The following are my raw and unedited thoughts spread over several weeks. I add these to the page as I think them through, usually while walking my dogs. Once I get to the point where I have shared all my feelings on the subject, I will attempt to put some order into the chaos.
The Internet used to be a vast place. Netizens filled their time writing emails, visiting forums, making websites, and chatting on IRC. They filled their bookmarks folder in their browsers with hundreds of places they enjoyed visiting across the web.
These days, the Internet is contained, reduced to a smaller number of places people may visit daily. Boring.
It’s time to take it back.
Table of contents
Why I have a homepage
I believe in taking back control, reclaiming my digital future and contributing to rebuilding a web for everybody.
I don’t need a website for popularity or to make money. I want to develop exciting things to write and share. I don’t care if anyone reads it or not. I don’t want to share on social media.
I miss the personal, do it yourself aspect of everyone having their own homepage rather than a page within a closed social media platform. The rise of these social media platforms has led to an increasingly user-hostile web, which I prefer to avoid.
Websites and blogs these days are no longer organically passionate. They’re just looking at ways to capitalise on any given subject and, in doing so, creating a search optimised mess, diluting the usefulness of the web!
The old web
It’s hard for me to pinpoint when or where the old web finished for me. I want to say sometime around 2010…
The old web was not an aesthetic but a community, not just a single community, but hundreds of little communities.
Sure there were websites that we lovingly slapped together HTML with textured backgrounds, hard-to-read text, with enough animated gifs to bring your internet connection to a grinding halt. Still, there were also a lot of beautiful websites; remember, this was when we were starting to figure out what we could do on this web thing.
The old web was all about having your own place on the web, lovingly crafting your homepage and tending to it over time, filling it with whatever we felt was interesting.
The old description of a whole genre of E/N websites in the old communities resonates with me to this day. My website means everything to me and nothing to you.
We hyperlinked far and wide to our favourite sites or new sites we came across that we thought were cool or exciting. We linked to each other. We didn’t need a search engine to tell us what we might need to visit.
We posted helpful information, information that got straight to the point. We didn’t post recipes or guides with a thousand-word story on how a loaf of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven reminded us of spending summers at our grandparents’ farm. Fuck that, haha.
We were not confined to the walls of giant tech companies’ hostile silos of the Internet.
The personal web
When I think of the web, my first thoughts are of the personal web, and I smile.
The personal web is where everybody owns their own corner of cyberspace, where they can share whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want.
The personal web is not dictated by an algorithm or designed to sell you something.
However, it may be designed to influence you to enjoy reading about something that brings joy to another netizen.
The medium of choice on the personal web is the personal homepage. With our own homepages, we are free to choose the layout, design, graphics, fonts and colours of our homepages. They allow us to show off our personal style to each other and the rest of the web.
We decide what goes where and don’t care if it’s beautiful or a beautiful mess.
The simple web
Do you remember when you went to search the web for something, and you would often come across personal homepages dedicated to a single topic, full of high quality information created by people who absolutely loved the topic?
These days web search results are full of low-quality seo’d pages full of adverts that are not related to what you were searching for. All the old high-quality info sites have been deleted, lost to search algorithms as they’ve not been updated in many years, do not support HTTPS, or any valuable information is stuffed in between a useless 23-minute video!
I’m not too fond of the videos, either. They’re usually long with drawn-out introductions. Irrelevant stories about absolutely nothing. Remember to check out our sponsor, who also sponsors every other video creator. Then if you’re lucky, a couple words about the topic you were after that could have easily been communicated on a simple page of text marked up in good old HTML. The videos are drawn out and created to be a certain length so they can be monetised…
Remember to like and subscribe!
The commercial web
The web today, social media is accessible, and people are lazy or don’t know what more the web can offer them.
For the most part, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make it easy to quickly share what’s on people’s minds with no setup or configuration on the users’ end outside of writing a brief bio.
Which is fine. However, I don’t see a big difference between sharing the same stuff on your own personal home page, where you can own your own content. I acknowledge that the setup experience requires a few more steps than mindlessly setting up a profile on social media. There is an opportunity to make creating and owning your own homepage an easy experience.
Not everything has to be monetised. Hobbies can be that, hobbies. Making and sharing something doesn’t need affiliate links, sponsored posts or targeted ads.
RSS exists to follow those you are interested in. However, again the setup experience rules out a lot of people who don’t know, are lazy, don’t care, and want things handed to them (what’s my privacy worth for convenience?).
Now, shit posts and hate posts aside, so much fantastic content is lost amongst the crap on the above platforms. Some examples are excellent BBQ tutorials stuck inside a Facebook group or helpful info posts lost forever in someone’s Instagram stories. Outside these platforms, they’re undiscoverable! Even within the platforms, they’re only discoverable if you saw the content the day it was posted. Otherwise, they’re lost forever in a stream of endless crap. The priority of these platforms is to show their users a small set of what exists on the platform.
Something similar happened with blogs when the chronological post order came into play. It signified that anything dated old was not relevant.
On our own homepages, where we share our dated content for various reasons, it is acceptable due to how we can organise, curate and bring attention to particular pages.
I think the discoverability aspect of the web was lost during the time when blogs became means of monetisation and people no longer linked each other or other blogs of similar topics as they were now the competition, competing for page views for the measly cents per view that Adsense provides.
I loved linking all my web friends’ homepages from my own back in the day, which formed a sense of community within the communities for whatever topic your page was about that particular month.
Web3 refers to using blockchain technology to create a more decentralised and distributed version of the current World Wide Web. While Web3 web has the potential to solve some problems, such as increasing privacy and security, it is not necessarily solving problems that the personal web cannot already address.
One of the main arguments for Web3 is that it allows individuals to own and control their own data rather than having it controlled by centralised entities such as corporations or governments. However, the personal web already provides tools and methods for individuals to take control of their own data and privacy. For example, individuals can use private browsing modes, a virtual private network (VPN), and install browser extensions to block tracking cookies to protect their data. There are already decentralised alternatives to many popular centralised services, such as decentralised social media platforms and file storage. Internet forums have existed for a long time.
Some individuals and organisations pushing for the adoption of Web3 may have financial incentives for doing so. For example, many of the proponents of Web3 are involved in the cryptocurrency market and stand to benefit financially if the decentralised web becomes more widely adopted. This is because Web3 relies on blockchain technology, often powered by cryptocurrency transactions. As such, these individuals and organisations may be vested in promoting Web3 as a solution to various problems, even if it may not necessarily be the most effective solution.
This is important for us as individuals to be aware of these potential conflicts of interest and to carefully consider the motivations behind the promotion of Web3.
Overall, Web3 might address some issues related to data privacy and control. Still, the personal web already provides individuals with the tools and resources to take control of their own data and privacy significantly.
A personal homepage is fantastic; if you don’t, get one!
To expand upon @[email protected] post to Front-End Social:
if you are at all able (or able to learn), i highly recommend:
- creating your own website
- on your own domain
- acquiring copies of your data that you care about that’s on third party sites (particularly twitter)
- Learn some basic HTML & CSS.
- Purchase your own domain.
- Find some webhosting.
- Start copying content that you’ve created and shared to social media and posting it on your new homepage.
Own your own content!
I’ve curated a set of resources to help everyone to get started, no matter your skill set:
Building your own homepage
|Jackie's guide to making a website zine||Want to make your own website, but don't know how to start? Jackie's awesome Zine is a 28-page, Risograph-printed comic guide to help you brainstorm, design, and bring a personal website to life.|
|Web Design in 4 Minutes||Learn the basiscs of web design in 4 minutes. A step-by-step interactive tutorial that explains how to use basic CSS styling to make a nice looking homepage.|
|MDN: Learn Web Development||MDN Web Docs is a popular document repository and learning resource for web developers. This site provides learning resources for open web technologies like HTML and CSS.|
|freeCodeCamp: Responsive Web Design||Responsive web design is the practice of designing functioning websites that look good on different devices, screen sizes, orientations and resolutions. This freeCodeCamp course will take you through the basics of how to use CSS to make your homepages look good, no matter what device that they're viewed on.|
|Interneting Is Hard||Interneting Is Hard provides a comprehensive set of web development tutorials to help take you from beginner to pro. Topics covered include HTML/CSS basics, Flexbox, responsive images, typography and the importance of semantic HTML.|
Hosting your own homepage
|Neocities||Neocities is a commercial web hosting service for static pages. It offers 1 GB of storage space for free sites and no server-side scripting for both paid and free subscriptions, the service's expressed goal is to revive the support of free web hosting of the now-defunct GeoCities. Many new and old webmasters come to Neocities to host their new homepages.|
|Netlify||Netlify offers hosting and serverless backend services for web applications and static websites. Netlify is optimised for websites whose source files are stored in the Git source control system and generated into static content files. They also offer a drag and drop functionality for websites that have already been statically generated.|
A selection of my favourite Web manifestos.
|The Web 1.1 Movement||Bytemoth dives into the value of creating your website by hand without waste. I'm not going full Web 1.1 myself as I absolutely love my graphical expression but I love the points made. Contains a great list of links.|
|Sadgrl's Net Manifesto||Sadgrls initial dreamwidth post from 2020 inspired this very page. Since then she has expanded her thoughts like many of us and is now the most popular manifesto out there.|
|Melon's Manifesto||Melon clearly understands what he stands for and what he wants from his homepage.|
|OpenBooks Manifesto||I really vibe with Cyote's seperation of homepages and nostalgia and firm view of creating modern and accessible homepages. I believe you can create the asthetic of 20 years ago with modern tooling, I hope that my homepage is an example of this.|
|I'm leaving the corporate web behind||Auzzie Jay says goodbye to the corporate web, click through to his manifesto and links to other great manifestos.|
|Yesterweb Community Internet Manifestos||I'm still working my way through everyone else's manifestos, and I will add them as I do. In the meantime, the Yesterweb provides a nice index of the wider community manifestos. Enjoy.|
Read more about the personal, small, and open web
A collection of bookmarks. There are absolute gems in here of others who share similar thoughts.
|Ten Commandments of the Small Internet||A grassroots internet movement called "the small Internet" is afoot. Here are ten commandments that cheapskates would like to see largely obeyed on the small Internet.|
|I Miss the Old Internet||"I miss the internet of the early 1990's."|
|Nostalgia is Bullshit||Web 1.0 design nostalgia. Like all nostalgia, it's bullshit.|
|What I Learned about the Internet by Creating My Own Website||Here are some things Cheapskates learned about the Internet by creating their own website.|
|Seven Reasons for Having a Personal Website||there are at least seven reasons you should have a personal website.|
|The Return of the 90s Web||In big cultural concepts like music or fashion, things have a way of coming around full circle.|
|Making the Web Fun Again||"Ever since I visited my first web site (via a slow modem to a library BBS running a text-based web browser), I have been ceaselessly pondering the nature of the web."|
|The Missing Hit and the Open Web||If it doesn't appear in Google's search results, does it really exist?|
|Underscores, Optimization & Arms Races||A dozen years ago, the web started to reshape itself around major companies like google. We can understand the genesis of today's algorithmic arms race against the tech titans just by looking at a single character.|
|the modern web is becoming an unsuable. user-hostile wasteland||the question is: at which point do we reach the breaking point?|
|Autonomy Online: A Case For The IndieWeb||there is an alternative to corporate bubbles online — it's called the indieweb. build your own personal websites, control your online presence, and learn on your own terms.|
|Hunting the Nearly-Invisible Personal Website||The personal website is a somewhat mysterious animal that lives mostly unobserved in the jungle of the Internet|
|ZeroNet and the Future of the Internet||until recently, the conventional wisdom was that the internet is beyond the control of governments. how naive the conventional wisdom sometimes is.|
|Tell HN: I miss the old internet||"this is more of a rant i guess. hackernews provides a text box, that's close enough for me."|
|The Rise And Fall Of Grunge Typography||The Rise And Fall Of Grunge Typography by Sharan Shetty. Hop on the nostalgia train for a second. Think back to the 90s. To Nirvana, Linklater's Slacker, and the flannel-clad rebels on the run from the 80s. To skateboards...|
|Everyone Should Have Access to the Web||The World Wide Web Foundation began as a way to bring the web to everyone. In these trying times, it is needed more than ever.|
|When the Web Was Weird||In the late 90s, an obscure site called Superbad pioneered jarringly bizarre, often ugly, but occasionally beautiful web design. It's taken all this time for the rest of the internet to catch up.|
|A Love Letter to Net.Art||In an interview for her book Internet Art in 2004, writer Rachel Greene had this to say about why she felt...|
|To Mend a Broken Internet, Create Online Parks||We need public spaces, built in the spirit of Walt Whitman, that allow us to gather, communicate, and share in something bigger than ourselves...|
|The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities||Zany, early creative communities like DeviantArt and conceptart.org have been steamrolled by homogenous social media platforms.|
|The year we wanted the internet to be smaller||Why tiny, weird online communities made a comeback in 2017.|
|Exit Feeds, Enter Community||Information floods the internet. You can't control it, but it must be controlled for you to absorb it. It is primarily controlled through infinite feeds of content on social media...|
|He Created the Web. Now He's Out to Remake the Digital World||Tim Berners-Lee wants to put people in control of their personal data. He has technology and a start-up pursuing that goal. Can he succeed?|
|One Startup's Vision to Reinvent the Web for Better Privacy||Blockstack's system would let you control your own personal data—for example, by revoking a site's access to it...|
|Make your own independent website||How to make 2021 the year of the independent web....|
|The Organic Web||People talk about growing communities and growing brands, but does anyone talk about growing a website?|
|This used to be our playground||There was a time when owning digital space seemed thrilling, and our personal sites motivated us to express ourselves. There are signs of a resurgence, but too few wish to make their digital house a home...|
|Why can't I write code inside my browser?||So I can write code inside my spreadsheet, but not inside my browser? WTF!|
|The Developer's Dystopian Future||I was always a worrier, but I used to be a young worrier. Now I am not so young. I still find things to worry about. I find myself more and more concerned about my future as a developer.|
|It's Time to Get Personal||Is it just me or does nobody have their own website anymore? OK, some people do. But a lot of these sites are outdated, or just a list of links to profiles on big tech platforms. Despite being people who build websites, who love to share on the web, we don't share much on our own sites.|
|How to Bring Back the Old Internet||People who grew up with the internet of the 1990s probably remember forums — those clunky, lo-fi spaces where people came together to argue about cars, cycling, video games, cooking, or a million other topics. They had their problems, but in retrospect the internet of those days felt like a magical land of possibility, not a place for organizing pogroms.|
|Let's bring Fan Sites and webrings back!||In the days before the web was mainstream, it was a place of creation. First for education, then for every random idea that any creator had! As the web transitioned from a network of educational institutions to the consumer force it is today, the early adopters were technologists... AKA geeks!|
|What happened to the 'old internet'? We used to have so much variety and choice - it's all collapsed, or has it?||The internet brings the world into people's homes, enabling people to interact with worldwide events in a way that television can't. What's changed?|
|2015 is the year the old internet finally died||The old blogosphere is being eaten alive by the rise of social media and the mobile web.|
|There's no place like the old internet||I started using the internet when I was seven years old. In 2021, it's not too shocking to imagine a seven year old with unrestricted access to the internet. In 1999, though… different story, different internet...|
|How the Blog Broke the Web||I first got online in 1993, back when the Web had a capital letter — three, in fact — and long before irony stretched its legs and unbuttoned its flannel shirt. Back when you could really say you were surfing the net...|
|Statistically obsessed||Measure, analyze, check your stats, take a look at the insights. Whether you are running a business website, a personal blog, a Twitter account or a Facebook page, there is someone breathing down your neck asking about the numbers...|
|The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet||This is also what the internet is becoming: a dark forest...|
|404 Page Not Found||The artifacts of internet life are personal—that is, not professionally or historically notable—and therefore worthless...|
|One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age||Digging through the Geocities Torrent.|
|The Old Internet Died And We Watched And Did Nothing||Quick: Can you think of a picture of yourself on the internet from before 2010, other than your old Facebook photos? How about something you've written? Maybe some old sent emails in Gmail or old Gchats?|
|The Decade the Internet Lost Its Joy||What began as cheerful anarchy was devoured by vulture capital and ruthless consolidation|
|About - Baldora Station||a perfect rant into the pitfalls of the web today, alongside some suggestions for their way forward|
|I miss the old internet - SFFWORLD||OP comes to the realisation that the Internet has become boring and commercialised. Sparks an interesting conversation.|
|How GeoCities webrings made the '90s internet a cozier place||Believe it or not, the internet used to feel a lot cozier. In the early days of the World Wide Web, as many of us called it back then, going online was like exploring the Wild West...|
|Ruins and Templates of Geocities||The free web hosting service GeoCities was founded by Beverly Hills Internet in July 1995, which exactly corresponds with the moment that the web left academia and started to become accessible to everyone. Users began learning Hyper Text Markup Language, and welcomed each other onto their “home pages” — the first personal websites.|
|An Ode to Geocities||Geocities is likely a site you've heard of. It may even have been a site that you used. It's origin, and the movement it later inspired, is an incredible story of self-expression and serendipity.|
|Web 0.5||A few people have already used Web 0.5 by back-construction from Web 2.0. Sean Coates used it derogatively of MySpace, but this O'Reilly blog post is more positive, suggesting Web 2.0 is a return to earlier Internet applications.|
|Jurassic Web||The Internet of 1996 is almost unrecognizable compared with what we have today.|
|Yahoo, the Destroyer||How the historic company became known as a bumbling villain of internet culture|
|You Probably Don't Remember the Internet||How do we memorialize life online when it's constantly disappearing?|
|How to Make a Website||wikiHow embodies an alternative history of the internet, and an interesting possibility for its future.|
|The People's Web||Every day, millions of people rely on independent websites that are mostly created by regular people, weren't designed as mobile apps, connect deeply to culture, and aren't run by the giant tech companies. These are a vision of not just what the web once was, but what it can be again.|
|Utopia Is Complicated||The problem with the old internet isn't that we treat it like the good old days of digital utopia; it's that we don't have enough detail about it to properly understand it with the depth and nuance it deserves.|
|Letting Go of the Old Web||Page no longer live, points to archive link. Dezzie asks herself, what makes us creative. What gets us to build a website? What the hell is a website today? Not the web community, or tech industry. She means humankind...|
|Make Free Stuff||Max explores the current state of a monetised data gathering web and makes a call to action to make things for the sake of it and make them free!|
|Always Own Your Platform||Pretty much a TLDR version of everything I've typed above and it all comes down to - Always. Own. Your platform!|