Finding open and honest discussion is really hard

The intent.

A desire to express an opinion vs an attempt to lure you to buy something while telling you banalities about the topic.

Forums mostly see the latter as spam and evict.

How about weirdos like me and other infoproduct indies? We intend to express a genuinely valuable opinion in a useful way and try to convince you to consider buying our stuff.

Whitepapers are ads.

Cool ads, interesting ads, but still ads.

I don't tend to mind the pitch if it follows the genuinely valuable information.

If you want something like (old-school) Reddit AND is decentralized...

Check out P2P Reddit: https://notabug.io/ (Warning! Beware of content!)

It runs on the GUN protocol (mine), which is running in production with about 8M monthly active users.

So yes, Old Internet is making a comeback with #dWeb!

Same. I find it very interesting how crude, limited and untrendy (old)reddit was and yet you kept coming back. It wasn't engineered value, it was something else.

> I've taken to appending "reddit" to many of my search queries

On duck duck go you can use !r to search reddit if you're so inclined.

Unfortunately that redirects to Reddit's own search engine, which is often worthless for what I'm looking for.

For example, if I'm looking for a comment that refers to my lat 2014 model of some widget, Reddit's search will fail to find it, and try to show me subreddits instead that are tangentially related to what I'm looking for.

Still a good tip, don't get me wrong. But I find that asking the search engine to do the search for me—with "reddit" as one of the search terms—often gives me the result I'm looking for faster than using Reddit's own search.



to your search works even better IME

Heh. That’s what I do. I just didn’t remember!

Sure that makes sense. Their search engine is not amazing.

I've been doing this quite a lot for finding useful opinions or reviews on products. Reddit comments have a surprising consistency when it comes to tone and objectiveness which I've come to appreciate when I need a second opinion on something.

Web forums are really big part of modern Internet, reddit is just the one of them.

In the classic web forum sense? Culture and all? I haven't been able to find any (but also I haven't looked very hard in the last 2-3 years). How are you finding out, just word of mouth?

Classic, yes. Forums like XDA-Developers, EEVBlog, Head-Fi, or DIYAudio.com. You can pretty much just search for "<topic> forum" and find them. Many of the best forums in the modern Internet are Russian and Chinese by the way.

Culture is what gives value to a web forum. If it's just an exchange of ideas it gets bogged down with astroturfing

Ha! I was just thinking this exact thing last night. There's lots of examples, but the one I experienced was searching for info about a product I am thinking about buying. Nothing but stores and marketing on the first couple pages. Tacking on review to the search brought up nothing but marketing copy and fake blogs from the various retailers. Tacked Reddit onto it and finally found people's actual thoughts and experiences. It's a damn shame and I suspect only a matter of time before Reddit is overwhelmed as well.

Glad that you've found useful sections. I've always found reddit to be this generation's ExpertsExchange, based on quality of content. Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong places.

That would be Quora! But I agree, Reddit has pretty poor quality discussions, sometimes with as little depth as most Facebook comments.

This might just be my experience, but I've found Quora to be of extremely poor quality questions/answers with a few outliers. Reddit on the other hand seems to have both good answers and people just horsing around, but not as much astro-turfing as I find on Quora answers.

StackExchange consistently has the most technically informed content of any site I know. And the most focused / on-topic comments, which limits its social appeal of course.

If you can find the right set of people, twitter's "people you follow" filter can be a great way to search for things, for similar reasons to those you bring up.

yeah and then your feed gets bombarded by whatever political leaning that person has coz twitter has no way to "follow" someone without seeing retweets/likes

where are you looking on Reddit? I find crickets for every topic I look for.

I think they mean searching using a search engine but appending reddit to the query.

For example if I search “best vpn” I’ll get loads of VPN review blog spam who are just pushing the provider with the highest affiliate commission.

If I search “best vpn reddit” I should get discussion from real people about services they have used.

reddit is 75% teenagers. You might get human thoughts, but you won't find high quality ones unless you filter carefully.

(Teenagers, and yes I was one and I remember, usually have an inflated sense of their own abilities and knowledge, and they write that way.)

What I wish we could bring back is usenet and/or mailing lists. Or at least highly targeted forums, where people spend years curating relationships, and sharing knowledge.

> reddit is 75% teenagers. You might get human thoughts, but you won't find high quality ones unless you filter carefully.

Pot, kettle, etc...

> What I wish we could bring back is usenet and/or mailing lists. Or at least highly targeted forums, where people spend years curating relationships, and sharing knowledge.

You are describing the non default subreddits.

I think that depends on how you use Reddit. You're right, there are lots of teens on there, but I'm not subscribed to the subreddits they frequent, nor do I browse r/all, which is the equivalent of Youtube's "Trending" tab.

r/webdev for instance is one of the subs I'm subscribed to, and the culture there is not really meme or inside joke-oriented like a lot of the entertainment-type subs are.

The other day I was googling info related to legal review of real estate documents, and my top search results were all keyword-heavy content mill articles that weren't helpful at all. I decided to do the same search with "site:reddit.com" added, and the information was much better, as you're often hearing people's stories of working with lawyers when buying property. It was very helpful to get this kind of 'organic' information instead of the 'corporatized' version that's really a lead-up to their sales pitch.

> What I wish we could bring back is usenet and/or mailing lists.

Let's shoot for a more feasible goal: bring back Gmane.org and let web forums federate to it if they so choose, not just mailing lists. That's the closest we can get to what the old Usenet was like.

Did those forums go away? Or are new ones not being made?

Yes. For all intents and purposes they went away. And there are mostly no equivalent discussion boards (beyond narrow mostly invite only mailing lists) that allow only the sort of people (for better or worse) who had access to the relatively early Internet. Some large companies, students and staff at elite universities, and so forth.

Mind you it wasn’t perfect. But people tended to be posting under their own names associated with institutions. And the masses were kept out if they were even aware.

Unfortunately they are less popular but they didn’t go away. They offer more features than Reddit and have more real communities and discussions. Add “forum” or similar to to your searches.

Forums are alive and well. Take XDA for example.

Unfortunately reddit will also deteriorate quickly now. Half of reddit is bots these days.

The old internet is still there, it's still growing. It's just covered in a thick layer of corporate shit sites. All you have to do is be the change you want to see. Start hosting your website from home. Code it by hand. Don't use any javascript frontends. It's a good time.

As for finding others, well, HN isn't a bad place to start. Just install an RSS reader client and every time you find yourself enjoying an article check the site to see if it has an RSS feed. In fact, do this with every web interaction. Pretty soon you can completely decouple yourself from content aggregators and start perceiving the web as a community again.

https://millionshort.com/ lets you exclude that thick layer of corporate shite. Search without the top million (or 100k, 10k etc) sites. !mill from DDG.

Not perfect but often turns up those personal homepages, hobby sites and esoterica the early internet thrived on. Stuff that Google and co forgot existed - or is down on page 200+

Ooh, that's nice. I'm definitely using that. Thank you.

oh yeah, such a funny and nice idea :)

I've been missing the old internet. A little while ago I tried to find StumbleUpon and discovered it's transformed into more of a social media thing. I took a couple days to recreate what I thought of as the core StumbleUpon functionality - click button, get random site. And I've been trying to aggregate what feel like unique, individual, not well known sites into my index for it.


It currently gets about ten unique visitors and one or two submissions a day.

I used to love StumbleUpon. I haven't thought about it for years. Thanks so much for making this. Let me know if you need an extra human to moderate submissions or whatever :)

Awesome site!

It would be cool if you made the button linkable, so you can bookmark it and get a random URL each time.

Yeah, or a quick firefox addon like stumble used to have!

Thanks - I have thought about a browser add-on. Making it work based off a link seems like an easy upgrade too. I'll add it on to my to-do list for the site.

This is great! Thanks for making this!

Shameless self plug but I did a simple site recently to this effect (though it is hosted on a free Heroku account):


I like that I'm not tracking anyone, it doesn't require UI/UX, I have little to nothing to gain from it - it's just a human connection. Something fun we might have seen in the early years of the internet.

That's fun, well done!

> Don't use any javascript frontends.

I'm struggling to find the connection between a Javascript front end and content that has (to quote the article posted) "the voice of individuals"

Because getting content on the web is only as difficult as people make it, and beneath all the bloat of "modern front end development practices" there is still a simple set of tools to work with.

Exactly. You can basically pick any subset of web technologies and just use those.

And honestly, when teaching the average person how to make a website, they should just be taught the minimum required to make a valid HTML document.

I think it's something like:

  <!DOCTYPE html>
  <title>My first webpage</title>
  Hello, World!

You can create a free account or a site on blogspot or Wordpress with significantly less friction. That is still a full-fledged website, and not an IG page or Twitter that's a walled garden serving only logged in users.

In this day and age, nobody is going to bother with writing HTML markup when they've used rich text editors to compose everything from emails to Tumblr posts.

Back in the early 2000s I used to write music reviews for a site called Epinions. They didn't have a rich text editor, so if you wanted to do bold, you needed to wrap those words in a <b></b> tag, or <i> tag for italics. It was extremely irritating to have to do that, especially if you were pasting in the content from a pre-existing Word doc that already had all the proper formatting.

More like:

   Hello, World!

HTML is bloat :)

If you use the same JS frontend as everyone else it isn't very individual and form constrains content. The reason people use JS frontends is because they're at work being paid to do it. Time and the ability for your coworkers to contribute matters. You don't have to bring these compromises forced on you at work to home.

>If you use the same JS frontend as everyone else it isn't very individual and form constrains content.

You seem to be confusing the implementation of a site with its content, and assuming that homogeneity of layout corresponds to homogeneity of content. It's an understandable bias to find in a community of programmers and web developers, but it isn't true.

The pages of a book are uniformly sized, generally speaking uniformly colored with one of a very narrow set of fonts and typefaces, spaced and typeset according to an industry standard - and yet this places no constraint at all on the nature of the content that can be displayed within those pages. In the same way, a website rendering content on the frontend rather than the backend is an implementation detail which has nothing to do with what content is rendered.

And even in the 90s, many sites looked similar. Rather than having standard templates focused around typography, people just copied what other sites were doing, using the same table-based layouts with black backgrounds and GIFS, and none of that necessarily made the content any better than what exists today.

> The reason people use JS frontends is because they're at work being paid to do it

And of course employability and the need for buzzwords on your resume.

JavaScript is the first path down a road that leads to tracking and ads and optimization. It's too easy to think, "I'll just serve this JS library off X CDN" and voila, you've enabled someone to track your users. "No JavaScript" keeps you honest.

> Start hosting your website from home.

This isn't feasible for a large chunk of the population, mainly because ISPs like Comcast love to give you 500 mbps down while limiting your upload to a pitiful 10 mbps.

Host a single 100K image that hits the front page of reddit and your home internet gets hugged to death.

How many 100k image hits do you get on your personal website you made for fun? In the entire 20 years I've hosted my website on my comcast connection I have never had this issue. If you're going to post an image to reddit (which is kind of going backwards from the point of all this) then just mirror it onto some popular image host (or your VPS). This doesn't prevent you from also serving up a copy from your local disk to visitors.

1 megabit of upstream is plenty for a personal website. I can say this from long experience.

when comes time for your personal websites 15 minutes of fame it becomes inaccessible due to severe upstream bottlenecking

If that 15 minutes of fame is so important, put up a load balancer with autoscaling or make sure the Wayback machine archives every post upon publication.

Not every site needs to have 3+ nines of uptime.

While yes, that would work, we were talking about hosting things yourself at home.

Obviously, if I'm going to share the image, I won't link it directly and would use an image hosting service, or just upload it directly to reddit for them to host.

That does nothing if some other rando decides to link to it.

Put it behind cloudflare, problem solved.

Even better, you can store images on B2 for just 5 USD/month/terabyte and front it with Cloudflare for free traffic. https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217666928-Using... https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/360010017893-Ho...

You can host your HTML/JS/CSS on Github Pages fronted by Cloudflare again for free.

For dynamic stuff, I just set up an ElasticSearch cluster with three VPSes from https://php-friends.de/vserver-ssd/vserver-schnupperspecial-... for the grand total of 10EUR/month... these are some serious hardware for 4 EUR (inc German VAT): dedicated two dedicated Haswell or Broadwell cores, 6GB RAM, 65GB SSD. Slap Ubuntu on them, then https://help.ubuntu.com/lts/serverguide/automatic-updates.ht... and https://www.cyberciti.biz/faq/howto-live-patch-ubuntu-linux-... will keep your server secure.

Then you aren't hosting your own website from home anymore.

IPFS solves this. You only need to host an index of the content, plus the "seed" copy, for anyone else to download and mirror as they please.

It solves it so long as you are happy to upload several gigabytes a day seeding nothing just to keep up with DHT chatter:


I'm guessing this is being downvoted because after all, for unpopular stuff, you're still going to be the one hosting your content.

If it is unpopular, then the resources required to host the content are manageable.

If it is popular, the IPFS users seed it to each other so your load is still manageable.

Good point!

But wouldn't it solve the problem of your server exploding during your sites 15 minutes of fame? So many users at once could use the P2P of IPFS and take load off the server.

A pitiful 10mbps, eh?

Back in my day...

That's your 100K image 10 times a second, or 600 times a minute.

You could also just like, run a caching server on a 5$ VPS.

Right, but then you wouldn't be hosting it at home anymore, which is what we were talking about.

The only difference is that your final SSL termination would occur on a host that's better placed to handle the load. Literally everything else could be done on-prem e.g. at home.

Realistically this 'oh no I got hammered by HN' case is something that is irrelevant anyway. If you're really worried about it, don't host large image files, sorted. The "old internet" didn't have that stuff anyway because we were all on slow connections, 100KB took 10+ seconds to load on dialup.

Any way around this? Surely i don't need an industrial setup to scale my home website

You don't, the reality is it's extremely unlikely this happens and if it does the worst outcome is high bandwidth use + the image doesn't load for everyone. Hardly the end of the world.

You can very easily host things on a paid server though, which these days cost very little, use another image host or S3/similar when if things went crazy popular.

> worst outcome is high bandwidth use + the image doesn't load for everyone. Hardly the end of the world.

No, the worst outcome is that your home internet connection is being effectively DDoSed.

You could probably apply some QoS on your router to minimize the effect, of course.

Free Cloudflare account

As I'm mentioning in other comments, then you wouldn't be hosting from home.

I think most isps also block outgoing traffic on port 80 these days. At least, that's the issue me and some friends found when we tried to host websites on our various ISPs.

We need our personal websites to start linking directly to each other again… friends, coworkers, mentors, related topics, etc…

This trend died out, it used to be on practically every website. Maybe people just figured Google would find and sort everything for them. But now the search engines are packed with SEO garbage and offer no discoverability or serendipity.

Time to start sharing homemade link lists again.

Neocities[1] and tilde servers like tilde.town[2] is a pretty large hub of old-internet sites. It's a free Geocities-like host that's home to a lot of neat, creative sites.

You can also get a VPS for about $5/mo and have your own self-hosted server with whatever servers and web apps you want, like an RSS reader, an IRC client, FTP/Gopher server, etc. (Shameless self plug: this is what I do with my own personal site, https://invisibleup.com)

[1] https://neocities.org [2] https://tilde.town

This is great, thanks for sharing. It's great to see a community like Neocities come to life with no ads and no bullshit.

So much this. Unfortunately post google reader I never found an rss reader that really clicked with me as much. Part of it is because I followed a mix of text and just pure image sites, and par of it is the sites come and go and I haven’t found new sites. RIP ffffound and the like...

I set up my own FreshRSS instance. Maybe not like Google Reader but I find it better than nothing.

tt-rss works well enough for me as a google reader replacement

Better even since it has plugins to inline some comic strips where the RSS feeds are just links to the pages.

inoreader is about the only one that gave me the reader feel that i've liked

I don't miss the days when you had to physically send a paper form with a cheque or postal order, go to a bank, wait 28 days for things to be delivered, stand in line at a post office, or phone someone up to get mundane stuff done. Can you imagine sorting out car insurance quotes or booking flights/hotels or doing your tax return without the internet? What a ballache!

The modern internet has been utterly transformative and has made modern life so much easier and simpler. Don't forget about all the useful things you take for granted now that weren't possible then because the internet wasn't commercialised at the time.

The old internet is still there, some if it actually physically still there - i.e. still on the server/URL it was on back in the day (I find this kinda cool in a way - these sort of mary-celeste servers ticking away somewhere, untouched for 20 years but someone still cares enough to pay to keep it running).

Perhaps less people make their own websites these days, but there is still a thriving and still-as-useless ("not much yet - check back soon!") collection of random personal websites on dat, gopher and ipfs. Stumbling onto these things or hearing about them via word of mouth/keyboard was always part of the joy of 90s internet.

>postal order

>a bank

>stand in line at a post office

>car insurance quotes

>booking flights/hotels

>tax return

These conveniences you cite of the modern internet all feel like they help the other side of the relationship even more than they help you. Imagine how much the airlines, banks, tax collectors, and insurance companies love the modern internet, making it all the more convenient for you to interact with their products and services! And at such scale!

My point here is that, on the intellectual front, the old internet was a lot more transformative for humankind than the state of today's "cable television as a service" internet we endure today.

How does that change anything? The amount of ease of use you get from the internet is not zero-sum; everyone benefits from it.

Calling the internet "cable television as a service" is ignoring the incredible reach and user-friendliness of the modern internet, and all the advantages that come from that. Nostalgia is okay, but that doesn't change the fact that the current internet brings a lot more information to a lot more people, albeit with differing quality. It has absolutely changed humanity for the better, and is orders of magnitude more transformative than what you seem to be calling old internet.

You could make the same argument about the television remote control as it relates to broadcast TV. There is a popular phrase these days, "progress trap," [0] which I think adequately explains the issues with both today's internet and the remote control.

We have indeed made some advancements in some interesting fields due to the modern UI of the web, but what underlies this is a really heavy-handed plasticity on the infrastructure/architecture fronts. That is what the earlier web lacked, and what made it such a fantastic, democratized resource for information and communication.

The remote control achieved the same thing for broadcast TV - a way to make the format easier to use mindlessly. And what it enabled was channel surfing: building it into the hunter-gatherer human mind that the TV was a universe to be explored, filled with wondrous gifts for the would-be explorer to uncover. But that's a lie merely proposed by the interface - the most common thing to land on during a channel surf is a network advertisement. You will of course land on some shows, too, but the channel surfer is destined to see more than a couple of ads before they are finished with their remote.

Getting the internet away from its keyboard-driven beginnings has led to a similar outcome on the web, and it's plain to see. The advent of touch screens has made this interface/architecture authoritarianism even harder to avoid now that the entire package has been shrunk to the size of one's palm and available at a moment's notice or a passing whim.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_trap

> sorting out car insurance quotes or booking flights/hotels

Due to the limitations of the medium, I think this actually used to be easier (if slower). You certainly didn’t get a different price if you were booking a minute later.

>mary-celeste servers

That is a wonderful term for it, and a delicious mental image.

To me, the best "old internet" site is Wikipedia. Although they also partially succumbed to madness of breaking the web (opening images in JavaScript popups?? breaking the "Back" browser button??) it's mostly a well-done clean HMLL/CSS site which has everything you want. I even treat it as "slow news" source [1], instead of MSM.

In a way, they have outperformed Google at Google's vision of organizing the world's information. That's why I try to donate as much as I can every year.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kincade_Fire

> ...organizing the world's information...

Wikipedia is even pushing further forward on that vision with Wikidata, a general-purpose knowledge base that's perhaps the most successful example of such a thing, succeeding where many other efforts have failed dismally. (Already, Wikidata gets more edits per minute than Wikipedia, albeit much of the activity is performed by bots.) It's also a successful use of Linked-Open-Data and Semantic-Web technologies (the Wikidata site hosts a SPARQL endpoint, for general queries of all sorts), so while it might not be "Old Web" per se, it feels quite retro-futuristic in many ways.

And of course, all the well-known personal assistant AI's rely on it quite a bit, although they're not eager to advertise that fact.

> To me, the best "old internet" site is Wikipedia.

Thanks for making me feel old.

I really think of Wikipedia as part of the "new" internet, not the old one. Now, get off of my lawn, you whippersnappers!

It's all still there, the major search engines are just broken because they've been co-opted by SEO.

Tons of people still own and operate their own websites; BBSes exist; IRC is still here; mailing lists are still here; and so on and so forth.

You just won't find it on the top hit at Google because their business model is based on ad sales wankery.

Whilst we're on the topic, I'm gonna take the chance to write - if you work on this corporate shit and you're doing stuff you despise day in day out - please re-assess whether you could change things in your life to prevent that. Be the change you want to see. Cheers.

>if you work on this corporate shit and you're doing stuff you despise day in day out - please re-assess whether you could change things in your life to prevent that

I once worked for an SEO agency and ended up quitting after 4 months. Everything about it went against my morals. I was disgusted with myself for pushing rubbish sites, snooping on peoples browsing behaviour, and working to squeeze every cent from it all through what I believed to be manipulative practices (despite it all being 'white hat')

Quitting that job was a major relief, though I'm haunted by the fact that there are thousands of other agencies and even more people willing to fill my previous role.

Can you elaborate more on what that industry is doing? How would you snoop on people's browsing behavior?

I'd be curious if you know of any industry blogs or forums that you'd read to stay current on techniques.

I haven't followed SEO since the early days of link trading and keyword stuffing.


For one we had a service that records video of your site visit so we knew exactly how you interacted with it. It would be no different from be standing behind you and watching your screen as you navigated a website. While the data is anonymised, I'm still morally against essentially video recording someones interactions with a site. There was never any notice that they were being recorded.

The email marketing workflows were relentless, especially on e-commerce stores that required several points of contact in order to make a purchase. We were able to build profiles on most customers by combining purchase history, personal details, and details pulled from social media to get a fairly accurate portrait of someones behaviour. For example, if someone bought engine oil, we knew that a typical bottle of engine oil would last someone, say, 6 months. The email marketing workflow would automatically send out a promotional coupon 6 months later for a discount on more engine oil. But because we were able to build profiles on people, we were able to tell that "Joe Blogs" is a motoring enthusiast and therefore the likelihood of him using up that engine oil in three months rather than six months increases by 50%, so send out the marketing materials to him quicker than the regular customers. There were very smart people working on these campaigns. Statisticians, psychologists, linguists and the like.

Because we had several points of contact with customers, having them unsubscribe from an email list wasn't bad. If you unsubscribed from the email, you would just be sent SMS notifications. If you replied STOP to that, you were sent physical mail, and after all that it was still quite easy to target you with remarking ad campaigns.

The amount of complete and utter garbage we were pouring out onto the web on a daily basis was staggering. Hundreds of pages a day that were of absolutely no use to anyone but to Google would mean that we were able to rank clients for some very serious keywords where real people needed real help but were instead being presented with crap that we'd put out that wasn't meant to actually help anyone but to get the #1 position and the sell things. And when I mean people who need help, I mean people who seriously need help. We'd push crap to rank for things like depression, bankruptcy, divorce, a whole array of legal issues.

I hated working there.

Thanks. Almost all of that makes good sense, and it's pretty clear that optimization kept working so they just kept doing it. I wonder how much farther it will go.

You lost me here though:

> Hundreds of pages a day that were of absolutely no use to anyone but to Google

Do you mean like spam/clickbait blog posts on their own domain? I'm having trouble connecting "producing garbage content" to "increased ranking from google".

Think along the lines of those recipe pages that have 2000 words of backstory that no one cares about but is considered good SEO practice in Googles eyes.

Fascinating. I didn't know that was so significant to Google. That does explain a lot of what we see in the search results though.

I also think it's unethical, and I think it's disappointing how rare it is to hear someone speak honestly about what SEO actually is in practice.

> You just won't find it on the top hit at Google because their business model is based on ad sales wankery.

And neither did you find it through Google in the "early 1990s" like in the article. Or in any other way, except by pure luck, because search was crap back then or simply didn't exist.

> You have to enter the exact name of the website to find it on Google. MayVaneDay is also mirrored on I2P, TOR, and Dat...You have to look really hard for them now, and the best way to find them is through links from similar small websites

Without getting into the argument of whether Google deliberately makes these sites hard to find, it doesn't really support the author's thesis that the old Internet was any better, at least in the case of MayVaneDay. In the early 90s, how else would you have found it except "through links from similar small websites"?

> I miss the internet of the early 1990's, back before the World Wide Web had been visited by more than just a few computer geeks, back when websites like Vane's were the internet. Don't get me wrong, many cool things can be found on the internet today. But, the voice of individuals has mostly been drowned out...

This feels incredibly myopic. The Internet of those days were limited to the extreme minority of people who were aware of the Internet and had access to a connected computer, nevermind took the time to figure out how to create for it. The author derides Facebook and Reddit as being too "easily monitored and controlled" to allow for individual voices but that's utter bullshit. The modern Internet is far from perfect, but the diversity and quantity (and arguably, quality) of voices is far better than when the Internet catered mostly to college-age kids and academics, i.e. people with access to free, high-speed Internet portals.

> how else would you have found it except "through links from similar small websites"?

By browsing Web-Directories such as DMOZ/ODP, mainly. Albeit that's really a late-90s and 2000s thing. We should go back to that kind of curation effort. It would be more of a challenge for politically-sensitive stuff (the Internet overall is a lot more politicized and less free-speech-friendly than it used to be) but for most uncontroversial stuff it would work well enough.

(And no, Wikipedia is not a true replacement even though it might be the closest thing to one we happen to have. They purposefully keep external links to a minimum, for sensible reasons - they're building an encyclopedia, not a Web directory.)

I'm sure there are lists like these and we just don't know about them.

They're called awesome lists and this is the problem they attempt to solve. Here's a starting point https://github.com/sindresorhus/awesome

Back in the dawntimes (aka like 1995/96), you got to all sites by starting at the Yahoo! directory, and browsing to the category that you were interested in, and then going through their list of sites. If you made your own site, getting it listed on Yahoo felt like hitting the big time.

Yahoo and then dmoz. Search engines existed (AltaVista was the best of a bad lot) but before Google you needed a curator to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I don’t miss the days of paying Yahoo $400 for a listing.

Yahoo! back in 1998 was a web directory, structured like a phone book. Being the age that I was then, my favourite site was something called Maniac Joe's WWF page, which had reviews of the latest Raw episodes, Pay Per View Specials, Midi theme songs and pictures.

I had a 30-min per week time allowance on the INternet-connected family computer, and I pretty much spent it all on that site.

Those are the types of sites I miss. Single-topic with incredible depth of content, and written in a funny, friendly tone without the "content strategist" tone of voice that's all too common on "fun" websites like Vice, Gizmodo etc.

> The Internet of those days were limited to the extreme minority of people who were aware of the Internet and had access to a connected computer, nevermind took the time to figure out how to create for it.

Exclusivity makes things cool.

That's disingenuous. Smaller communities are better because they tend to be more focused, on-topic, and familiar for their members. When they grow large they can drift off-topic and fall victim to status-seeking and other obnoxious behaviour. The only way to mitigate this (I don't believe it can be prevented forever) is heavy moderation.

HN has survived due to the tireless efforts of some very smart moderators. It continues to creep away from its sense of community, however, and political flame-wars seem to be becoming increasingly common.

Early sites on the internet had not developed the appropriate tools and social norms to moderate effectively against the deluge.

More precisely, as the sample size approaches the total population size, the mean of any trait in the sample approaches the mean of that trait in the total population.

Specifically, the subset of the population that was on the early Internet had much higher average cognitive ability and creativity than the total population. Now the two groups are virtually identical.

> The modern Internet is far from perfect, but the diversity and quantity (and arguably, quality) of voices is far better than when the Internet catered mostly to college-age kids and academics, i.e. people with access to free, high-speed Internet portals.

Ironically, I could not share this article itself on Facebook, because it apparently violated community guidelines. So yeah...

Ya I noticed that too when I tried to share it. I've been reading through the articles, and even though I am INFP and the author is INTJ, I align very strongly with many of the main points so far.

It's a strange feeling to have (what in my mind is) a very consistent, rational view of reality with all of its beauty and flaws, yet have that considered to be so fringe or even disruptive somehow by society to the point where it is censored.

I actually just posted quite a rant on Facebook about the dangers of censorship and how corporate control can distort the conversation, using links from that site as evidence. It's funny to see the comment count be 6 or whatever and only see 4 comments because the others are blocked. An oversight like that in their code tells me that even Facebook is having a hard time stomaching censorship, so that gives me hope that some enlightenment may come of all this.

The last bit is funny, it would take a lot of words to explain. The most important mechanisms are filters that exclude topics from your friends feed, self-moderation and 3rd party monetization. You are a guest, it isn't your place, you should and shall behave as such.

I dont know who your fb "friends" are but mine are diverse enough not to bother them with stuff they dont find interesting. You should post a picture of your lunch not some 1000 word article.

Also, if you wrote the above on your own site i would return to read more. Here i dont bother.

"I Miss the Old Internet" - an article about another website WITHOUT LINKING THERE. Congratulations, you've played yourself.

What's murdering the old internet is the lack of links. Everyone is posting screenshots, twitter/facebook/etc all hijack links, and we're surprised we can't find the sites.

Link to eachother. That's why it used to work.

This. Also, make sure you have an RSS feed on your site. RSS helps people get back to your site for new content later on.

Even Firefox dropped it's built-in RSS support by now, so for the current September generation, this is meaningless, unfortunately. Still, as infrastructure, it's very important, because it's simple to transform RSS into other formats: JSON feed, h-feed[^1], etc.

As for how to "follow" (I'd prefer to use subscribe instead) a personal site these days, it's a hard problem, reasonably well documented here: https://indieweb.org/follow

There is a current effort, called microsub[^2] to tackle the problem, but it's new, and is not user friendly enough at all.

Alternatively you can make your site compatible with services like https://fed.brid.gy/ and people on fediverse[^3] instances will be able to follow it.

Trouble with these: all of them require some (ranging from install wordpress plugins to write your own service) technical knowledge, and therefore contributions to solving them and making them more accessible, are more, than welcome.

[^1]: http://www.unmung.com/

[^2]: https://indieweb.org/Microsub

[^3]: https://fediverse.network/

If we'd be talking about any category other than "the old Internet", I'd say you were absolutely right. In this case, though, we are specifically talking old-school web sites and I therefore maintain that RSS should be included. :)

Not the point; typing the quoted text in duckduckgo gave me the url. The problem that what makes the web a web is glue between the components: the links. Without that, there's no web or net.

and no ht in http

This sort of post is a recurring theme here on HN, and in some ways I do sympathize with the sentiment. But I seriously believe that today that "independent" web is actually much bigger than it was in the olden days. It only seems small because of the illusion created by the hugeness of the non-independent web. And of course it is not clean binary option of independent or not, instead it really is more of a spectrum of independence, which further confuses the matters.

It is also relatively easy now for independent individuals to create "professional" websites that look and behave like commercial ones - professional templates on some hosted CRM system with dynamic features (ads, shopping baskets, comment systems etc) just a few clicks away. Wix, wordpress, shopify to a certain extent, disqus etc all make things pretty easy and decent looking.

They may not be as "kooky" it as "characterful" as they used to be any more which I guess is part of what people are missing.

Exactly this.

It's much easier today for someone who isn't a technologist to go and set up a website on wordpress or whatever or create a podcast or do whatever they'd like. Or put up videos on Youtube. Not to mention being able to easily self-publish a book.

My RSS reader (inoreader) is full of things like that. Even inoreader itself is independent. Lots of the podcasts I listen to are like that too. Physical Attraction, The Internet History Podcast and all sorts of things are just set up by one person who wants to do it. A friend of mine who is a writer has an amazingly professional sounding podcast.

There is just so much more stuff out there that this can be swamped. Also people who do it well often get pulled into larger organisations and are less independent.

I'd arguably divide history into a pre-Bootstrap and a post-Bootstrap internet. Bootstrap made it easy for anybody to have a decent looking website, replacing the raw and chaotic and wonderful mess that came before, and bringing down an echoing sameness across huge swathes of the internet.

Another bright line is the Flash internet and the no-Flash internet. So much experimentation and uniqueness bloomed, and then died.

> the best way to find them is through links from similar small websites

That's also a property of the "Old Internet" though. Discoverability has always been a problem for smaller entities. It's why every fan/personal site in the 90's/00's belonged to a half-dozen web-rings or link-list sites.

> it's getting increasingly harder to find them

It's getting harder to find them because most content creators have moved to platforms. They don't want to deal with all the complexities and annoyance of running their own site and dealing with the discoverability problem -- they want to focus on creating their content. I'm also a fan of the personality small self-created/run sites can have, but it's not what most creators want to do.

I'd wager it's getting harder to find because content strategists have figured out that they can pick up search traffic by creating throwaway blog posts about unrelated topics on a site that already has a high domain ranking.

Take for example Game of Thrones. What does GoT have to do with personal finance? Nothing, but that doesn't stop sites like Yahoo Finance from posting bilge like "10 Epic Personal Finance Lessons From 'Game of Thrones'".

Who's going to rank higher on a search for GoT related content? It depends on the search query for sure, but chances are Yahoo Finance, or HuffPost, or any of the other content mills will beat out your hand-coded personal website that probably doesn't even have Google Analytics set up on it.

The main thing I miss about "old" internet is personality. With Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram you'll always have the same boring page design around your posts no matter who you are. Sure the content you post will get your personality across fairly well, but just like with art it's not only the painting that matters, but also the frame.

It's one of the two main reasons[1] why I vastly prefer Tumblr over the three aforementioned sites. It lets you create a page that's your own to customize how you like. And that makes it much more personal and interesting than Twitter and Instagram imo. I really wish those sites would start letting users customize their pages more than just by changing their profile pictures and header images.

[1]: The other being the ability to view all posts from people you follow in a sequential order instead of having some algorithm decide which posts you should see.

I agree in part. However, there is an advantage to the same boring designs being popular: they're actually readable. Some Tumblr themes in my experience are more of an artsy flex rather than a conscious, well thought out design. E.g. small text, low contrast, links that move, the menu being in any number of places. This isn't exclusive to Tumblr - I remember many horrible MySpace sites that were nigh impossible to read.

At least Tumblr has an archive view that doesn't throw you visual curve balls.

We don't have to "miss it". Let's just share it. There are many corners of the internet away from the spotlights. Let's just share some links, what are they ?

I created https://ratwires.space (nsfw) a crazy little javascriptless anonymous textboard with text effects that only permits 255 posts to exist at any one time and where replies eventually becomes threads in and of themselves. People often share links to various other small sites there so it's turned out to be great for (re)discovering the undernet.

It’s actually impressive. I guess it’s even possible a lot of it is internal jargon that I just do not understand.

I find people don't want to share these. I can understand to a degree as I've seen good communities go to hell once the "normies" show up.

This is the "dark forest" theory of the current internet, ironically posted on Medium [1]. You can put up registration barriers and such, but even being world-readable can attract negative attention. It's getting to the point where you have to "know people" to find cool stuff online.

[1] https://onezero.medium.com/the-dark-forest-theory-of-the-int...

Also see: Eternal September[0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

It's so hard to strike a balance between inclusion and 'eternal september'. Managing a community is incredibly hard work. I don't really know if I can think of a way to be both inclusive and preserve the value of a community indefinitely. It seems that at some point you really need barriers to entry to keep things sane.

I've found that an effective way to strike a balance is to simply refuse to scale. Once people can't access your site only the dedicated will remain.

That's part of the reason I run kwat.chat, because I want people to share things they've built. This includes links to blog posts or websites themselves.

No, thanks. The rules of old Internet are different. HN would flip a shit at some old "guestbook" app and its GDPR incompatibility because the owner of the site stopped paying attention, for instance.

It's like Instagram ruining the nice spots. Now everyone knows where they are and they don't know how to behave.

Even lobste.rs is getting ropey, though the user tree does help with that.

>But, the voice of individuals has mostly been drowned out, except on.. Reddit

A pretty big exception there. This reminds me of "But what did the Romans ever do for us?"[1] sketch.

"apart from free hosting and cataloging and tagging and community and moderation and upvote/downvote ordering and making all that easy to read with restrictions on formatting and still allowing individual expression by this newfangled concept of 'linking'[2]... what has the new Internet done for helping voices being heard?"

I'll tell you, I had a website that I hosted on my own PC. And before I got DSL, you could only reliably connect to it by dialing into the computer with a modem.

DSL didn't change much. My voice was heard by exactly one user: me.

And now I can make an comment on reddit about, say, why we use radians instead of degrees in Calculus, and it will have hundreds of upvotes, a dozen of responses, and an audience of at least thousands who actually read it.

Yes, there's no opportunity to practice Geocities-style web design there. That's why the things you write there actually get read by other people. Surprise, that's how it works in the old world too: print newspapers look and function about the same, and math papers are all generally typeset with the same font and style, as to not distract the reader from the content.

In today's internet, the voice of the individuals has been amplified. I had a lot of fun with HTML back in the day, but my voice was only heard when portals like reddit/fb/ng/etc came to be.


[2]Somebody please tell the author of the article that they can simply link to https://mayvaneday.keybase.pub/ instead of ranting about how hard it is to find on Google

Also, it's not hard to find on Google. It's a personal homepage of "Vane Vander", and looking for Vane Vander gives you that page.

When I think of the old internet, I think of Usenet before the Green Card Lawyers spammers.

That, and a working DejaNews, before Google bought and sank it. I made a two-frame (as in <frame>) browser for it and revelled in the sheer abundance of information it provided. Enter Google, exit stage left DejaNews. Progress.

Yes, exactly. Usenet is an absolutely unsurpassed form of Internet discussion.

I miss the old internet, but if I had the magic to go back to 1997 to browse for a bit I'd be over it in about 30 minutes. Just like I'd be over Mac OS System 7.5 in about 10 minutes, or my SNES, or Darkwing Duck, and on and on.

...member chewbacca

The early Internet was less crowded and less commercialized. There were often local communities, organized around local BBSes and ISPs. That is what I miss.

I certainly don't miss Netscape crashing every 10 minutes, and waiting for downloads over my 33.6k modem.

I don't miss the old Internet because it never went away, at least the part that interests me the most and that's communities. Forums are still online and they seem to be doing just fine. Even IRC is still active.

What I miss is contextual advertising. You went to a video games site and all ads where relevant. Ads used to be informative and interesting. These days they're irrelevant, annoying and indifferent.

And I certainly don't miss the dial-up days when depending on the time of the day you might had to redial a dozen times to get a connection, and your bandwidth was a mere 28.8 Kbps which seems ridiculous by today standards.

“What I miss is contextual advertising. You went to a video games site and all ads where relevant. Ads used to be informative and interesting. These days they're irrelevant, annoying and indifferent.”

Totally agree. If I am on a site about kiteboarding I would actually appreciate to get ads about kiteboarding. This could probably be useful. But instead I am getting ads about toasters because I bought one last week.

> Forums are still online and they seem to be doing just fine.

I wonder what the stats would be on the number of forums and overall forum activity today vs. 5, 10, or 15 years ago.

That would depend on your definitions. Reddit is #18 on Alexa's top sites list, and it's arguably nothing but forums.

It's essentially self-contradictory nostalgia.

> I miss the internet of the early 1990's, back before the World Wide Web had been visited by more than just a few computer geeks.


> Yes, alternative social networks [...]. But, they are not well-known or frequented by many.

The Old Internet was much smaller. Much, much smaller.

I don't think it can scale.

When the Old Internet was a small part of my life, it felt huge. The New Internet is a huge part of my life, and feels small.

True. It's everywhere but it feels small because we've trained ourselves to ignore 95% of it. There is so much coming out, all the time, and all vying for our attention. I can't stand it.

Just well said. Sad at the same time.

I'm conflicted about this, my gut agrees with you but I don't want to because I'd like to hold on to the idea that it's possible to include and bring value to everyone.

>I'd like to hold on to the idea that it's possible to include and bring value to everyone

The internet does bring value to everyone, and that's exactly what people are complaining about.

Like the author, I too had made an account on Raddle. After lurking for a while, I came upon a post about the Proud Boy March in Portland, and I made one single comment with a slightly cynical tone. Within a period of five minutes I was banned from the site.

Back in the day, your ISP would give you an email address, a login on their Usenet server, and a few megs of free web space under "~username". That was part of the standard package.

Nowadays it easily could be, but since approximately everybody only uses the internet for Facebook and Gmail, it became too much of a hassle (and a legal liability) to provide.

The old "free" hosting services injected all kinds of obnoxious ads - banners, watermarks, pop-ups, pop-unders, Flash. Still worth it for kids who couldn't afford to set up a "real" website. Now there aren't a lot of options like that anymore. You want a website? Pay for it.

The Old Internet is when the web browser was a "smart document reader" and information was open and accessible.

Now the web browser is more of a VM for "web applications" and the web is turning into walled gardens.

The tendency for the tech world to centralize around a single browser like Chrome is a big culprit. But once we started having auto-updaters for browsers, that was the nail in the coffin. The centralizing effect of that is huge.

Things became easier for web developers, but not necessarily better for the end user.

The new internet is in the favor of commercial interests. The open internet & the open browser is being strangled.

More and more I blame not just social networks, but the Web Search (and I mean Google) for strangling old-web community-centered resources. Many blogs and forums were shadowed by infinity of click-farms and other CEO'ed to crap sites, later adding tons of easily identifiable marketing black holes. Discoverability plummeted.

That's understandable, as Google have zero intention to lead to "real people" discussing things.

I keep a modern directory to the 'old' Internet at http://href.cool.

I also track what's happening on blogs and wikis at http://www.kickscondor.com.

There is a whole lot of great stuff going on, regardless of how popular it is. (I kind of think it's great that it's not.)

Hey man, I just have to say, I've randomly stumbled onto three(!) of your projects this week and love them all! Keep it up!

Very kind. Thank you for saying hi. Your github has some sweet projects. Love the D&D5 tldr. I need to look over your SoundCloud scraper today - I'm doing the same thing in some code and it'll be good to compare. So thank YOU in advance, Miserlou.

There are some search engines that help to solve this problem (no affiliation):

- https://wiby.me/

- https://millionshort.com/

Reddit is not bad for discovering content if you understand the inherent biases, and I personally have good results with blogrolls on blogs I already enjoy such as https://slatestarcodex.com/.

I always find it a bit weird when people wax nostalgic about the "old internet" when they're still talking about the web. The real old internet had existed for a while before the web, BBSes and Usenet before that. Eternal September[1], of which the early web was effectively a continuation, practically obliterated those communities.

There's a lot to like about being able to do my banking, shopping, etc. online. I value the contacts I've been able to make and maintain via Modern Social Media. Still, the loss of something that existed before looms larger for me than any differences between different generations of websites. The author is missing the middle period interent, and that's OK, but some of us also miss the truly old internet.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

The continued integration of the "real world" and "online world" is cancerous in my opinion. It never mattered if xXDeath_BonerXx said he was going to show up at your house and kill you, but it matters when John Smith from Company Inc who lives at 101 Boulevard Street tells his 400 followers he's going to murder Cindi Jane from accounting. If you made a fool of yourself, you either made a new screen name or left that website and found a new one. Nobody knew a thing about you you didn't tell them, and that was wonderful.

Rose colored glasses. "The old" internet still exists, it's only that there are many orders of magnitude more content available online today than in the old era. The idea that corporate dominance and filtering is hiding content is false, in fact, the opposite is true, today's search engines are better than ever before at finding whatever you're looking for, what has changed is that search habits have become much more directed towards specific tasks rather than used for leisurely "browsing" the web.

today's search engines are better than ever before at finding whatever you're looking for

IMO this is empathically not true.

Not necessarily because Google has gotten worse -- although I will argue that in some ways it has, especially by deleting or ignoring search terms that I explicitely include in my query while freely adding others that are only vaguely connected -- but because people have gotten better at gaming the system on an immense scale. Search for basic information on a topic and more often than not everything is an ad-ridden Wordpress site with lots of big pictures and ten paragraphs of SEO-optimizing fluff (because Google likes lots of text to harvest keywords from) before the actual information. Google has utterly failed at de-prioritizing all this useless nonsense, probably because they make money from ranking it high.

I have to work much harder now than ten years ago at getting Google to return useful information.

The handful of anti-features that google has implemented do not nullify the immense progress in the other direction. There is literally nothing I cannot find on google.com with ease if I know what I am looking for.

Google prioritizes social media content in their results.

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