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Rediscovering the Small Web (neustadt.fr)
472 points by livatlantis 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments



If you're interested in recent innovations on this front: (rather than just retreading the same Web as before)

* Beaker (https://beakerbrowser.com) the peer-to-peer browser just released their beta release - and it has some exciting features. Particularly the built-in editor, meaning you can edit, serve and read your pages all from the browser. (Blogging in Beaker is as simple as visiting: hyper://a8e9bd0f4df60ed5246a1b1f53d51a1feaeb1315266f769ac218436f12fda830/. And the posts are stored locally.)

* https://special.fish/ This completely low-tech social network has taken off. The innovation here is that it's all just focused on profile pages - not feeds of random posts.

* There's a growing subculture of public Tiddlywikis (philosopher.life, sphygm.us, etc) - rather than focusing on protocols and APIs, they are much more focused on how to organize and style personal hypertext.

* As for RSS, well, as HN custom insists, I am also commenting to plug my own fraidyc.at. See, you knew it was here.

* On a related note, I've also been working on an RSS/Atom extension to handle ephemeral posts: live streams, "stories", pinned posts, etc. https://github.com/kickscondor/fraidycat/wiki/RSS-Atom-Exten...

* There's also a forum on tiny personal link directories that's been forming at https://forum.indieseek.xyz. The idea here is to use Yahoo! or DMOZ style link directories at a smaller scale, to catalog corners of the Web. (Note that this whole comment itself is a kind of small 'directory'. Rather than an algorithm stepping in to show you 'related' stuff, I have.)


Thanks for this post. I checked Fraidycat out and it solves many issues that I consider broken with social medias these days. Your personal website made me incredibly nostalgic and almost depressed, longing back to a simpler time in my life.

Both of your projects will serve as inspiration for myself. Your personal site especially as it feels creative and liberated, things I strive for in my personal life.

Thank you.


Oh don’t be depressed - my messy site took five years to make and you would be disgusted at the guts of it. And besides, there are many many days still in the future - I just flicked through my calendar and couldn’t seem to reach the end - so there is time to unlock more for you. Your site looks good, so I think you are underestimating yourself, which is lying Sami - it’s lying.


Hah thanks man. I do like what I'm currently building for myself as well, but it lacks a certain IDGAF attitude and it's not different in any ways. Plain and vanilla, which is fine for conveying information but there's nothing creative about it.

The indie web movement with self hosting simpler sites, webrings and RSS are a nice blast from the past and I hope that the issues we've seen with Facebook, Medium et al will bring back all the good thing's we've seemingly almost lost. RSS should be mandatory.


I'm not sure I understand the special fish or the Tiddlywikis - what are they? I clicked around, but I don't get it.

Fraidyc.at is very cool though - I remember seeing that a while back and think I'll likely end up using it at some point when I have some time to play with it.


Hi zalberico, I'm h0p3. I can't say I get it either. My wiki is a place to store stuff and to tell myself linked stories. Maybe it is a hypertext castle, a rabbithole, a garden, a mind map, an exobrain, a Zettelkasten, an existential mirror or conduit. Despite significant effort, I'm not sure how to describe it well enough. It's a site I like to see. It's where I do muh thinkin, I tellyawhat.

Also, Fraidyc.at works with Tiddlywikis.


Hello h0p3, I modeled much of my tiddlywiki (not public, used for life stuff more than a public repo of thoughts) after yours, and greatly enjoy your writing. Just figured you ought to hear that!


Hey dvtrn! That's high praise, thank you. =). I'm glad it's been useful.

It's my pleasure to meet you. I also remember reading your comments here on HN (I enjoy your sense of humor). Feel free to HMU anytime, even just to talk wiki-shop.


Haha thanks - it is definitely cool looking.


  * https://special.fish/ This completely low-tech social network has taken off.
My god i haven’t been so drawn into a website in a long time. I actually forgot what that feeling was like.


I love Fraidycat - it gave me the final push to delete my twitter account I had since 2007: let's me keep following the half-dozen accounts I actually cared about. Thanks for your work!


Hey - good to hear! Thank you for sticking with it.


>Beaker (https://beakerbrowser.com) the peer-to-peer browser just released their beta release

I just tried downloading the Windows executable. Initially it said it will take 1.5 hours, but then the download just failed. Tried a few more times with the same result. This is ironic on so many levels.


Yikes. We host our binaries via GitHub so that... sucks


GitHub is often really slow for big binaries, so you may want to consider other options.


Hey – Installed Fraidycat (FC) and tested with DaringFireball (DF) feed. I see it shows the DF title and links to whatever 3rd party link DF is reporting on.

Title: The Unicorns Fell Into a Ditch

Link: bloomberg article

In this example the title is pretty much meaningless so I need DF's take on the topic before I make a decision to go off and visit Bloomberg. My existing RSS feed provides DF's blog content (text).

So I just wanted to understand whether I'm missing something here, or in fact FC is doing exactly what you designed it to do; title and link to 3rd party page only. Pretty much like how Hacker News (HN) operates?

Prehaps it's just the way I personally navigate. I never click on HN titles to go to 3rd party links. I always hit the comments first. The top comments usually give me a good overview before I decide to vist the 3rd party page.

Probably FC isn't intended for me, but I just wanted to sure I'm not missing something, because I'm genuinely excited to use. Regardless, many thanks for making FC.

P.S. I love the retro look of you personal site and FC's home page.


That's cool - thanks Pixxel! So Fraidycat literally just grabs the title and link from each post in the feed - so it has to do with how DF formats its feed. It appears that the JSON feed works correctly tho: https://daringfireball.net/feeds/json

Also, there is a redesign underway that will give richer post view: https://github.com/kickscondor/fraidycat/issues/30


Ah yes you're right, the JSON does link to DF directly.

Awesome, many thanks :)


Also BTW, I joined Fish yesterday. Today I went to login and I couldn't. My password/email was definitely correct. So I tried resetting. When adding a new password the error message kept telling me that my new passwords didn't match.

I used a special character (&) in my password. I removed the ampersand and was able to reset password, and log back in.

Sorry if this isn't the correct channel for bugs (feel free to redirect me).

Cheers.


Hey there, sorry about the trouble. I've pushed a fix. Special characters should now be working in the reset flow now. If you come across any other bugs feel free to email mail@special.fish. Thanks!


Many thanks :)


Interesting! These sites reminds me of the various scenes that flourished around the nettime mailing list and the net.art movement[1]; and it also reminds me of the Web 2.0 days when microblogging sites such as Jaiku and others where popular.

[1] If anyone wants to know more about it, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net.art


Any interest in breaking fraidycat out into an app you can self-host and visit via the browser? I'd love to be able to use it from any device via a browser, and have the hosted version be the single source of truth.


Yes - I was resisting - but now I quite agree. Follow this issue: https://github.com/kickscondor/fraidycat/issues/17


> As for RSS, well, as HN custom insists, I am also

> commenting to plug my own fraidyc.at. See, you knew it was

> here.

This is quite a nice implementation and the back story is cool.

I have also been thinking about this for some time, but what I want to achieve is decentralized RSS feeds. Servers go down over time, are blocked or suffer some other issue. I want to be able to help keep alive the content I consume, possibly without the need for centralization.

Ideally the aim would be to maintain backwards compatibility and be as decentralized as possible, but I'm still yet to solve this problem without resulting to just using torrents.


Have a look at the beaker browser suggested in the parent post. It uses the hypercore protocol (new name for the dat protocol), which allows one to build collections of data, update them, and have them mirrored over a DHT, kind of like IPFS does. You can choose to contribute to mirroring some content you like, if you want to :)

Of course, ideally, the websites themselves would publish articles on the hypercore network, and be the source of trust here, but I don't see why you couldn't do it from RSS feeds.

I am not sure whether the data is content-addressed on hypercore? If so, multiple people could archive the same content to make sure it is identical, and still enjoy the benefits of distributed hosting :)

More about hyperdrive/hypercore: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23180572


Is beaker appreciably different from freenet?

https://freenetproject.org/index.html


Completely different. Look up privacy or anonymity on beaker's site? Crickets. It's a browser, apparently with all the dangerous bloat (javascript...) with a bolted-on p2p network that apparently does nothing for privacy or censorship resistance.

Freenet is a p2p network with a focus on anonymity and resistance against censorship. It's not a browser, but for freesites it's got protections in place to filter out dangerous active content.


We're focusing on the protocol's capabilities and performance right now. Distributed or non-distributed proxies are on the roadmap, but not the current priority.

We aren't for everyone and the current lack of IP privacy is a good reason not to use Beaker if it concerns you. We're more about software freedom and solving walled gardens, so that's what we chose to solve first.


Beaker came to my mind immediately as well when reading this article :) It sounds so much like the perfect fit for the author.

The new beta has been quite depressing for me, as all my personal apps stopped working due to their complete rewrite of their API. I don't know if I'll ever be willing to start it all over again.

But for anyone who hasn't already played with it, I totally recommend it. It feels like the web we should have had.


Really sorry about breaking your old apps. If you ping me on twitter (@pfrazee) or IRC, I can spend some time helping you convert them over. Most of the same capabilities are there (or on the way) so we'll hopefully just need to update the code.

EDIT: for anybody curious, we had to make breaking changes to the p2p protocol and used that as a chance to bundle a lot of improvements -- mainly with performance and reliability. It sucked to break existing content though.


> EDIT: for anybody curious, we had to make breaking changes to the p2p protocol and used that as a chance to bundle a lot of improvements -- mainly with performance and reliability. It sucked to break existing content though.

What guarantees are in place to ensure this wouldn’t happen again in the future? I really like the project and realize it’s still young and can probably risk piling on breaking changes, but I can’t imagine future upgrade paths will involve contacting one of the project maintainers on Twitter.


> What guarantees are in place to ensure this wouldn’t happen again in the future?

I will say that I'm personally embarrassed that we had to do it. I don't like disappointing people who support our work. There was a post on HN recently about how Unity keeps breaking its platform; I don't want to end up like that.

The other thing I'll say is, there was a year-long gap from the 0.8.x beaker releases to the 1.0, and a lot of that time was connected to the engineering work on the protocol. The top priority was scaling, but we also added tooling the protocol so that if a similar breaking change is needed in the future, we can handle it smoothly.


That's ok, you're doing an awesome job, keep focusing on the good work :) It'll probably itch me again at some point.


I had to rewrite an app as well - but it turned out to be incredibly simple.

Here's my first commit: https://github.com/kickscondor/duxtape/commit/55dbde9519aedb.... Can't really call it a rewrite - more of a search-and-replace. (Though I had a bit of code that used the old peer sockets - and that code works differently now.)


Beaker looks very interesting indeed! Download it as I write this. Reminds me a little of what I've read about HyperCard. Looking forward to testing it.

Thanks for the heads-up! There are so many links to follow up on here in this thread.


What a wonderful post. I’ll be checking out the links when I’m at my desk. Many thanks.


I just wanted to say that I love fraidyc.at and use it daily.

Thank you so much for all the hard work.


Seriously?? wow I'm so glad!


Wow, thanks for this list of things to check out. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping we'd be talking about and share.

I downloaded and am playing with fraidyc.at and am so far really liking the idea -- the whole idea made more sense after watching your video and then actually testing it. Thanks for making it.


Oh hey! Really honored you took the time. I love that your blog has has had some attention these past few days. You write very thorough articles and I love that you have a somewhat quirky design, Parimal. It’s classic!


Thank you. I'll bookmark those sites. I was familiar with Beaker but not the others.


Really glad this was helpful. And it’s really cool you took the time to say thanks.


You made me read about Beaker and install it. Looks very interesting. Thank you!


I couldn’t love this more. Thank you for sharing all these!


My favourite portal for discovering sites like this is something I discovered just recently here on HN: https://wiby.me/

It never fails to amaze me how much amazing stuff is out there online, hidden by a thick layer of top search results, and even more than that, the sheer amount of individual and collective effort that has been put into each of these sites. Someone mentioned the word "niche" and there is certainly some weirdly (or wonderfully) specific content you will find in the Wiby.me index. Lots of sites that haven't been updated since 1998, but still have an enormous and encyclopedic list of everything related to some topic (like the characteristics of different types of tomatoes, or how to build a motorcycle from spare parts or whatever). Some of it may be a little out of date, but a lot of it has been submitted for indexing precisely because of its timelessness or continued usefulness.

Whenever I feel hopeless about the current state of the web, I find this is the perfect antidote!


This is absolutely awesome. For example, searching for pokemon gives blogs from 2000 about the "new movie". Far too nostalgic.


Thank you for reposting this treasure. Oh, how I miss pages that don't need a scroll wheel to read!


I've been thinking about this for ages, and I want my own contribution to this to be a simple webring service.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a webring was a simple circular linked list. You had a link on your knitting-themed site to the "next knitting-themed site", that site had a link to the next one, etc.

To join the ring, you just emailed someone and said "hey, I, too, have a knitting-themed site, can you add me to your webring?", they looked at your site, and changed their link to your site, you added the link they previously had, and the ring continued.

I want to build something simple that'll serve a small widget with previous/next/random site buttons, it'll work like the webrings of old regarding the curation aspect, so to get added you'll need to be referred to by someone.

Would you use something like that? You'd basically just drop a bit of HTML on your page and it wouldn't load heavy JS/analytics/crap, just whatever was necessary to paint a few links.


There was a small resurgence of webrings in last year:

Hotline Webring: https://hotlinewebring.club

XXIIVV Webring: https://webring.xxiivv.com

Weird Wide Webring: https://weirdwidewebring.net

I'm personally more into personal directories and blogrolls than these random clicks - but they still seem to be a good way to put together a small community. (And this post isn't meant to discourage you - but rather to encourage you to form your own.)


Oh I like the Hotline one especially! Easy to implement and some of the sites on there are very cool indeed. Thanks for these links.


Hmm, that's very useful information, thank you! Personal directories seem more useful and easier to put together, I think you're right.


Well then here are some little directories to inspire you! :)

* Edwin Wenink's 'etc' page: https://www.edwinwenink.xyz/etc/etc/

* Gabby Lord's: https://omglord.com

* Fingers.today: https://fingers.today

* Neonauticon: https://neonaut.neocities.org/directory/

* Gwern: https://www.gwern.net (the whole thing is a massive personal directory)


Great list. I would like to add UbuWeb, a massive collection of hard-to-find avant garde art, movies and texts. Curated by hand by Kenneth Goldsmith. Online since circa 1996 (and I think he has also more or less kept the original layout).

http://ubu.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Goldsmith


Thank you! These are all delightful.


Personally I also started longing for webrings recently; they seem more personal to me than directories, and there's more excitement of surprise and discovery. Also I think they're more "slow paced" and involved: you have to go through them one by one, whereas with directories you may look at the titles and already start making judgements based on the titles alone.

I think I'd say there's space for directories (again???) and there's space for webrings (again!). Though it kinda feels weird to me how Google removed the need for directories and webrings at a time (and I distinctly remember the relief), and now Google results got so crappy (destroyed by SEO?) that the need starts to come back :/ such that even I myself feel it.


I agree that webrings had a surprise factor, but like clicking on "surprise me" on https://wiby.me! (Or at least, that's the closest almost-analogous thing I use today).

Curlie (https://curlie.org/) is the closet I've found to a proper curated directory, and it's really quite good.


> now Google results got so crappy (destroyed by SEO?) that the need starts to come back

That is exactly my thought process. You can't get quality content on Google any more, it's all lowest-common-denominator paid content from huge content farms.


I'm working on a webring type project right now, with a central site that pulls in RSS feeds of all the ring members to create a central news feed (HN style interface), to help with discoverability too.

You add the webring to your site, allowing your visitors to discover more sites you specifically like, then you can opt-in to have your RSS feed fed back to the main site.


Absolutely. Working on this for a rural area near me with many local artisans. A simple "Our Friends" section that rotates and encourages users to explore artisans in the area.


Great idea! Renaissance of the original Internet.


When I picture it in my head I think of the early web as more of a library. Over time it has transitioned into a shopping mall.

If I continue with this thought exercise, a lot of the big indoor shopping malls around me have been knocked down and replaced with standalone outdoor stores (walled gardens?).

I'm not sure where things are going next.


I think there have been two main changes that have hurt the web:

1) The shift from spammy shit content as something to squash to something to allow and even promote over better content, provided it follows certain (Google's) rules. This shift (in terms of Google's behavior) happened ~2008-2010 and we haven't seen a period of spammy crap content getting heavily downranked since then, like we used to when they were still trying to stay ahead of it rather than give it a "legitimate" avenue as a method of control. Google's still being the most important search provider to appease has left the rest unable to direct behavior toward anything better than what does well on Google, so their results aren't much better.

2) A move away from actual or de facto open systems & protocols to deliberately carved up communities. The only thing keeping chat, Twitter-like services, and other social media—hell, even Youtube, so far as some kind of format for hosting video with metadata—from being standards or protocols is that business incentives reward "owning" a userbase (so you can better spy on them, and to keep anyone from providing a better, perhaps less-spying-laden client and "stealing" ad-viewing eyeballs)

Both of these are fundamentally problems of the spyvertising economy taking over the Web and I think a lot of the issues would go away if we could (legally—I don't think tech will do it) permanently and completely break that. More specifically a big part of the problem is Google, though of course the rest of the Web giants are gleefully following similar bad incentives.


I don't think search engines are promoting spammy $#!+ content per se; what they're doing is heavily promoting newer content that's relevant to the most common search queries, as this gives them the only real hope of staying ahead of the spam. Of course the "small", long-lasting, independent Web is heavily disadvantaged by this shift.

One development that would be good for small web sites to look into is schema.org linked-data formats. Those might simply be too effort-intensive for the spammers to adopt (at a high level of detail) and perhaps too much of a commitment to quality and transparency (they would have to actively forge the info, which would leave them open to bans given the lack of plausible deniability), so they might become a viable signal of quality and lead to higher visibility in SERP.

(Similar for things like proper separation of style from content, that have always been advocated for in the web-standards community but are not really commercially viable.)

I'm not quite sure if others have experimented with this stuff already, but it seems worth trying.


I thought the exact same thing about the web as being a library. It's nice hearing someone else say it, it's validating.

However, I feel like it's moved more in the direction of being like broadcast television: lots of content that's designed to be consumed once and then forgotten. Maybe the television analogy oversimplifies the matter. Still, I think the more that content creators view their content as going into a permanent library, the better the quality.


Author here. That's an interesting analogy — especially given that small book stores and libraries (to a lesser extent) still do exist, albeit in much smaller numbers, attracting fewer patrons.

A lot of web traffic today transits through applications and platforms. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; although I'd hate to see even more walled gardens. My hope is only that the small and independent web not go forgotten/ignored.


It's still mostly a library, except with commissioned salespeople everywhere and books full of vapid content that scream, fly at you from the shelves, and turn their pages as you try to read them.


Don't forget the infinite pages books that expand as you read them. Until you drop them that is, and have to start again.


> We thought the Internet was going to be a global library but then it turned out to be a global bookstore instead. Nice coffee tho.

https://twitter.com/earthboundkid/status/1095385048008798208


This is a great post and makes me miss this type of content.

I created a subreddit recently to help with the discovery problem and posted it on HN earlier this week.

Show HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23287286

Subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/hnblogs/

It’s been going well so far, only a small solution to a big problem, but it’s been fun to discover a lot of interesting blogs from people in this community.

If you missed the initial post feel free to join and add yours too.


Oh good, I was actually looking for something like this. I joined, thanks for sharing!


Thank you for making this! I joined as well.


Excellent! Joined, thank you!


Thanks! I think your site is awesome, it's exactly the kind of thing I think of, when I think of the best of what the internet can be.

I'm a fan.

[Edit]: I also caught a tiny typo:

> "But the web is not always "profit-oriented" and it certainly does not need be "user-centric" (and I say this as a UX consultant)."

I think you wanted "does not need to be"

I created a PR for you: https://github.com/parimalsatyal/neu/pull/2


Thank you, merged!


Somewhat related is https://millionshort.com/

It's a search engine that removes the top million domains from your search results (or top 100,000 or 10,000, etc). I find it useful sometimes to discover things on more obscure sites.


Just tried that for a C error I have, that... was super helpful. I've seen a lot of alternative search engines but this something else. Good link.


The word is niche.

There are 2 major factors that will power a resurgence, that could use better tools:

1. Discoverability - self-reinforcing webrings, blogrolls, directories, ad free-search etc.

2. Creation - next-gen Dreamweaver. A low-code site creator app that exports a static website as a folder of readable CSS/HTML that people can tinker with by hand (and learn), instead of being locked into one of these cloud WYSIWYG site generators. Hosting is solved. No need to tie the one to the other...


Number two could be Publii? It seems to met all the requirements you mentioned.


This is a great article, the kind of stuff I find interesting on HN.

Some of the "old school" web style clashes with my aesthetic sensibilities these days -- a lot of words to say I find it somewhat ugly! -- but I miss its hobbyist, non-commercial aspect. A lot of hobby style content I find interesting has moved to YouTube or Facebook these days, and everyone who's been reading HN is aware of the lack of control authors have over those platforms...

I found myself nodding in agreement to a lot of what the author was saying.

I don't miss the "geocities look" though!


Indeed, I enjoy that æsthetic in certain contexts, admittedly because it makes me nostalgic more than anything else. I had to exercise restraint! :) I wanted the site to remain readable and accessible in text mode/lynx/screen readers and respect basic typograhical conventions.

But I agree with you that the thing that I miss the most is the hobby-ist, non-commercial aspect. But I'm discovering a lot of great links on this HN thread!



"The Commercial Web (of Marketing)

There has always been a place for commerce and marketing on the web."

Not really true as I remember it. The web opened up to the public in 1993. There was no commerce and marketing in the beginning. Even by 1996 while commerce and marketing may have existed, e.g., Amazon founded in 1995, its place was in the background. As I rememember the early web, the foreground, the "starting point" or "portal", was something like Yahoo! You had to pick a topic (direction) that you wanted to go in. For example, if you were after music, you might end up browsing the Internet Underground Music Archive. The "front page" of the portal was predominantly non-commercial, mostly generic headings for topics. If you wanted to search out something commercial, no doubt you could but the initial starting point was intellectual curiosity. This is IMO what has been lost over time with regard to web use: intellectual curiosity and the ability to actually satisfy it. (A fun tangent here is the collections of inane queries that people type into Google. These are simultaneously hilarious and disturbing.)

As an experiment have a look at the Yahoo! page today. It is full of low quality mainstream "news". There is zero attention to intellectual curiosity. Nothing to see here, folks, but here is the latest news. For part 2 of the experiment, run a Google search for the term "music". The results are dominated by YouTube. Every result is directly or indirectly commercial (either selling something or conducting surveillance and serving ads), except one: Wikipedia. The chances of someone new to the web not following a link to YouTube or some other Google-controlled domain would seem almost nil.

The "onboarding" process for new web users is very different today than it was in the early 1990's. Perhaps it is still possible to approach the web with a sense of awe and wonder, pondering "What is out there?" However a new web user is scant likely to end up on a non-commercial website besides Wikipedia. What is out there? Surveillance, ads and an endless supply of soon-to-be-obsolete Javascript du jour.


The old Web directories had a "Business" section where everything commercial or sale-related was listed. Then sub-levels of any other section, e.g. "Music", would include a cross-reference to the same topic in the "Business" hierarchy. But the default assumption was that you were looking for non-commercial, or at most ad-supported sites.


I just got into ham radio. The websites related to the hobby are basically what the web was like before everything coalesced around search and social networks.


In my experience, that's true of many specific hobbies--bicycling, sailing, gardening, etc. It's especially true of hobbies where purchasing ever-more-expensive things isn't so important. Hobbies like cars have more magazine-like and shopping-mall-like sites compared to less consumerist ones (although bikes can be like that too).


I wouldn't say that this is still true of bicycling, at least not bicycle touring. The amount of standalone blogs in that hobby have plunged drastically now that people choose to simply upload photos to Instagram, and what few blogs exist are often buried in Google search results. One can see that standalone forums are emptying out, reduced to mainly middle-aged members, as younger generations turn to Reddit or Facebook for all their discussion of the hobby. Within the bikepacking segment, Bikepacking.com (which presents itself as a community resource but is essentially just one big advertisement for its sponsors) has a chokehold on the community.

I was fortunate to get into bicycle touring at a time when standalone blogs were easy to find, some of them were masterfully written, and there was not yet the mercenary desire to monetize one’s content and become an "influencer". The web of 2020 is very different, and because Google deranks older content, a lot of newbies in the hobby today won't even become aware of the former state of affairs even if much of that content remains just as relevant today.


I can see that. At the same time, sites like Sheldon Brown's and some of the older MTB forums still rank well in Google searches.


and ironically, these changes make it harder to sell used gear. a site like crazyguyonabike.com had (has) excellent bike-touring focused used gear ads, but who reads that stuff now? i have some touring gear that i've been trying to sell for 4-5 years ... it was never going to be easy, but it's now a lot harder.


there's also pubnix (public unix-like servers), gopher, and a new protocol called gemini (which adds simple links and viewer-owned formatting to to gopher). i think there's certainly something to the idea behind more restrictions, with just enough rather than plenty.

i almost want to give myself nothing but wikipedia, api docs, and “small web” and pubnix. i'm not sure that i can give up hn or its ilk (but the ratio of interesting content to poor content is terrible)


Yes, I'm discovering the newer pubnix now (only knew of sdf.org previously). Looks interesting, if a little overkill for what I'm looking for. Glad they exist though.

You can perhaps try a week of _mostly_ limiting yourself to those and see how it goes? I personally do a mix of the "normal" web and more niche stuff out there.


Yes, I just signed up on the Mare Serenitatis Circumlunar Corporate Republic earlier this week. I intended to keep my gemini/gopher pages updated daily but now is a good time to update them some more!


J.K. Rowling is releasing a new novel chapter by chapter called "The Ickabog" on a website [1]. I went there, fully expecting some over-engineered and productized site, and was pleasantly surprised that it's a very clean, static site: webmobile optimized, light svg graphics, clean markup.

No bullshit, just focused on the text and reading.

Hoping that more authors take this route when releasing stuff for the web.

[1] https://www.theickabog.com/home/


Indeed! This is a very pleasant site. And very happy to see no analytics/tracking. Excellent example, thanks.


My own website is starting to "revert" to this concept. A few years ago, it was primarily an about page and a resume. Now it has a blog, a links page, and a "knowledge base" that's mostly just notes for myself.

I'm too burnt out on web "best practices" to care about that for my personal sites anymore.

If you're curious: https://benovermyer.com


Indeed! It's so much more interesting to learn about what people are interested in, beyond just their professional competencies. I really like that you have your guiding philosophies, hobbies, languages and even Hogwarts house on your about me page.

Kinda makes me want to make a more detailed about me page. If I enjoy these kinds of details, surely some other people will too. Might do it this weekend.


That'd be cool to see!


I really really like this approach. Something like this has been sitting in the back of my mind but I've been so burnt out on, well, everything, to do anything about it, constantly worrying about it not being perfect or not adhering to whatever is _the_ standard of the hour blah blah blah. It's reassuring to see that I'm being a fool and that I should just do it, "best" practices be damned.

Thanks for sharing!


I used Opera mini on a J2ME phone on a 2G GPRS connection in Rural India (when studying in High school). The average speed was 5-10 KiB/s.

Opera Mini is one awesome browser for such connections. Average page sizes were around __20 KiB__ (They use some compression proxy). No Javascript was loaded. (Simple JS tasks were delegated to server side. I guess with some optimizations they could save on those full page reloads, but maybe it was computationally expensive for those phones).

There was a vibrant ecosystem for those phones. Till this day, those websites that host pirated music from Indian movies work with simplest of WWW browsers.

That's nostalgia. I remember a Modded version of opera mini which had tonnes of other features that worked on those phones with 4-8 MiB of memory (I don't know exact specs though, they were not mentioned for those phones).

Even today, with my paranoid no-js no-web-fonts browsing (UBlock origin), there are parts of web that are efficient. Hacker news or i.reddit.com, for example.


Not to be too spammy, but discovery of such sites is why I'm making Feldot, a social domain aggregation site. There are so many sites available out there like this to browse, but we never see them when using existing search engines.

https://feldot.com


I like this article, and I also like hand typing HTML and CSS. But coding is not for everyone. What we need is a better Wordpress, so ordinary people can publish their own website. It has to look good, perform well and be secure, but most importantly publishing content should be quick and easy.


I think writing some basic HTML is not hard, what's hard is everything else around hosting a web site properly nowadays. (and is where Wordpress wins users, I think)

I have non-tech-savvy family who has started content web sites over 20 years ago, by writing some basic HTML, and uses FTP to upload HTML files. It's a mental model that's easily understood by someone who can operate Windows. He went on to maintain the site for the next 20 years and it worked fine.

In the last couple of years I did a big migration for his site and moved it to a markdown based CMS (PicoCMS in PHP) and he's been happy with it -- having a web editor (and learning markdown, which was easy) and not have to FTP.

The thing is, it took work to set all that up (on my end, that he doesn't see). I got a Digital Ocean server, installed a bunch of stuff around PHP, wrote some custom plugins for the CMS, etc.

After having done that 3-4 years ago, I realized the more modern, ideal, alternative is to have a Git repo of markdown files, and a Netlify setup (or another similar service to Netlify) where check-ins are automatically deployed.

The problem then is this -- Git workflows are way, way too difficult for non-tech folks to understand. We're not even talking about command line or desktop git clients; even asking someone to use Github (or Gitlab) to edit markdown files to update their site is not an easy mental model to wrap around (if you're not a coder).

I think the most ideal setup, this "better Wordpress" you mention, would be to have a web UI to edit markdown files, backed by a git repo, hooked up with a Netlify-like service. I thought about working on that as a project; but it would be one that relies on using Github and Netlify as key pieces and I'm not even sure Netlify allows a 3rd party to develop apps that end up creating Netlify sites on behalf of other customers, which means I'd have to build out the full Netlify deploy flow and I'm really not in the business of doing that.


For sites where a static-site generator will suffice, there is Forestry[1]. It puts an editor-friendly frontend on top of Git. I have thought about this for a few projects that involve folks who aren't very tech savvy, but none of them have gained much momentum (for other reasons), so I've only given it a cursory look. It seems pretty well put together, though.

[1]: https://forestry.io


Indeed, my first homepage was on Homestead IIRC, using the online WYSIWYG builder. It was terribly hard to get consistent results, but it worked. And got me into learning HTML4. I don't think they're too common now — it's usually things like Wix that have a more "pick a theme and enter content" + automagic website creation.

An opportunity, perhaps...


I had this the other day when I was reading about the origin of the word 'bear'. I found this page: https://charlierussellbears.com/LinguisticArchaeology.html

This is anecdotal, and I'm not making a "then vs. now" argument - but there was something about the exchange that I found reminicent of this 'old web', and totally devoid from the way people communicate nowadays. I can't put my finger on it - but on what social platform where would this exchange live now?


Hacker News perhaps.


Related: http://tilde.club/

> tilde.club is not a social network it is one tiny totally standard unix computer that people respectfully use together in their shared quest to build awesome web pages

And the story behind it: https://medium.com/message/tilde-club-i-had-a-couple-drinks-...


I would love to see some kind of a proxy to parse modern websites so they can be viewed via 56K modem on a 386/486 era computers. Any ideas? Some Squid Cache wizardry maybe?


These folks have a brilliant philosophy on small tech: https://small-tech.org


Related: http://contemporary-home-computing.org/RUE/

> It isn’t a particularly sophisticated way to show emotions or manifest an attitude, but still so much more interesting and expressive than what is available now:

> First of all, because it is an expression of a dislike, when today there is only an opportunity to like.

> Second, the statement lays outside of any scale or dualism: the dislike is not the opposite of a like.

> Third: it is not a button or function, it works only in combination with another graphic or word. Such a graphic needed to be made or found and collected, then placed in the right context on the page—all done manually.

> I am mainly interested in early web amateurs because I strongly believe that the web in that state was the culmination of the Digital Revolution.


I like the use of human navigation and curation in discovering the small web. It feels more organic, more transparent, and less prone to manipulation than AI driven search engines (Google) or aggregators (Facebook).


The author makes a distinction between the "commercial web" and "small web" but I can't help but wonder if some overlap is possible.

I've recently been tasked with building a website for a small organic food distributor in Oregon. I don't think the traditional image heavy "commercial web" fits well with their company culture and image but am struggling to find examples of "small web" commercial websites to show them as examples of a different way.

It would be nice to see another post discussing how we might bring the small web to the commercial one.




I've been actually posting in a few telnet BBS, as well as some SSH forums as of late. I love the small web. I love the freedom of anonymity. I grew up in the 2000s and also got into web design through notepad and hand written HTML. I do have a squarespace website but I'm thinking of just going to neocities and start over with some plain HTML one.


I have friends who ask me to design theirs websites because I'm a web developer, and it's not their fault, but what's explained here. I wish there were more tools on the same page as Frontpage/Dreamweaver, so anyone could make their own website, and publish it with a single click.


What about we make a tor, but limited to dial-up speed and no protocols invented after 2000 are allowed?


altavista.com now redirects to Verizon (Yahoo!).

Is there a Web search engine that only indexes non-commercial content?


There's https://wiby.me that's worked quite well for me so far, for finding very niche/specific things and when I wanted to be surprised.


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