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The old internet died and we watched and did nothing (buzzfeednews.com)
286 points by eplanit on Dec 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 293 comments

The old internet died long before these centralized services appeared. The old internet was when we ran our own servers, built and hosted our own websites, and we were truly free in the wild wild west.

Its easier than ever to run your own servers, but today few do.

The old internet is dead (for now) and it looks more like the BBS era today. But we innovated past that then, and we will innovate past that now.

I am greatly looking forward to all of the decentralization work that is in progress from the numerous people on HN and the internet.

I thought similar. To me what Buzzfeed are calling the "old Internet" here is something I very much remember bemoaning as the "new Internet" in which dedicated protocols such as NNTP and IRC got displaced by brattish commercial upstarts whose web-based versions had 10% of the quality-of-life features and about 5% of the community etiquette. However they displaced everything that came before them because you could embed images, have an animated avatar and (most importantly) not have to delve into the world of finding a client of choice and connecting it to your ISP's news servers.

What I find myself missing more than anything else is that news server was something you paid for, either as part of an ISP package, as a dedicated service or your university tuition fees. The commercial model was purely the provision of that resource - not selling your data, nor being a vector for targeted political ads. There was no incentive to make the basic mechanics of discussion worse or promote flame wars in the name of "engagement" or "monetisation", and while I'm sure the smaller community size played a part things seemed to bump along with a far greater degree of civility and allowance for misunderstanding.

I started college, and discovered the Internet, in fall of 1993. An epoch infamously known as "Eternal September" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September). The old-timers on Usenet and IRC at the time thought that me and my classmates were idiots. That we killed the "old Internet".

From my perspective though, the "old Internet" died when Deja News sold out to Google. When phpBB forums started replacing Usenet, and ICQ or other chat apps started replacing IRC.

From the perspective of those newbies, the "old Internet" died when phpBB forums were replaced by LiveJournal pages and blog comment sections. When ICQ fragmented into AOL, Yahoo, and MSN instant messengers.

Those people saw the "old Internet" die when pages and blogs coalesced into early social media.

Those people saw the "old Internet" die when social media took on its contemporary shape (e.g. YouTube videos becoming more professional and SEO-oriented, clickbait, photo and video-based social media surpassing text-based social media).

This article is just some person at Buzzfeed, writing a eulogy for the "old Internet" as understood by the generation of people who have jobs at Buzzfeed.

The internet is dead. Long live the internet.

I don't know if I agree with your unstated premise that none of these iterations are inherently better or worse than what came before or what will come after. I think there has been a phase change from participation to consumption. The internet has become TV for most users. Not just in the sense of the viewer passively watching, but in the sense of the content itself being highly centralized. There's no more "you" in youtube. The main content feed is high production costs and celebrities, not random clever people.

>There's no more "you" in youtube. The main content feed is high production costs and celebrities, not random clever people.

The main feed by definition doesn't comprise most of the content on Youtube. I'm following close to 500 channels and many if not most of them are not celebrity channels with high production costs, but just someone with a camera and maybe some editing skills.

People need to get over this hipster delusion that quality of production is inversely correlated to quality of content. There's plenty of horrible content on Youtube with low production value from random people (take a look at reaction videos,) and plenty of good content both poorly and well produced.

Sure, there's still plenty of "You" in YouTube, but it is absolutely not what is featured by the site itself as it was in the past. YouTube would probably be much more profitable if we all consumed only those channels and it was just "Netflix with PewDiePie and Jenna Marbles". I think if they dropped all the other content at the current time, there would be a lot of backlash. The danger is after ten years of psychological manipulation of users (e.g., the main feed), many of whom will be young and not know the 'old' YouTube, they might be able to get away with it.

> People need to get over this hipster delusion that quality of production is inversely correlated to quality of content. There's plenty of horrible content on Youtube with low production value from random people (take a look at reaction videos,) and plenty of good content both poorly and well produced.

One of two of my pet peeves with YouTube videos. Good content is 90% of the way there. I don't know why some YouTubers quit there or why people make excuses for them. There are literally YouTube videos about how to make good YouTube videos. Even a little effort in production goes a long way.

(The other peeve is videos that should be 30 seconds long but are 10 minutes long. Although a good portion of that has to do with incentives created by YouTube and/or monetization of the videos.)

99% of what I watch on YouTube is how to videos by people with about 20 total videos. The biggest one I watch is Colin furze and that's about 3x a year when it shows up here. He's like 2000x the size of my next watch.

I will say a lot of stuff is much better produced these days. Proliferation of good cameras and editing software and even the big producers using smash cuts makes that so.

> The old-timers on Usenet and IRC at the time thought that me and my classmates were idiots.

FWIW, my view at the time was a bit different - the normal cycle was that fresh students et al would join each year and they would either take time to learn the community conventions or they would leave. All of us were new once (indeed, I wasn't "new", but neither was I an old timer), so the issue wasn't the newcomers being idiots. The issue is that the community worked because of the conventions. We'd say "lurk for a while. Read the FAQ that I'd regularly posted. Learn how to quote and trim so many people can have manage an in-depth conversation that is spread over time and space".

Some considered this elitist snobbery and left. Others learned and stayed (and newcomers DID bring change - the conventions werent static).

But this sort of community cant survive the fast paced ephemeral connections that the eternal September brought.

What exists now is different. Better or worse? Too complex to answer. But definitely the kinds of conversations that were had then do not exist in the replacement media. They cant, anymore than the reverse could.

I'm not aware of any culture that survives integration with a larger one if that larger one has no regard for the smaller one.

AOL added their nntp support around then. It’s called September after the influx of new college students each fall. Eternal because now noobs arrived every day instead of just for school.

You're forgetting spam. Spam destroyed all those first generation federated systems. IRC survived because it was too niche for spammers to target much but spam is the primary thing that killed Usenet and email as a truly open system.

The closed systems were better able to fight spam because they could easily ban people and IPs.

On a deeper level spam, "brattish" commercial sites, etc. all come from when money got involved.

The old Internet was mostly noncommercial. Money changes everything.

Even on the new sites I saw a massive shift when e.g. it became possible to monetize YouTube videos. All the sudden everything became about engagement and controversy and got big and divisive and dumb and flashy.

Ultimately we must adapt or perish. There is no going back. I think all new systems must be designed with the trial by fire of spam and other profit motivated attacks in mind from the start.

IRC has mechanisms that make dealing with spam easy.

Usenet on the other hand required cooperation from all providers. Actually I blame Google for killing Usenet. They used Microsoft's EEE (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish). They acquired DejaNews, renamed it to Google Groups, provided a gateway that allowed everyone to use Usenet. This introduced a lot of spam to the network, but whenever someone reported it, they did nothing. Eventually they introduced their internal groups, and shifted search in a way that it got hard to use Google Groups for searching Usenet posts.

They did similar thing with XMPP (Jabber). When they introduced Google Talk, their service was interconnected with the other XMPP servers. Once it got popular they discontinued it and introduced Hangouts (then later iterations) Hangouts was still connected people could see each other being present people on Hangouts could message anyone, but people on other XMPP couldn't message people on Hangouts. It didn't even show an error. This made many users switch to Hangouts to continue taking with their friends.

They attempted to do the same thing with email, but were less successful (since many big companies are also providing the service), this was done through introducing various anti spam measures. You now have to jump through various hoops (SPF, DKIM, RBAC) to have your service still reach Google uses. It didn't matter that I used the same IP and domain for 15 years never had spam sent from it, but suddenly my emails started being silently classified as spam without any warning.

> IRC has mechanisms that make dealing with spam easy.

> Usenet on the other hand required cooperation from all providers. Actually I blame Google for killing Usenet. They used Microsoft's EEE (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish). They acquired DejaNews, renamed it to Google Groups, provided a gateway that allowed everyone to use Usenet. This introduced a lot of spam to the network, but whenever someone reported it, they did nothing. Eventually they introduced their internal groups, and shifted search in a way that it got hard to use Google Groups for searching Usenet posts.

> They did similar thing with XMPP (Jabber). When they introduced Google Talk, their service was interconnected with the other XMPP servers. Once it got popular they discontinued it and introduced Hangouts (then later iterations) Hangouts was still connected people could see each other being present people on Hangouts could message anyone, but people on other XMPP couldn't message people on Hangouts. It didn't even show an error. This made many users switch to Hangouts to continue taking with their friends.

The Jabber coopting by Google always felt like something straight out of the old "Embrace, extend, extinguish" playbook of yore.

Unfortunately, the "old" internet involved a lot of trust. Once sufficient numbers of untrustworthy players enter the system, you have to figure out how to protect yourself from spam and malware, and for most people that means using locked down systems such as iOS and services that verify identity via phone numbers and whatnot.

> The closed systems were better able to fight spam because they could easily ban people and IPs.

Unless the server allowed one to send email or post to usenet without having to log in first, then there's no reason why the provider couldn't simply disable the account or block the originating IP from connecting to the server. From what I can tell, the providers weren't interested in blocking spam by blocking IPs or disabling accounts. This is very similar to the robocall problem and phone companies not really trying to fix it.

> IRC survived because it was too niche for spammers to target much but spam is the primary thing that killed Usenet and email as a truly open system.

A year or so freenode was hit by spam, and now everyone needs to verify, so spam still exists, as does IRC.

Even as late as 2000, usenet survived spam, conversations continued, and spam in email was far worse. Spam in email went the way of the dodo around mid-to-late 00s, with the centralisation of the providers (gmail, yahoo, hotmail)

I run my own email server, and use a separate address per correspondent. This avoids spam entirely. I have sometimes got some spam from some addresses but simply disable that address and then the problem is gone.

That's too much time and work for 99% of users, even tech-savvy ones.

Think of it this way: lets say you value your time at $50/hour (very conservative for a tech-savvy person). If it takes an hour a month to admin that box, that's a $50/month e-mail service you have not including VPS/VM cost.

Yes, although I am not asking everyone to do it. I am only saying I do it. It is the same protocol as everyone else's email, I just set it up my own way. Other people who like to do can try this too, but I am not trying to ask everyone to do who does not want to do.

I’ve found FastMail to be my happy medium: I can give out arbitrary aliases over a couple of domains, and only have to do the config once per domain, but they take care of the actual email server part. I can then later add mailbox rules for aliases I give important senders.

Granted, the domain config would be overwhelming for my friends and family not involved in IT - even my mechanical engineer husband doesn’t quite understand what I’m doing.

Do you accept wildcards, or create a new alias in advance every time? I used to accept wildcards around turn of millenium but spam was overwhelming.

How do you stop "mainstream" providers from sending your emails to spam?

I do not accept (and never have accepted) wildcards. I create a new alias in advance every time.

I use the ISP's server for sending, and use my own server for receiving (the menu for install Exim has a "smart host" option which does this).

> Money changes everything.

And almost always for the worse.

Greed is as normal and natural as sex. If there is no legitimate, productive outlet for it, it finds illegitimate and unproductive outlets. This is IMHO who communist states turn into mafia states: the mafia becomes the outlet. Part of adapting to the change is going to be building legitimate profit avenues into systems so that the profit motive can find productive channels.

All the old systems had no channel at all for profit making, so it made it's own in the form of spam and similar.

> If there is no legitimate, productive outlet for it, it finds illegitimate and unproductive outlets. This is IMHO who communist states turn into mafia states: the mafia becomes the outlet.

The reason that former communist countries like Russia became oligarchies (what I think you might mean by mafia state) is because people with significant power in the previous communist system seized control of huge state assets during the disorder that accompanied the system's collapse, and in doing so took ownership of large pieces of the economy. Even under communism, power was closely held among a in-group, and that stayed the same afterward.

The oligarchy didn't emerge because average people were bored and provided for, didn't know what to do with themselves, and therefore decided to set up illegitimate enterprises.

Also, plenty of people in capitalist countries set up illegitimate enterprises like financial frauds and consumer scams of all sorts (remember 2008?), and capitalist societies have their own oligarchs - though we call them plutocrats instead.

It doesn't feel that natural. I think we should stop resorting to human nature when something fits our mood. Violence is natural but we try to stifle it because it haa few benefits. Greed should be the same. I don't think our current worship of money is healthy for the future - if you believe what they say about climate change atleast.

Yes, I agree. But none of that changes the fact that when something shifts to being for-profit, that thing usually gets worse.

> On a deeper level spam, "brattish" commercial sites, etc. all come from when money got involved.

Recall too that this is about when Scientologist decided to do something about people saying bad things about them on Usenet. Though maybe you can call that money, too.

So are you saying that you believe YouTube will also perish because it's now mostly spam, albeit sanctioned spam? Not a facetious comment, I genuinely wonder. It'd be a wonderful twist, in a way.

YouTube's deplatforming and demonetizing is about improving content quality for a broad audience, so they have been taking steps to fight spammy content. They will probably have to do more.

The systems that died were systems that were structurally unable to fight spam or where doing so was prohibitively expensive in time or money.

You've put your finger on something important - innovation moved from collaborative protocols to antagonistic web sites, and we're all the poorer for it.

Exactly. The protocol era was hijacked for profit.

I believe that incentivized, decentralized protocols are the evolution of all of this and will bring the protocol era back AND properly incentivizes participants.

I hope so, but if you mean cryptocurrency wake me up when there is more to it than speculation and gambling. Other than the "wire transfer" classic use case for Bitcoin I see nothing new that anyone is actually using that is not one of those two things.

Decentralized lending via Ethereum smart contracts is now a real thing. Check out this out in a dApp browser like Coinbase Wallet: https://app.compound.finance/

I’m current earning 3.5% apr by lending out USDC (Coinbase’s stablecoin) via dApp.

EDIT: I guess I am being downvoted because people think this is spam? I only have a disincentive for people to use this dApp: as more liquidity gets added to the pool, my payout interest rate goes down.

To be fair, "I give out vague loans in internet money" doesn't naturally default itself to being a good thing, and namedropping "smart contracts" and assuming that means anything aside from spam&scam technobabble to people outside of the ethereum is a bit of a miss on your part.

Protocols like Secure Scuttlebutt provide decentralization without any cryptocurrencies or global blockchains. It's a bit of a wild west, but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Cryptocurrency is freedom from intermediary interference. That's not a big deal in the US, but in some countries people can't even have bank accounts.

Hahaha, you keep telling yourself that. Some countries don't even have reliable network/power/etc and don't say "oh you can trade bitcoin with paper," because that's just stupid.

Sure, but there are enough countries out there that fall into both the "reliable enough connectivity" and "government control of money" parts of the Venn diagram that this is still valid.

And the world is only getting more electrified and connected as the years go on.

There was also a lack of incentive to tamp down on flame wars or care about a "quality level" of content when advertisers aren't paying for engaging content.

The SNR on old USENET and IRC was pretty low.

> What I find myself missing more than anything else is that news server was something you paid for, either as part of an ISP package, as a dedicated service or your university tuition fees.

For what it's worth, there are still commercial newsproviders out there you can pay for. There are also free ones as well. Unfortunately, the all the newsgroups I participated in as recently as 5 years ago are pretty much dead.

The "old internet" isn't dead. It just looks dead, because the BILLIONS of people who joined the internet since 2002 simply never venture outside of the major centralized services.

There are more privately run servers, self hosted websites and bb's now than there were back then. Its cheaper, safer and easier to start and run your own network and service today than ever.

So in aggregate, there is 100x (1000x?) the niche, kooky, wierd, fun, specific internet that we had in 1997. But there is also 10^5x the giant consolidated internet that most people see.

Personally, I like the of niche, kooky, weird, fun, specific sites that I remember from years past. I created https://stumblingon.com to try and gather a collection of such sites and expose them to users. (I noticed that StumbleUpon was dead)

Thank you very much for creating this. I've missed stumbleupon so much since their disastrous pivot. I found so many random pages back then, really felt like I was truly "surfing" the web. Here's to finding more of that with stumblingon!

Interesting that stumbleupon was also a reboot of a failed 90's website before that.

But this doesn’t factor in that smaller communities have been eaten by the bigger sites. Reddit, for example, has replaced hundreds of niche topic forums in the past decade, and done a rather poor job doing so, in my opinion.

The advantage of the big centralized services is that they're more accessible. They're generally very easy to use, it's harder to fuck things up there.

A lot of the kind of nerds that post on hacker news, myself included, frequently discount how much of a barrier technical difficulty is. For us, setting up an IRC client, or even a server, is hardly a big deal at all.

But for the average person, they either can't or won't bother with that. So setting up an IRC client for them, is like a wall.

Responses to pointing this out often go along the train of thought of, "It's not that hard! People could totally do it!" Well, regardless of whether they could or not, they won't. So you're basically just yelling into the void.

> For us, setting up an IRC client, or even a server, is hardly a big deal at all.

I administrated huge systems at massive scale, I deliver, what I believe is very high quality software which solves complex problems.

And you know what? I would never want to setup a freaking IRC client that has such poor UX that you wonder if it was intentional.

Oh, wait, you have to deploy a server to host your bouncer too! Oh, and then you have to interact with the nicserver!

What a joy! Really.

We have to forget about “state of the art protocols”, “unix philosophy” and very dumb UX if we want to see adoption of decentralized services.

You know why HTTP is fucking great and so ubiquitous? Because it fucking works. IRC and what not protocols are so broken that it’s not even funny.

I read too many RFCs of protocols that are so dumb that you understand they were never really written to be implemented and even less to be used but are more there to serve an intellectual challenge.

I don't necessarily agree that accessibility is a universal good thing, at least when it comes to building a community. Reddit is a good example - there is basically zero effort required to join and post. There is also very little incentive to remain active and post good content (karma is more or less irrelevant compared to incentives in forum sites of the past.)

As a result, you get fairly low-quality discussion content and essentially zero sense of identity - both of which were not a problem in pre-centralized niche forums.

Well, it's a good thing if you want a service to be more popular, which is what people here are complaining about: that the centralized services beat the decentralized ones.

It's not like IRC went away, lots of people still use it. It was just massively eclipsed by more accessible alternatives.

I disagree. It's like saying anything else but fast food is too complicated. While in reality the net is full of cooking sites of all sorts.

Let's do more cybercooking in our cyberkitchens!

There is a saying that you are what and how you eat. What is the net? A medium for information of all sorts. Mindfood so to speak. Mind your diet!

Food is a necessity, eating out is more expensive than making your own, and you can make it healthier for yourself.

Chat isn't usually a necessity, it's more or less free regardless of whether you use Discord or IRC, and using your own client doesn't make you any healthier.

I didn't mean to limit this to chat software. But now that you mention it, what if i only have small pans and pots, and/or only a single burner? And that thing with all the bells&whistles just wouldn't fit?

What sucks is that it's now really, really, really hard to find the quality personal / enthusiast sites and blogs that are out there unless you already know what specific search terms will lead you to it. Searching using terms on Google that _should_ spit out a first-page result to those sites no longer does. Google now prioritizes results containing fake SEO-optimized pseudo blogs and paid-for "review" sites.

It's crazy how useless Google has become for discovering independent niche content -- it used to be so easy. And DDG and Bing aren't any better. So yeah there may be more out there than ever before, but if you can't find it... does it really exist?

I feel like the ratios changed a lot which makes it seem like the old Internet died. But there are probably more people running their own servers than there used to be. It's just that that makes up just something like 1% of the user community instead of 100%.

"The old internet" is what you got when only nerds were online. Replicate that and you got your old internet back. Cue the above mentioned decentralization work...

I feel the ratio is the important thing - at least if your goal is to let the broader society benefit from your work and not just an ivory tower of people with similar background.

In that regard, the "nerds" utterly failed. We're looking back at the "old" internet with some kind of sentimental sadness, but we've evidently failed to convince the general public that a noncommercial, decentralised internet is the way to go.

The UX on the old Internet was terrible, and I remember a solid generation of veteran users telling newbies to RTFM instead of either putting the hard work in to educate or improve the UX of the toolchain so education was less necessary (work that is hard because it is less about understanding the code and more about understanding how users think and why they don't think like the developer of the protocol or application).

Average users who don't have the time to understand IPs, sockets, or authentication schemas have been served by companies willing to shoulder the burden of relieving them of those special-knowledge requirements.

And terrible UX was a feature to some extent. The people who got through it put in some effort to do so, so it filtered out a lot of low effort people. (Think about all the garbage on reddit, facebook, twitter).

Average users aren't necessarily the people I want to interact with on a daily basis. It's like an advanced version of a captcha.

Maybe I'll make a technology and discussions site that is purposefully difficult to connect to. Maybe I won't use a standard protocol and you'll have to use netcat & gpg to read / upload posts or something absurd like that.

Yes, except this exact sentiment, I believe, is part of why we now have the internet we have.

The "old internet" was inaccessible unless you were an expert, true. The experts could have seen this as a chance to make everyone into an expert and teach the values that were important to them in the process. If all the talk about the internet as a democratising force and a tool for freedom of expression is taken seriously, this would have been the way forward.

Instead, experts chose to be elitist and decided to use the information asymmetry to offset themselves from "the masses" and exploit it for monetary gain. The result is that we now have a wealth of powerful, free but arcane and hard to use tools for devs and a locked-down, commercialised and psychologically manipulative web for the rest. What kind of future is that?

I partially disagree because i did that educational thing, though a long time ago. All in all it was mostly a waste of time.

I have an aversion of being called elitist. It's more like resignation, cynicism. Like thinking 'Eat all the shit that you want. Just don't shit on me'

I can understand that not everyone wants or has the time to keep explaining the same things to everyone (though I think there are solutions for that). Also, developers might have other priorities than polishing UX, especially if the software is a volunteer or hobby project. I wouldn't call those things "elitist".

However, what I absolutely believe is elitist is to intentionally design a confusing UX or value it as a "feature" because it will prevent certain groups of people from using the software. That was what the GP advocated for.

In my experience the problem isn't elitism. The problem is large swathes of the human population are lazy luddites.

I see it with cars too. I have friends that love owning fast luxury coupes, and yet don't know how to change their own oil, and can't drive a stick shift. Some of those are guys who build their own PCs, but when it comes to anything mechanical? Nope. Don't even want to learn, and that surprises me.

You can lead horses to water but you can't make them drink, I guess.

Time is finite, and people choose what they are interested in learning. One is not a "Luddite" for not understanding how one's car works if one has a mechanic for that.

So too with software and networks. The internet would never have gotten so big and useful if we demanded every user understand all its subsystems.

It filtered out people with different interests. You do find way more diverse topics out there now in good quality. There are still plenty of forums and sources for technically interested people now - more then before. What also exists are forums and places for everybody else - majority of Internet.

Yeah, and if people want niche ecosystems, they can have niche ecosystems.

They just shouldn't be surprised when organizations that build something that tries to appeal to a mass audience become much, much, to appeal to a mass audience become much, much more relevant to the masses than the niches will ever be.

That is why average users using dumbed down and teletubbyfied interfaces of 'trusted' sites have bean fashion victims by countless leaks, breaches, closed down sites, and so on.

I remember when MS-DOS came with large printed handbooks. They were good. Maybe casual users should have read about 20% of that, for learning how to organize and separate programs and data, and doing backups accordingly.

Almost none did. And then cried because of some mishap.


shrug isn't the way to bring people in.

Also, what leaks and breaches are you referring to? I've never heard anyone make the claim that the big sites are sources of more leaks and breaches than smaller sites. If anything, smaller sites have fewer resources to protect against attacks; if they are less often breached, it's likely because they're smaller, less interesting targets.

Nobody cares about smaller sites that much, larger sites more so. Because everything counts in large amounts, therefore larger sites are a more valuable target.

In general, exceptions happen and apply as alwasys.

This comment should be at the top of the thread.

> The old internet was when we ran our own servers, built and hosted our own websites, and we were truly free in the wild wild west.

Very few people did this. Unless you were at a university or paid for an ISDN line, you didn't have a persistent connect and could not host your own server. Even when DSL and Cable appeared, ISPs actively blocked hosting.

Also don't forget registering a domain cost like $100 and required mailing or faxing paperwork. Getting an SSL certificate required even more paperwork. It's not like today where and can get a wildcard SSL cert faster than it takes to squeeze out a fart.

People did build servers and host them in Data centers but that was the exception and they usually had a side gig or solicited donations for covering hosting fees. Again it was unusual.

I worked at an insurance company in the early 2000s and setup an old machine with NT and a bunch of those Emachine softmodems to work as a poor man's ISP for a few of the IT staff. It also had an FTP server hosting stuff for an IRC channel I frequented. It was unusual and coveted because back then it was very rare for people to get access to a server they could host anything on.

If we want a (return to the) boom in open-source and paid standards-based solutions, we gotta ban collecting & monetizing user info. Monetized user info & related advertising paying for "free" walled services are keeping those down. We won't see widely-successful standards-based social networks or messaging services until that option is gone.

[EDIT] and wide success/adoption matters for those in particular because much of their utility is in "everyone's on it" (where "it" may be some other, but interoperable, service)

The "old" internet was all static or lightly server-rendered pages, that can be developed and hosted at minimal cost today. Back in the day we didn't expect that "everyone" would sign up for whatever niche forum you were hosting, it was enough to have "everyone who's into that niche".

These services don't need "monetization", they can be kept up with minimal amounts of crowdfunding, while federating through well-known standards (ActivityPub, etc.) can help them achieve a network effect that might ultimately rival the big walled gardens and incent them to open up in turn.

The problem isn’t hosting, it’s discovery. Discovery was easy on the old internet because we weren’t yet drowning in spam, link farms, and cloned/scraped pages. To bring the old internet back we need search that filters out all that commercial noise and we can’t rely on Google et al to build it. Why not? Because those companies have a conflict of interest due to their ad-driven business model.

A new “Old Internet” needs to be non commercial. I don’t know how we do that.

I feel like content discovery in those days didn't primarily happen via search so much as word-of-mouth though. Blogs kept a blogroll on the side which had an overlapping network of other bloggers, people in IRC channels or BBSes would recommend other places for you to check out if you were interested in something, webcomics would host guest strips so other artists could cross-promote each other, etc.

In that respect, I feel like Reddit and Instagram are much bigger culprit than Google for sucking up all of the space for socializing and referrals. At one point several of the forums I was on all basically just focused on linking to or talking about Reddit posts, which is when I realized those forums were not long for this world.

There was a Golden Age when Google would actually return results for interesting small sites on a regular basis. This was before they declared defeat in the Great Webspam War and (apparently) just upranked major sites and downranked minor ones ('08 or '09?), giving up on usefully indexing the "lesser" parts of the web. Also back when content that wasn't frequently updated didn't suffer badly in search results, so niche "evergreen" content on small sites could actually be found by search pretty often.

08, 09 that was the time they introduced service to figure out typos in queries. That was the time that I noticed drastic reduction of usefulness of their search. When the team responsible for it visited my university, I asked about this. Their response was: we don't show results that you asked for, but the results you want.

I goddamn know what I want, and it is so annoying that Google returns sites that don't contain keyword that I explicitly want, doesn't matter that I put + in front or write it in quotes.

>There was a Golden Age when Google would actually return results for interesting small sites on a regular basis. This was before they declared defeat in the Great Webspam War and (apparently) just upranked major sites and downranked minor ones ('08 or '09?), giving up on usefully indexing the "lesser" parts of the web. Also back when content that wasn't frequently updated didn't suffer badly in search results, so niche "evergreen" content on small sites could actually be found by search pretty often.

This is useful for things like research or product reviews, but less of a thing for the sorts of current events and opinion pieces that blogging was used for (and then got moved to "social media").

But yeah, prioritizing stuff that's updated often has really killed the ability of sites to actually be useful repositories of knowledge and has probably intensified the trend towards opinion, editorial, and hot-takes of everything rather than well-researched articles about how to do useful/practical stuff.

> a Golden Age when Google would actually return results for interesting small sites on a regular basis

Yes, I miss the days when Google search was actually useful.

Bring back webrings, "favorite links" pages and the ODP/DMOZ. Good niche forums (both on Usenet and elsewhere) tended to gather FAQs and information pages that would ultimately aid discovery. That whole dynamic is quite dead these days.

Webrings were great but you still need search as a starting point. Now we've got all this spam out there which essentially creates fake webrings (private blog networks [1]) as a form of black hat SEO.

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

Sure, and those old sorts of forums still exist (well, the ones that didn't get eaten by Reddit and Facebook—OK, so I guess they kinda don't) but if you want the Web as it exists for most people to go back to standards and competing paid & free+libre solutions, I'm pretty sure banning spyvertising is gonna be a necessary, since those are the two main "services" most people use online, other than email (the rest is mostly shopping and reading news-type sites, both of which would also be improved by banning spyvertising).

The actual "old" Internet is the stuff that predated the web: Gopher, IRC, Usenet, MUDs, Public Access Unix systems, telnet...

All of those things are still in use, although perhaps not as much as before. I suggest to continue to use it.

(Do you know my first post on Usenet (using a NNTP client program I wrote myself, actually) was in 2019? I still use it, although there aren't a lot of messages on there, but there still are some.)

I suggest if you wanted to make up a web forum or mailing list, to set up a NNTP instead please. I also invented Unusenet which is a way to form newsgroup names which are not part of Usenet (you can have both on the same server; the names never interfere). You could also have multiple interfaces to the same messages if wanted, making more use better.

With other protocols too (such as IRC), a bridge can be done. For many kind of text-basedinteractive uses, telnet (or SSH) is much better than using a web page.

I agree with this. It was when we designed protocols with consensus thru RFC, and apps communicating with those protocols.

And companies started dropping that when it became very important to their business model that they maximize the amount of data they can collect about a user. 3rd party clients for my service? Unacceptable, can't spy on the user as much there, and can't advertise at them. Communicating with users on other services? Unacceptable, I need those users on my service so I can spy on them too, and besides those other services won't talk to mine for the same reasons.

Don't know why you're being downvoted when this is exactly the case in my experience. They never said "spying" outright but it's definitely why walled gardens like AOL popped up like wildfire in the 90s and why stuff like AIM was the exception and not the rule.

AOL was not about spying on you, it was about collecting that sweet monthly fee.

And anyone who lauds Apple for bringing tech to the masses should consider that AOL did the exact same thing for the Internet and really brought a glimpse of the Internet (not just the web!) to the people. Yes, real techies might want to install their IRC client of choice and fine tune settings and all that, but Grandma just wanted to click on Chat from her home screen, go to the "Recipes Room" and talk about cookies.

It was the same "less choice/more consistency" of technology that let Apple get so big, with the same huge mass appeal (but with less panache).

AOL was more 'spatial' vs. the netnerds obsession with everything has to be (ASCII)-text delivered by simple but sometimes obscure to the average user, means.

I sometimes think one could easily replicate large parts of that with

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadel/UX

which evolved out of

{2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadel_(software)

but then it lacks mastodon/matrix like federation, i guess.

Sigh. Maybe this year i get to try it out... ;-)

> we gotta ban collecting & monetizing user info

anything that runs across a network can be monitored, and such data is valuable when you are able to merge it across several data sources. It's very unlikely tracking can even be banned or un-monitized.

Making it illegal so no legitimate business can do it without incredible risk of being sued/charged out of existence seems quite feasible.

How do you make illegal monitoring access to services? Because at the core this is what tracking is based on.

Even if you trickled tracking down to IP addresses and time of usage only you could still have a very useful database of users across services.

Oh and by the way, tracking was not invented by Internet companies, all payment systems and credit cards have been doing tracking for ages before that and selling their data to third parties.

Oh yeah, I strongly agree those need to be stopped to. We keep hand wringing over all these leaks and such and "oh gee how to we improve security?", when the clear solution is to not allow it in the first place. That way a leak doesn't become some lame civil matter, but "oh, you had this plainly-illegal-to-collect info? Looks like your business is over" (which would be a rare occurrence, if it were actually that risky to do it, since it'd be hard to keep such collection secret given how many people would be involved and so how many potential whistle blowers there would be, and how large a "paper" trail is necessarily involved in mass-scale data collection, making it extremely easy to investigate and prove)

You really don’t think companies would figure out a way around any such “illegality” or just use it anti competitively as is being done throughout the EU with its ham-handed policies?

I find this kind of defeatism entirely baffling. Regulating corporations is hard so we shouldn't try? This is a lot less complicated than many sorts of regulation we attempt. Just give up on all of it, it's pointless? Where's the bottom on this line of thought?

The same spirit was what kept slavery viable for so long. They said abolishing slavery wasn’t practical. Many had conflicting interests, as do many here.

Yes, it's pointless.

There is nothing illegal about what is going on now, and nothing which should be illegal about what is going on. In this context, "regulating" simply means making a behavior we didn't see coming illegal.

It's a short-sighted, unimaginative, and blatantly violent way to solve a problem which stems entirely from the consumer public, not from big bad corporations. It will be used by major corps as an anti-competitive weapon against smaller up-start competition - an outcome we should expect from all such attempts at "regulating" the tech oligarchy.

> There is nothing illegal about what is going on now, and nothing which should be illegal about what is going on. In this context, "regulating" simply means making a behavior we didn't see coming illegal.

When we don't like they way corporate-driven markets (so... all of them, really) are developing we should attempt to change things until they develop a way we like, where "we" is any interest group. If we're not harnessing the activity of companies to the collective good, why let our democratic states charter them in the first place?


Your argument would be much better served if you didn't use words like disgusting and violent to describe the ideas(s) presented by the other poster. Frankly, it sounds like you're more interested in escalating this into an idealogical flame war than participating in a civilized discussion.

There's nothing inherently violent about a democratically elected government regulating the commercial activities of corporations according to the wishes of its people.

Companies are creations of the state. We should do with them what we think most valuable and likely to create the best environment. This may, and probably does, include permitting them a wide variety of liberties and privileges.

> > democratic states

> Speak for yourself buddy. I live in a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

FYI the colloquial usage of "democratic" or "democracy" is also the way actual political scientists use it when dealing in generalities of this sort, so splitting this straw is not some I'm-better-educated-on-this-than-you "gotcha", and signals the opposite of what you're intending.

When there are entities constantly spamming [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor's_New_Clothes in a mad raving way on all channels, at full treble, exploiting privacy and advertising falshoods for the benefit of the few, and the bullshit jobs of the masses, while trashing the cultural, mental AND physical environment, then I'm all for denying them that possibilty.

They can fuck off and go die somewhere, i won't miss them.

Aye häff SPOQQN!

> nothing which should be illegal about what is going on.

I think that collecting data about people without their informed consent should absolutely be illegal, for exactly the same reasons that it's illegal for companies to install surveillance equipment in your home without consent.

Worst case, such a ban would be a speed bump. But even just a speed bump would be an improvement over the way things are now.

So are you suggesting there's no way to defeat the tech oligarchy and we should just surrender to them?

We are the ones that enable the tech oligarchy. We are, therefore, surrendering to them right now. My suggestion is to use our brains and not rely on the useless and frivolous "services" these tech oligarchy participants provide. We give them their power.

If one builds something better, people will use it.

The challenge is that it's actually quite hard to build something better. Centralization has huge advantages of common-goal, ability to curtail and exclude antagonistic actors, and decreased barriers to flow of resources.

I think the lack of alternatives to Facebook has a lot less to do with "evil" practices Facebook undertakes and a lot more to do with Facebook actually building a good tool that's easy to use for most people. Alternatives haven't hit that level of simplicity.

> We are, therefore, surrendering to them right now.

Who's "we"? I am not surrendering to them.

Isn't that the same "just don't get addicted to nicotine" argument, but updated to the modern era?

Very few voters will support a bill that will result in them having to pay for things like email, facebook, youtube, etc...

Internet service used to include basic services like email and newsgroups. Still "paid", but effectively bundled, and a tiny part of the total cost.

They do so nowadays, too. At least around where i am. Inconvenient when you change ISPs.

>It's very unlikely tracking can even be banned [...]

How so? It's just politics - no more, no less. I don't even consider it highly unlikely that it will, letalone can, be banned, at least in the EU.

Because whatever flows in networks is a fundamental properties of the networks and it's natural for it to be available for anyone/any entity running centralized or decentralized services. Tracking is a natural consequence of operating networks.

What Facebook and Google and Twitter and Amazon and American Express and so on collect and do with their data is not remotely necessary to operating their services and businesses, except to the extent that they make money by spying on people per se.

This may be true but it doesn’t justify the monetization of user data.

If this data is useful to cross reference, let the user opt in and use it. Give the user control and insight into the data collection.

The data can be useful without tricking users and making money off their private use activities.

Monetization of data seems like a great tradeoff to me, really. The users get free content for nothing essentially. I don't see why anyone cares. It's like we've struck gold mines of new utility for society and everyone is up in arms over it.

The collection of so much personal data makes possible all sorts of abuses that are otherwise infeasible. The difference between corporations collecting & keeping massive amounts of data on the population of a state, and the same state's government doing exactly the same, is minor, when the government can buy access to much of that data or compel production of any of it by court order. It'd bother me if the government were running this kind of dragnet surveillance, so it bothers me that companies are, for this if for no other reason.

Why do you think the information is valuable? It's clearly more valuable to companies like google than the cost of providing services like search and youtube.

It's like saying that TV adverts give something for nothing, where the truth is they are a massive drain on society.

> Monetization of data seems like a great tradeoff to me, really.

That's a fair opinion. But why should those of us who do not share that opinion be forced to be subjected to spying?

I am not trying to be antagonistic, but how is anyone (particularly the assumed tech-savvy users of HN) forced into the ‘spying.’ When you use these services the cost is the monetization of your data. FAANG isn’t even attempting to hide it anymore, and again, you are posting on HN and clearly know how these companies operate. If you use their service you are engaging in a transaction with them. No one is forced to use Google, use DDG. No one is forced to use Facebook, talk to people in person. I understand the effect of numbers on the practicality of avoiding these companies, it is limiting in many ways, but if you feel that strongly about it just avoid using the services.

That is too simplistic. Ever heard of

[1} https://duckduckgo.com/?q=shadow+profiles


Except of hiding in some deep hole there is no real escaping them. Maybe in Amish County, or somewhere far off-grid. But otherwise not really.

> When you use these services the cost is the monetization of your data.

True. And if not using the services meant that those companies wouldn't spy on me, then I would have no complaint -- I already don't use their services. But it doesn't.

I’m genuinely uncertain as to how your data is being collected if you are not using these services, and again I’m not trying to argue or disagree with the underlying thesis that tracking/spying is a net negative, but I do want to understand the assertion that your personal data is being collected by companies you have no interaction with.

Just for example, Facebook tracks you even if you don't have a Facebook account.[0]

More generally, I think we need to approach discussions about data collection from the perspective that data being about a person doesn't mean that the person owns that data. Here's what I mean: The sort of data we're talking about is personal (read: "individual") merely in the sense that it is about persons. However, it's social (rather than personal) in its origin. For example, the list of my commercial transactions isn't originally (fundamentally?) data about my person. Rather, it's data about a social fabric of which I happen to be a part. So, personal data is not originally personal.

What's the significance of personal data being fundamentally social (by way of its origin)? Well, I would contend that it means personal/individual means of managing personal privacy are ultimately insufficient; your data (while it is about you) doesn't naturally belong to you. Therefore, my takeaway is this: If we want to make personal data (i.e. data about persons) practically personal (i.e. give persons control over their own data), then we need social mechanisms to protect it. My aforementioned point, about the insufficiency of personally-undertaken measures, is corollary to this.

For better or worse, it seems like most people these days equate "social mechanisms" with "regulation". However, there are in principle other social bodies (both formal (e.g. unions or guilds), or informal (e.g. various social movements)) that could be sufficient to make personal data truly personal. However, I'm unfortunately skeptical of the efficacy any non-governmental body could be when dealing with this problem. But that's beside the point.

[0] https://www.vox.com/2018/4/20/17254312/facebook-shadow-profi...

If some guy sat outside with binoculars and wrote down things about people in public in a notepad, I'm not sure it'd be in anyone's reasonable rights to make him stop.

> This may be true but it doesn’t justify the monetization of user data.

I don't understand your point. If it can technically be done and it is valuable in any way, it WILL be done. No matter the justification.

> If it can technically be done and it is valuable in any way, it WILL be done.

Until society determines that the practice is unacceptable and outlaws it. Outlawing it won't completely eliminate the practice, of course, but it would dramatically curtail it, and provide people with an actual means of rectifying the situation when someone is breaking the law.

My point is that if something is being monetized, what makes it monetizable is the agreement between the user and the service provider.

All sorts of data is collected every day that is not monetized, but could be.

Consumers are allowing their data to be monetized by agreeing to sign up for "free" services which take an asset from the user which they do not know how to monetize themselves.

In a way the dynamic is similar to the early 20th century BP oil fields in Iran; the Persians had oil under their feet for centuries but outsiders came in and started to pump it out of the ground, making themselves rich but the general public of Iran - not so much. They didn't even know what to do with oil at first.

Once the Iranian people saw what was going on and realized that they were being exploited, they elected a leader who sought to nationalize the oil fields, since they finally began to understand what asset they had and how and why they could monetize it themselves.

The internet needs its own Mohammad Mosaddegh, so to speak. Not to commit property crimes and break contracts like Mosaddegh did - but to show the masses what is going on in a way that encourages them to change their behaviors in a fundamental way.

Not if it were illegal.

How can you make monitoring logs illegal? Because that is pretty much enough to start tracking users.

You don't need to make IP logging illegal to make collecting user info that's not absolutely necessary to a transaction illegal, and to make selling or using any necessarily-collected data for anything other than e.g. auditing or further service to the transaction (returns, say) also illegal. I don't know how this became about Apache logs or whatever.

[EDIT] my point is there's a ton of info being collected that goes way beyond web server logging, so I don't know how this became about why all this is impossible because server logs are a thing.

> absolutely necessary to a transaction illegal,

"absolutely necessary" does not mean anything. For example, tracking in banking systems has very good justifications such as fraud detection. That alone means banks have a blank check to connect tons of features about their users, and not for nefarious purposes.

[EDIT] to your EDIT point: even with server logs you could start building user tracking and if your net is large enough you can derive a massive amount of data just from that. Pattern analysis, sites/services users connect to, geolocation, etc... even without the most sophisticated tracking systems this is already good enough to build business value.

Cool. Can't sell it, can't leverage it against users (e.g. use it to select which products to try to sell them). If you're doing that on any significant scale it's gonna leave a hell of a trail and enough people will be involved that it'll be found out.

"waaaah but we need to share it with 'partners'" hahaha OK whatever, but bet you don't though. Illegal. Figure it out. Bet you can.

You forgot another vector of how companies monetize user data: using it to train ML models.

You don't need to keep the data long-term (though it would be more profitable if you could). You can still get a lot of value using the data to train an ML model, then use that model to build valuable decision-making systems, which few other companies could produce.

Oh, yeah, definitely that should also be illegal. If you want to train an ML model you should have to pay directly for that data, not in connection with any other service or product. The current system means every successful monopolist is also a de facto nigh-unassailable leader in ML, which clearly sucks. "Create or buy a massive spying service" shouldn't be a necessary step 1 to realistically competing in consumer- and human-focused ML.

I disagree, many times the very reason I gave the company my data was to leverage their ML capabilities. For example, the only reason I gave LinkedIn my data was so they could find me better jobs. No one would have bothered if it were just a glossier version of Craigslist.

Plus, banks training models for fraud detection has an obvious benefit to everyone.

> If it can technically be done and it is valuable in any way

Insider trading is illegal

It's not necessarily easier to run your own web servers... It's more costly than ever, and with the collapse of Net Neutrality going on (legal or not) and Google's stranglehold on search results and browsers, your likelihood of being seen are next to nil unless you have serious amounts of operational cash... This is also why brilliant people in school aren't inventing the next Twitter or Facebook. Big industry has stepped in to carve the Internet to suit it's profit needs and to put up walls for those who aren't accepted into the fraternity. Now company employees are encouraged to develop their ideas on company time, so instead of having to buy companies for a billion dollars, they get the same innovation (in house) for just a few annual salaries. Share holder driven companies are not our friends... The Internet how we knew it is indeed dead, and everyone was warned long ago, several times. :/

I don't fully understand what you mean by your first few sentences. You could use some dynamic DNS service for your domain, or host your own on the lowest end VPS and point that to your own connection, if it is reasonably fast, and then have some cheap and energy efficient SBC/NAS running some Linux serve your content with something like [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caddy_(web_server) or whatever else works for you.

That doesn't cost me more than about 35 €uros per month (of which i have to pay 29,99 anyways for my line) and maybe 3 to 4 €uros energy (which is expensive where i live). While having 31Mbit/s upstream, which is the bandwith the external internet sees and could use. I don't need the scale the FAANGS have, do you really?

I host my stuff more or less like you (also caddy, and docker automatically served by caddy).

Internet is 49€, could be 30 but when I got fiber I gifted myself the max throughput because I could :)

Domain is 2x8€/year

Server was 600€ bought a few years ago.

Power I do not know, never cared to measure but it will be 200€/y, roughly.

So this is not that an expensive hobby.

Then of course comes the maintenance effort, but that part is pure joy

Was it really a matter of self hosting ? or a matter of what people meant by "web" ? early internet had no strong goal, but when it became a soil for a new economy the vibe changed from genuine, wild and funny to structure and optimized (for business, for users it's de-optimized).

The problem is economies of scale, as it's easier to pay someone who specializes in that sort of thing to host your things for you than to do it yourself.

Even I, a nerd who otherwise loves the old internet, don't self-host my website but use a provider (Neocities). When you compare learning HTML/CSS to make your own, quirky, beautiful website with spending five seconds making a Facebook/whatnot page, convenience will almost always win.

> The old internet is dead (for now) and it looks more like the BBS era today. But we innovated past that then, and we will innovate past that now.

I hope so.

While I don't think the old internet is dead at all (it can look that way because the new internet has grown much larger), it is true that the web (for me) is getting less useful and more dangerous as time goes on. I 100% expect that the day will come in my lifetime that I'll stop using it entirely. I hope that something magical happens to change that trajectory, but I honestly don't see anything like that on the horizon.

But the old internet does still exist, and so the internet will remain very useful to me even if I stop using the web.

> Its easier than ever to run your own servers, but today few do.

fewer in ratio/percentage or pure numbers. If it is later, I disagree. Running your own instance of federated platform or forum has never been this easier. I have a discourse, pleroma etc running currently. There are lot of people running them when you dig around. What you find the problem is noise and search - both of which are dominated by big companies and pesky marketers hijacking. Anything big with traction has people paid by companies in big sums trying to game their post to the top. If you don't have shit ton of traffic or content, you won't even get on google search unless you search for very specific keyword or direct name which very few do.

The search everywhere not just your search engine but on social media is optimized for the lowest denominator who searches for x when he wants y. The search learns the way to ignore your words or meaning completely.

So both social media and search are hijacked. What else is there for discovering things? specific niche forums which also needs to be discoverable for people to land on.

With so many gate keepers on what should be installed on your device - app store or playstore. I am surprised lot of quirky things still pop up from time to time. But then I look into my surrounding, no one else gets the same stuff that I do....which means I am living in an echo chamber.

Edit: example of companies fucking with search - https://ibb.co/Lzh5ktQ

It's easier than ever to rent your own servers, it's harder than ever to run your own servers.

There was a time when you could serve anything from a home ISP connection.

Agreed. I still remember though being on dialup and using a UUCP method of mail receipt and delivery since I didnt have 24/7 connectivity. It was hard.

With everyone on 24/7 cable connections, I really did expect something different.

Its too bad IPv6 isnt taking off like it could and should.

Why are you all writing that? See [1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21926228 please.

I do build my websites, I do run my servers and I still feel like in the wild west.

Noise increased however by orders of magnitudes thanks to social media that's why you don't see the "old internet"

The promise of computing has sort of died too.

We buy computers, but they are owned and restricted by others, especially and problematically phones.

BBSes live on today in all their ASCII glory. Logged on to an Apple ][+ BBS yesterday running on port 6502 ~grin~. Ah, good times... https://www.telnetbbsguide.com/

The article doesn't necessarily mean "old internet" in terms of internet culture or even the hosted services & structure of as such. She's talking about content, though most big swaths of that content was hosted on services, proprietary platforms or whatnot.

It's a noteworthy point. Over the last decade or two there has been quite a bit of churn and not much archiving. You can kind of estimate a default rate of social media bitrot, linkrot or whatnot...

> Its easier than ever to run your own servers, but today few do.

My completely uninformed guess says that more people are running their own servers now than ever before.

I honestly don't think the decentralization is going to succeed. Most users prefer the benefits of centralization and aren't concerned with the drawbacks.

Replacing the occasional collapse of a big central service with the low-grade noise of a distributed service run by a thousand unrelated sysadmins isn't going to be improved UX for most users, so most users won't sign up.

E-mail and Usenet (or even Fidonet, for that matter) were a vast UX improvement over Compuserve. Today's monopolized walled gardens are more like that Compuserve of old than a truly open ecosystem.

But I believe th UX of the modern monetized wallef garden would also have displaced CompuServe. Maybe CompuServe is a bad example because their UX was just poor (and they survived in an era of near zero competition).

> we ran our own servers, built and hosted our own websites .. Like... the AOL days? GeoCities?

Different bubbles we've moved to

One of those was forked and is alive and well. Neocitites [1]

[1] - https://neocities.org/

i m not so optimistic. The old internet died because it's not as profitable as the new internet, not because it's not sustainable, but because it doesn't stand a chance to grab the attention of makers, when compared to the obscene profits of the new internet. People either build a B2B SaaS (which is assumed to have higher unicorn probability), or go work for Faang. communities are over

Decentralized services won’t help at all unless the means by which people find stuff on the web is decentralized: google.


More than a dozen comments on this article and none reference the actual content of the article and miss the point of the article entirely. It's a headline the evokes different ideas but it has nothing to do with the Internet not being what it used to be. The sorry state of platforms is an issue, for sure, but it's not what this article is about. Commenting on headlines is another sorry state of Internet discussion.

The article is about a loss of content and a lack of preservation. It's about doing nothing to preserve an era of digital heritage.

I'm actually OK with that.

Mass preservation of literally everything isn't custodianship, it's viparinama-dukkha. It's coming from the same place that resulted in my great-grandmother's house being fit for an episode of Hoarders. She thought that each of those items might be useful to someone some day, but actually it just created that much bigger and nastier a haystack to sift through when the time came to try and sort out a few family heirlooms and keepsakes.

And, once you take that instinct and apply it to massive, corporate-owned, centralized sites where people casually socialize, it becomes even more problematic. I agree, pre-sanitization Tumblr was a great place for young people - especially queer youth - to work out their sexual identities. But nobody wants to have that phase of their life preserved in perfect detail, for all perpetuity, and nobody wants it sitting around in a big public archive just waiting for someone else to figure out how to de-anonymize people's old Internet accounts. It's OK, even preferable for some things to be forgotten.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't preserve a record of our digital heritage. But it should be a curated preservation of a reasonable subset of the content on these sites, not an enormous trash heap of everything that's ever happened on the Internet being kept around for people to fripple through when they're in a voyeuristic mood.

Yours is the sort of comment I’d hope for. It’s an excellent point of discussion.

I tend to agree with your perspective myself. But at the same time, much of what we discovered about ancient civilization literally came from trash heaps. Future generations after we’re gone might enjoy frippling through what we took for granted.

I remember bookmarking a great article critiquing the style and content of the Economist, a publication I read regularly. I was reminded of that article recently. When I went to look up the bookmark, and the site was dead. No redirect to a new domain, nothing.

Fortunately I used the URL to pull up a copy on Internet Archive, but there's a wealth of good info that isn't being archived.

Wow. You're correct. Absolutely incredible that this is the only comment actually responding to the article's content.

The content isn't really front-page-worthy. People have gathered here to discuss the topic suggested by the (clickbait) headline. And in this instance I would say the headline discussion is probably going to be more substantial than the contents of the article

To most people here, the "old internet" was not photobucket and myspace.

The discussion about this headline has been going on in circles for some time though.

Is this a joke? I mean, it's buzzfeed, so it obviously is, but seriously?

That internet didn't die at all! You're looking at the same thing with different company names! Myspace and Facebook are the same thing with a different skin.

I figured this would be an article about like, vBulletin forums, IRC, tilde pages, something like that.

They all still exist, you're just not using them, why don't you start?

BuzzFeed News is not BuzzFeed. They've won many journalism awards as you can see on their Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BuzzFeed_News

I do agree that reusing the name must surely do their image significant harm.

This is often repeated, but...Can you name a large news source that has not won a "journalism awards"?

I'm not attempting to establish credibility for BuzzFeed News beyond the statement of fact I made the my first comment. BuzzFeed itself doesn't win journalism awards, regardless of how you useful a signal you consider those, because their listicle stuff isn't journalism.

I have no interest in debating the nature of BuzzFeed News's journalism beyond making this distinction clear.

Fox News has zero Peabody Awards. I can't find anything on Yahoo News, Facebook, or Twitter winning pulitzers. Breitbart has zero pulitzer awards.

What a generic comment with no research behind it.


Sure, but this article is hardly news. It's hardly even worthy of a tweet.

The "old internet" is MySpace and Friendster? Really?

"Click share if you think Google and Facebook are bad" pretty much summarizes the contents of the article.

See my response to the sibling comment from mashby.

From the Wikipedia page you linked:

> The media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that in 100 Buzzfeed stories about Barack Obama in 2016 (most from Buzzfeed News, but also from the general BuzzFeed site), 65 were positive, 35 were neutral, and one was critical. The report called Buzzfeed's coverage of Obama "creepy" and "almost uniformly uncritical and often sycophantic".

I do wonder how BuzzFeed(News) rises the HN ladder though. The only benefit I see to having content like this here is to display what opinions some demographic of people consume and believe.

Interesting--had no idea. They really need to change their name.

Does seem a bit ironic that BuzzFeed would be complaining about the death of the Internet.

It's funny you'd link that wiki page in support of Buzzfeed News being reputable and separate from Buzzfeed.

1st sentence: BuzzFeed News is an American news website published by BuzzFeed.

2nd sentence: It has published a number of high-profile scoops, including the Trump–Russia dossier, for which it was heavily criticized

The name certainly doesn't help, but neither does their penchant for bias, agenda and lies.

Also, "journalism awards" are as impressive as participation trophies. Pretty much X amount of awards are alotted to X number of news/broadcast companies with the "right attitude" anyways.

> many

More like several, and no high-prestige awards. They've also published several incorrect stories and hold the dubious honor of being the only publication Robert Mueller called out for publishing incorrect information as fact while he was still investigating.

The point is, they are Bloomberg / Politico / Huffington Post tier, not WaPo / NYT / WSJ / BBC tier or even The Atlantic / CNN / Fox / MSNBC tier.

I do pine for the days when the Undernet or Dalnet was bustling with activity. I'm always looking for a server worth hanging out on. I'm glad Freenode is doing good, but it's people working.

That said, this article was exactly what I'd expect for an article from Buzzfeed.


Got you covered buddy

I just read that comment before seeing yours, ha.

Well they both seem to work the election of Trump into every article. You can't drum up traffic and ad dollars without adding that into the conversation.

You worked that into your comment, but ctrl+f for "trump" yields zero results on the article in question. Are you intentionally being this inflammatory?

By the nature of network effects, if no one else is using them, then no one will use them. (Personally, I do still use old-school forums and IRC, but less frequently then I used to, its just far too convenient to use something like Discord instead)

Heh. To me discord is far less convenient. It's a fancy webpage that takes ages to load and bifurcates my chat experience across another platform. YMMV I guess.

It's probably more convenient to someone that has never used a chat client before? I suppose this is how I end up siloed off with all the old fogies. :D

I just gave up on discord last night. Third or fourth time I came across a link to what sounded like an interesting server, then couldn't log in with existing credentials. I want to like it and use it, but frankly it's very tiresome to get going.

I'm not clicking on the link inviting me to your server any more. Have fun with those who fight through the silly spinning spider thing.

Exactly. IRC and Usenet is still there, but people just prefer trolling on Twitter and Reddit.

Much of it comes down to ease-of-use / accessibility. My 70 year old parents can use reddit. They could not use usenet.

You could create a usenet client with all the accessibility features that you wanted.

Reddit might be accessible, but that's because they want it to be accessible. You rely on them doing you a favour.

You could, and Dejanews / Google kind of did, but it still never gained critical mass...

As far as I'm concerned the internet is just a global IP network. I can still ssh to my openbsd server and connect to my plan 9 system at home. I can rent a server that is still a PC. I can rent a VPS that feels like a pc.

Until the day comes when I can no longer send whatever IP traffic where and when I want, I'm still using the same old internet. The roads are still the same. The scenery just changed with time. Everything else is just a roadside attraction along the way. And like roads the attractions ebb and flow with time.

That's all fine and good as long as you only build things for yourself (even then you'll have more trouble routing niche protocols and defending against hacking attempts) - but the scenery becomes extremely important once you involve others.

> Can you think of a picture of yourself on the internet from before 2010, other than your old Facebook photos?

Nah, because I never felt compelled to put pictures of myself on the Internet before then. I still don't.

What I miss is the personal website, where people shared information and opinions about things they loved. That Web has been crowded out by, well, people posting pictures of themselves.

It's like that point in the party where the stimulating conversation ends because the host decided it's time to break out the slide projector.

I think the advance of mobile phones and the cool factor that surrounded it for a long time, and “Hey look at this picture of my coffee I am drinking right now” kind of drowned the blogosphere. It was the time Facebook could count on being cool. Which evaporated after 2010/2012.

I think my personal take is that the idea of “your content is your own” got lost in the process of sharing-everything culture.

Luckily it isn’t dead, this site and the people writing informative blogs is still available.

Even blogs feel a little bit stilted to me. They encourage a certain way of organizing things that is useful for RSS syndication, but at the cost of placing some fairly tight editorial limits on the person running the site.

What I really miss is what came before the blogosphere really took off: Geocities-style loosely organized collections of static pages.

What's RSS syndication?

It’s a xml format spec. It holds the latest posts in a convenient way which a rss reader can sub to. It kind of went away unfortunately, it was pretty handy.

Nowadays we have influencers on instagram showing their selfiesticked or quadcoptered adventures in HDR, which is then multiplied by mass media, or at least attempted to.

The thing is, i know a few places which get instagrammed a lot, and they almost never look the way i see them when i'm there, no matter which weather or daytime. It's not exactly fake, but photoshopped, enhanced into something entirely different, almost.

It's like the serving suggestion for instant/convenince/fast food which has nothing to do with reality.

Good points. I think because it was so new, and the last decade could be called the decade of the phone and the (social) app. Hopefully it will transform into something better, more meaningful. We as developers have a big role to play. Strike a better balance between privacy and public sharing, between what is your own vs selling yourself out as a product.

The Buzzfeed article seems to focus around a particular user usage pattern, in that these were sites I personally did not use that horribly much. My "old internet" was Digg, Slashdot, GeoCities, HowardForums, ISP `~username` pages, Usenet, IRC and a multitude of others I've long forgotten. The Consumerist has a better version that speaks to me: https://consumerist.com/2015/03/20/where-did-everyone-from-t...

In any case, we all agree Eternal September was the beginning of the end. :) http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/A/AOL-.html

September 1993 Internet use shows the silliness of the idea of the death of the old Internet. In 1993, "...the World Wide Web, has seen the number of daily queries explode from almost 100,000 requests in June to almost 400,000 in October"


There are now over 4.5 billion Internet users. If even 0.002% of them make just one daily query on the web of the "old Internet," then it's still larger than the web before the Eternal September. Protocols like IRC and Gopher are more active today than late 1993.

It's true that data moving through centralized services is larger today, but that doesn't invalidate the continued life of the "old Internet" any more than the relative domination of analog communications over copper wires in 1993 meant the Internet was dead back then.

It was a tongue in cheek sarcastic comment, my friend. Whole new paragraph, smiley face at the end, fun link to the "me, too!" history, you know - lighthearted and jovial.

Intent understood! It's a classic turning point in Internet history, and I think the massive rise in traffic to 400,000 queries per day is the perfect example of how much bigger things are today and how all those old paradigms are even more alive now than they were then.

Oh please...nostalgia is self deception. I knew this but the movie "Midnight in Paris" had a big impact on my perspective. The main character travels to the 1920s and meets famous writers and figures like picasso. And there were people and a general view that their time was past the "good ol days", we now call their time "the golden 20s" but they thought about how the late 1800s were much better.

Anyway, back on topic: The internet is the global BGPv4 and BGPv6 network,as seen in the global routing table. It's a network and how that network functions has not changed much.

The web on the other hand has changed a lot both in terms of functionality and content. But here's a different perspective: the "old web" was very slow. There were so many limitations, i mean are we talking pre-adobe-flash? If so,you had little rich and dynamic content. You couldn't stream movies,things like napster were viewed as criminal , as much as i dislike it youtube on it's ow has given much such rich and valuable content. Social media sucks but man, we're living in the golden age of memes!. Look at all the great things that happen because people can record videos and share them live/instantly! And security! We have come sooo far!!! From how amazing twitter has been to help infosec pros communicate to all the crypto improvements. I don't think i can go back in time and be able to share or access the same sites and content i did in the past,knowing how everything was so full of holes and made with little to no security consideration. I think I can easily make the argument that the old web was a dumpster fire. But in reality, I think it was ok for it's time and what we have today works for our time as well.

Let's be real here, anyone can host a discord server and many do that. There are so many free web hosting services now that let anyone host their own site without needing to learn html or webadmin. So many blogging platforms like medium and wordpress. So many privacy friendly products and services.

The past always looks different in hindsight and you don't know what you have until it's gone.



That's why your local storage is the single source of truth, and anything you put "on the internet" is just a copy of something from there. I mean that's how you did things riiiight?

No biggie if not. As someone said elsewhere in the thread, most of that stuff is clutter and probably best forgotten anyway. But if it's something you want to keep, and the only place it exists is someone else's site/computer/database, then yeah, it's not a bad idea to start thinking of it as being gone soon, or even gone already. (Unless you WANT it to go away; in that case you should apply Murphy's Law and think of it as uncontrollably hanging around forever.)

Growing up with computers and the internet and not knowing how they truly work is maybe the central problem here. Did you "post a picture on Instagram" or did you create an image file, upload it via an app or browser, pass it across the network, to a server somewhere, where it's getting stored in a database, to be retrieved and displayed later? Seems like if you understand how it really works, you automatically start thinking about better practices. I dunno.

Parts of it were good but there was a tonne of bad stuff too. Entire sites devoted to content that is beyond indecent that were completely open. Networks of sites devoted to exploiting young people. Nothing has entirely changed in that realm except that such sites are more rare. There was a whole cottage industry of software dedicated to making using the Internet for younger audiences possible. Without it the Internet was a funnel for the most base garbage humanity could produce.

I'm all down for decentralization but I think part of the protocol should be dedicated to enabling us to filter the content we receive.

I remember the sound my 28800 modem made before connecting.

I knew I have exactly 1 second below 60 minutes to be online before I get disconnected from my student dial-up.

I had ICQ. We used Altavista (and Astalavista to crack the software we illegally got). Relevant information and socializing was done via newsgroups, as well as content-sharing. Many don't know why winzip/winrar has the option to split an archive into multiple files (so they can fit 1.44" floppy disk and avoid upload limits). Later on I used Miranda so I can use ICQ/IRC/AIM/MSN from the same client. Browser wars were nonexistent. First "awesome" browser shell I used was Maxthon and content was shared on lan parties or you used obscure xdcc search engines to leech off of IRC. FPS games that I played (quake 1, 2 and 3) lagged, I had 200 ping - which is how I learned about the importance of latency and what it is. It dropped to 50 once I got ISDN.

Now, why did I type this? Not to present myself as "the old internet user". I don't consider myself a user of internet from "before", I'm well aware of even older generation whose internet looked even different. I'm just saddened by the fact that buzzfeed, one of the worst ad-ridden sites that exists, is making this kind of an article, spreading false knowledge (which is what it does anyway). It's not even an article. It's made by someone who used Facebook when it looked slightly shittier than it does now.

That's not "old" internet. The consumer-generation that's lifeblood of leeches such as buzzfeed/youtube has no experience nor right to write about "old" internet. They simply haven't experienced how internet used to be when total population online was well below 50 million people and when broadband was a luxury.

> The consumer-generation that's lifeblood of leeches such as buzzfeed/youtube has no experience nor right to write about "old" internet

While I share your sentiment towards Buzzfeed and clueless millennials, I don't think it's entirely fair to say they have no right to write about the "old" internet.

I began to experience the web around 1997, and it was different in a lot of ways compared to now. More personal pages, less centralization, little content policing, Netscape, Real Player, etc.

I'm sure some old fart from the 80's would tell me that I didn't know the "old" internet because I'd never used Telnet to log in to a BBS. While there's truth to that, it doesn't mean I don't have my own perspective of what's "old".

When I used "they have no right" - what I meant was this: they haven't experienced anything fundamentally different 10 years ago, therefore they can't be writing about something that "died" simply due to the fact there was nothing different to experience back then that doesn't exist today. The article seems forced, as any article from fake-factory would be. I'm always skeptical towards such content, that attributes to my negativity when typing all this. I merely find it ironic that someone who has no clue about the matter is writing about it :)

> Many don't know why winzip/winrar has the option to split an archive into multiple files (so they can fit 1.44" floppy disk

Good archiving programs came with the option of using erasure/error correction codes so that the archive would still be recoverable, even if some of the floppies were returning read errors or became unreadable altogether.

> The internet of the 2010s will be defined by social media’s role in the 2016 election, the rise of extremism, and the fallout from privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica.

When I think of the internet of the 2010s I think of clickbait farms like Buzzfeed politicizing absolutely everything. This statement by them is 100% in line with the type of content "journalists" have produced and polluted the internet with the past 10 years.

That's the thing about extremism, it comes in lots of flavors. And clickbait farms are incented to whip it up.

By rise of extremism, is buzzfeednews talking about themselves and their fellow extremists huffpo, etc?

The worst thing about social media is that it allowed toxic extremists like buzzfeednews, huffpo, etc to thrive.

I'm sick of hearing about the death of blogs.

I read more blogs now than ever. More than in the 90s. What are you even talking about? As a percentage of online content? Who cares? there are more blogs to read on any topic than you can read in a lifetime.

> A look through its “Deathwatch” page — a list of websites and services shut down over the last 10 years — is harrowing.

It's really not.

There's a project focused on backuping this kind of information[1]. It's actually a distributed and communitary way of doing it, anyone can run a "warrior" instance and help the project. Modern problems require modern solutions

Edit: In the project wiki there's a lot of interesting links, like this one listing all tracked projects that are dying[2]

[1]: https://www.archiveteam.org/

[2]: https://www.archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Deathwatch

Unfortunately newer systems seem more resistant to archival than older. Compare getting a copy of a mailing list vs. getting a copy of a forum like phpBB or (even more modern) archiving a copy of a subreddit or Facebook group. Some people on a mailing list may already have a full copy simply from their participation in the list, and if the list has archives then presumably they are in a format which has stood the test of time. The other cases contrast with this. You can run wget on online forums, though the result is not as clean as the mailing list. Someone (maybe me) should write a bot to parse the pages into something more useful. I've also seen a script to scrape subreddits, though in my experience scraping subreddits is rarer than spidering forums. No idea what you can do with Facebook groups.

While I am irritated by how much of the internet has been replaced by JavaScript, one advantage has been the exposure of APIs that can be reverse engineered, as seems to have been done in the recent Yahoo Groups case. So there might be some hope here.

Is indefinite retention and archival of all the shit put online really good for anyone other than AI feeding? When encryption eventually breaks and all our old private emails, AIMs, and other junk can be searched as easily as Shodan are we really going to be glad we have an extensive digital history?

I don't think it's as simple as more data = better.

People love to trash talk WordPress, but by being consistently correct and committed to its principles, it got this single line in this article:

"WordPress has managed to keep chugging and even bought Tumblr off Verizon."

It's because Matt Mullenweg and co have held the line on open source and the open internet for more than a decade now, and we should all be grateful.

Everything cool I've gotten to do in my life I owe to learning to code via building WordPress websites. I hope in the next decade WordPress and companies like Automattic become the example to aspire to instead of people throwing more fuel on the never-ending VC trash fire.

Automattic has raised US$617.3 million in six funding rounds, the latest one being 3 months ago. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Automattic was founded 15 years ago, and despite being a profitable and growing company for most of that time, has only raised $617.3 million, mostly to fund specific expansion projects. At no time have they sought 10x returns or some kind of spectacular exit for the benefits of its shareholders. It’s not even close to the disaster that is most of VC world.

617 million is a lot for the general sector. Quora has raised 226 million; the company behind Stack Exchange, 68M.

> Companies don’t make internet culture; people do. People make communities; they make the inside jokes; they make their own mores and unwritten rules. But people need the web services and platforms made by companies to create this culture. We’re locked in a symbiotic relationship: We, the users, need the companies, and they need us to keep running. When they shut down or delete our precious stuff, it’s because we’ve abandoned and neglected them for years already, leaving them to starve.

This line resonated most with me. Truly though, it's sometimes not our first instinct as developers to design for the future- the current culture of "build an MVP as soon as possible" doesn't always incentivize forward thinking.

If you're interested in thinking about how we can better design software solutions to support online communities further into the future, you might be a good fit for a discussion group I'm starting soon, called VC3. We're trying to bring together people who are as interested as we are in solving the problem of building meaningful virtual community. Building communities that stand the test of time are part of that.

If you have any questions, shoot me a message (profile) or check out our website at https://vc3.club.

It is interesting that people say "the internet never forgets", yet this article clearly shows it does.

Do we want the internet to forget, or not to forget? Is forgetting so bad? Not everything needs to be collected and catalogued and preserved forevermore.

There is a lot of crap out there - I'd be happy for some personal stuff I posted many years ago as a much younger and naïve person to just slowly rot away.

"The internet" never forgets porn. It never forgets your dox. It will never forget anything it can use against you for the lulz.

Everything else is a house of cards, though. It's just software on a server, after all, and if no one cares to back it up, no one will.

Interesting indeed, internet never forgets you but it can forget itself.

First, it didn't die, it attenuated. It's still there. Even Gopher is still there.

Second, when one says, "we did nothing", well, speak for yourself, eh? Lots of people did a lot of things and are still doing them.

But the normals do not care. It's that simple: apathy and complacency (the twins demons of our New Age) and a good stiff whollop of ignorance.

(Over a billion people don't know that Facebook isn't the Internet! Chew on that.)

Meanwhile, you know who didn't lose all their content? This guy. Because backups. (Another thing normals try not to think about.)

I've been saying for years now that the world is bifurcating into Eloi and Morlocks.

This is "victim" blaming, yeah, but in this case IMO the "victims" are to blame: no one's forcing people to be Eloi. If you care about your digital shit, back it the frak up already.

(E.g. Tarsnap, Amazon Glacier, a box of DVDs!?)

>Over a billion people don't know that Facebook isn't the Internet! Chew on that

While that's a common axiom bandied about on HN, as is your general tone of condescension towards "the normals" (Eloi and Morlocks, seriously? You know the Eloi were the villains, right?) I'm certain that practically no one who uses Facebook is actually unaware that the rest of the web exists.

I was about to go on a bit of a rant about my general tone of condescension but I caught myself. I'll tell a joke instead.

"You know how stupid the average person is, yeah? Well, by definition, half of them are dumber than that."

> I'm certain that practically no one who uses Facebook is actually unaware that the rest of the web exists.

I wish there was a way to make a bet on that because I'd like to take your money.

> You know the Eloi were the villains, right?

Are you sure? The Eloi were the innocent beautiful idiot surface dwellers, the Morlocks were the grotesque cannibal machine-tenders, eh? My metaphor is that tech-elites (myself somewhat included) are the Morlocks and the users are Eloi.

I'm utterly confused. Why is your reply so combative? I just read the Wikipedia entry on Eloi and Morlocks and I don't even see how you could pick apart OP's on this item. Consider this odd line:

> The Eloi are herded, bred and maintained by the Morlocks as a food source, much like cows or pigs are today.

Right. I've got no dog in the ol' Eloi vs. Morlocks debate, but let me apologize, I do not want to appear as an Eloi sympathizer in you presence -- or even risk taking any creative analogy (for one even I am glad to have made aware of, as my reading list ever grows), lest you accuse my tone against a fictional race as you are surely itching to -- as demonstrated prior.

Nonsense aside.

> I'm certain that practically no one who uses Facebook is actually unaware that the rest of the web exists.

Well if we're exchange common things bandied about on HN... Let's take a glaring example here. The above is an opinion presented with uttermost confidence about groups of users and their knowledge -- all in the presence of zero evidence. Hah, take that! Wait, how many does it take to tango?

It is a personal anecdote and long held opinion of mine that although the ease of access towards the internet, and therefore availability of, has increased, the technical chops of the general population may not be spread equally -- perhaps the unfairest of this is on the age variable with retired seniors not being able to get around much without help. I have helped old people with this matter, so I experience this sometimes. Perhaps I agree with OP on this, that they don't know the web really exists, and it's all a Cumulus cloud to them and I'm the wizard handles those unknowns for them. And I can take a step back and say, its alright that not a lot of people know https vs. http, or yada yada and perhaps on that point I differ from some opinions on HN, but I don't think you understand how oblivious people can be to the internet. I fear you will accuse my tone of condescension towards "retired seniors" and must now stop lest I dig myself any further. It was all fun and games with the fictional humans...

Need to jump to another, diverging timeline, Morlocks fugly, Elois sexy :-)

Shocked how many of the creators I'm interested in who previously would have had a website presence now only have Instagram pages.

Mostly find it shocking because Instagram is so anti-internet you can't even post links to promote/sell your work...

The old internet is still around, if you know where to look.

You just need to look past the light pollution of google, facebook and twitter.

Wow a super one sided article. Pretty sure that with the advent of cheap VMs for hosting or even seeding has increased the total number of personal servers but I could be wrong. Bottom line though is that the internet opened up to a much larger user base and this shaped the majority of interactions we see. I don’t think there is anyone who could reasonably claim the Internet was hindered by the rise of large tech companies. Hosting your own server or using sites who’s interfaces didn’t translate well with other cultures was a barrier to entry for a huge portion of the world. Having everything look similar and hosting content easily and seamlessly made it so even non-English speakers could access the same content. There have been some big hiccups caused by things like conflicting ideals and automation which helped create the ongoing battles we have now where likes are monetized and content is pushed aggressively to vulnerable sections of the population but with those new problems also came new rewards. We are living in an age where a huge majority of the world is connected in ways we never could have dreamed of in 2010. Right now I see the world as being on the precipice of cooperation where we are all shouting at each other but if we step back we might just realize that while everyone is fighting we are all still coming to the table, posting our content and inching closer and closer to a fully connected society.

I'm more worried about technological and legal chokeholds on free expression like GDPR, whose main effect was to nag users with a popup about cookies on every major website.

To me, it feels like the original possibility of inventing something, posting it online and earning a passive income is all but dead today. Too many hurdles now must be overcome. You pretty much have to learn a programming language, containerization, the various layers of HTML/Javascript/CSS deployment, amoral stuff like SEO and bribing influencers, to even have a chance at making more than $10 per month.

When I think of every major innovation in web dev since 2000, almost all of it has gone the opposite direction from how I would have done it. Instead of autoscaling distributed servers, programming languages and databases, we ended up with "bare hands" tools like Kubernetes, async-await and sharding on proprietary monopolies like AWS locked into physical regions. My description of what's wrong is fuzzy at best, but I feel it deep down, that this trend away from computer science to application has all but halted progress.

I could write at length (seriously dozens/hundreds of pages) about better ways of doing all of this. I already have to some degree. But nobody cares, and nobody listens to me since I never built anything that made any appreciable money. So what's the point? There isn't one. That's the internet today. Late-stage capitalism, pretty people, and divisive political discourse. Dystopia.

You know? In another galaxy, a long time ago there was some young guy who did freelance sysadmin and education for private people and small businesses, while assembling personal computers maindays in some omputer store. Let's call that time 1995, where one early evening young Largo was asked by the very established owner of some electronic parts import-export business with whom he was on good terms if he liked what he does, and if he wanted to do it any longer?

Whereupon young Largo LOL'd almost hysterically and said: 'What? NO!" This is so fucked up it isn't funny anymore!'

He was very surprised and asked why, young Largo couldn't say exactly why and needed some minutes to collect his thougts and then began:

'This may come as a surprise to you, with me being an atheist, but what we have now reminds me of the story in the old testament of the bible about the building of the Tower of Babylon.'

That indeed raised some eyebrows!

Young Largo rambled on about the siloing of data in different non-interoperable applications for reasons of customer tie in, which is against the interests of said customer. About the bloat in software which requires ever more potent hardware in regular intervals with every new software version, while the old ones would be perfectly servicable if they only could read the data from the newer versions, which of course is a No-Go because it is against the interest of the software producers.

He rambled on about lack of stability and unintuiveness of UX while compairing that with kitchen- and general household appliances, which would be considered useless and broken if they required the effort PC's did then.

He fantasized on about something which combined the ease of use of Hypercard and Visual Basic in some hypothetic platform with the versatility and networkability of some Unix, extendable with modules available in countless variations like in DOS/WIN in a way every other 'module' would benefit from, because of extended capabilities and 'teaching' them new data formats, creating a bespoke environment exactly fitting your needs, while being able to run on ridiculously cheap and small hardware, nonetheless capable of reading everything you could reasonably throw at them.

Young Largo rambled on about the impossibility of this happening in our current society and economy with patents, intellectual property, and so on, that this was easy to see and extrapolate into not getting any better EVER!

Because even then bloat was a thing.

What young Largo didn't really knew at the time were Plan9, OS-9, QNX and TRON but he had dabbled in 386/FreeBSD, early Linuxes, knew some FORTHs and some Assemblers and paid a shitload of money for his ISDN to get onto the internet with his hot rod Pentium.

Young Largo concluded then that this all was nothing else but the biggest bullshit job creation program since the building of the egyptian pyramids, and at the end of the day almost as useless as them for society, with a few exceptions of research and simulation, CAD/CAM and such, but not applicable to the general public.

When asked 'But what for!?' he answered: 'How should i know? TO THE STARS!'

There could be a prequel to this, where an even younger Largo said in school that he wanted every computer being able to speak with each other, one big universal library, when being asked in class what the biggest thing he wished for would be.'

That was pre- or proto-internet

Anyways, in a purely technical way all of this is possible, and even has been realized in parts, or as complete proof of concept, except the ability of handling proprietary data formats by already entrenched market players behind their moats.*

So one part of the army of bullshit jobbers is pecking like vultures at the long rotten carcasses which were thrown out of some research labs eons ago for antimonopolistic reasons, producing nothing but bloated zombies in different paint schemes. Another part specializes in exploiting the bullshit jobbers with proprietary software and services which don't really run according to their needs, but clogging their toilets, while the part who feels like it is the airforce tries to simulate being intelligent while unable to reliably reproduce or even explain their cheap stunts, the part being the navy looming beneath the waves and snorting..err snorkeling every and any shit, while the real spaceforce which does solid engineering could have been up in the sky in O'-Neil cylinders since decades, if the rest of the retarded shitheads wouldn't have dragged them down so much.

Instead of the universal library with nice haptics i got craptastic movieplayers in different sizes, which i use like giant microfiche readers. So be it!

Aye häff SPOQQN!

I hear ya, that's about the time I was coming up too. While your colorful vernacular isn't exactly how I might have put it, I think that it illustrates the frustration felt by many, ever since the beginning of personal computing.

I also wish that HyperCard had been a bigger influence on the early web. It was written in human terms for techno-novices trying to get real work done. As HyperTalk evolved into AppleScript, it lost its original elegance and is now just another cryptic toy language that is difficult or impossible to write without a manual.

IMHO to fix all of this, we need to bring back ideas like research budgets of perhaps 5-25% and every company over say 50 employees or $5 million/yr gross having some form of 20% time for in-house projects. That can't happen as long as everyone is competing with each other just to survive though. And not when the leading internet companies plow most profits into share price and dividends instead of free and open source community tools.

I wish we had more stories of individuals and groups that made enough money to retire, but instead of just reinvesting into the status quo, went on to fund real innovation through philanthropy or alternative business structures like co ops.

Funny how they use services like MySpace and Flickr as the “old Internet”. For me, the old Internet was Geocities and IRC, where sharing content required a maker mentality, not a service.

It's sad to say, but "we" as people who enjoyed the old internet or felt compelled to build and contribute to it are a tiny minority of internet users today. We are a niche. The vast majority are people looking to watch youtube, TikTok or some other social networking garbage. It's sad but this is the reality. People who are just looking for entertainment or social dopamine think the old internet is "boring" or "looks dumb".


>It's sad to say, but "we" as people who enjoyed the old internet or felt compelled to build and contribute to it are a tiny minority of internet users today. We are a niche

That's not sad, actually, it's great. Being upset about that is like being upset that too many people use telephones who've never operated a switchboard or know morse code.

The internet (or at least the web) was never meant to be a niche redoubt only for nerds and programmers, it's supposed to be for everyone. The old hacker ethos was about liberating humanity from censorship and centralized control of access to information and communication, but now that that vision is actually coming to pass (kind of) people are complaining about how the normies ruined.

Fie. Fie, I say.

Also, almost everyone from the 'old internet' is watching Youtube and using social media as well. Your implication that everyone using social media is only doing so for entertainment or a dopamine rush is inaccurate. There are more hardcore, old school nerds on the modern web than there ever were on the old web.

>People who are just looking for entertainment or social dopamine think the old internet is "boring" or "looks dumb".

Nobody says that. Your can stuff your sorries into a sack, sir or madam.

Technology and how we share information always moves forward, this is just a new iteration, I expect that soon we will see decentralized internet services based on what we have learned from cryptocurrency, most services being hosted on others pc with high encryptions and high availability. Imagine a data center that is just the entire world.

Interesting that they don't mention the business model that powered the old internet: VC money based on a vague promise that a large enough user base, coupled with ad revenue, would bring untold riches.

As TFA says, most of those sites switched to paid accounts as the promise of "build a huge audience and work out how to monetise them later" didn't actually deliver any money.

So it's not that they died (they're mostly still there). It's just that they're not free any more.

I think the next decade will see this more and more: people actually paying for the things they use on the internet, because they realise that's the only way this will work now. The rise of information products and services focused around actually providing what their customers want, for a reasonable fee.

> I think the next decade will see this more and more: people actually paying for the things they use on the internet, because they realise that's the only way this will work now.

I think that "pay what you want"/crowdfunding models can fund a lot of the stuff that used to be provided "free" back in the day. The thing about paying for stuff on the internet is that many people find it quite inconvenient. It's not about the actual monetary expense, that's a minor factor (although it is a barrier to causal browsing, in and of itself). It's everything else you have to deal with as part of paying for something.

I'm curious, what's the "everything else"?

All I ever see from media and journalists is bitching and moaning about centralized services shutting down, yet none of them have taken the effort to implement their own decentralized systems. The protocols exist today. Smart media would do wise by adopting them.

Right. Buzzfeed. Trying to slide itself into the group that just watched it die, eliding over all those times it injected Old Internet's regular IV drip with 100 mL of a 25 M solution of listicles and clickbait.

One aspect about old archived stuff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_be_forgotten

The saddest thing about this is how desperately people cling to records of the past, as if they matter.

If you actually missed something from back then, you would remember it, and it's not really gone. If you don't remember it, it wasn't important. But here people are, trying to convince you you've lost something that you don't even know what it is.

The first time you lose all your files, it feels like disaster. The second time, you realize it's just digital materialism, and you get along just fine without it.

> If you don't remember it, it wasn't important.

I've found time and time again that something I thought wasn't important before can end up being very important later. That's only what I can remember, too.

Plus, there's a selection bias in what you remember. If you don't remember it, how would you know that it's important or not later?

If the cost is small then I think "digital materialism" is probably mostly okay. I've come to the conclusion that it's hard for me to predict the importance of things later, so if something appears to be ephemeral and has even a modest chance of being important later, I'll archive it and organize it so I can find it later if I want to.

"All things are impermanent.", eh? :-)

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