I Love The Web

The following are my raw and unedited thoughts spread over several weeks years. 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.

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

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.

Final thought

A personal homepage is fantastic; if you don’t, get one!

To expand upon @[email protected]:

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!

Resources

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.
  • HTML Dog - Tutorials covering HTML, CSS and JavaScript for all skill levels.
  • W3Schools - A great beginner resource with well organised and easy to understand Web building tutorials with lots of examples of how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, Python, PHP, Bootstrap, Java, XML and more.
  • 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. Less beginner tutorials than W3 Schools and more indepth technical documents.

Hosting your own homepage

  • Neocities - A great place for beginners. 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. Check out Sadgrl’s absolute beginner’s guide to Neocities to get going.
  • omg.lol - Treat yourself to an awesome web address, a devastatingly gorgeous profile page, a stellar email address, a weblog, a now page and heaps more.
  • Ichi City - A small independent project by m15o. Ichi is a tiny internet community where people can create their homepages for free. These pages are listed on Ichi’s index, allowing everyone to explore, discover, and engage with one another.
  • Micro.Blog - Personal blogging that makes it easy to be social. Post short thoughts or long essays, share photos, all on your own blog. Micro.blog makes it easy. Free and paid plans available.
  • Bear Blog - Want to get your thoughts out there as quick as possible? Bear Blog is a privacy-first, no-nonsense, super-fast blogging platform.
  • W3Schools Spaces - W3Schools offer a wide range of beginner tutorials and now a place to host your projects. Free hosting and an online code editor.
  • Github Pages - Websites for you and your projects. Hosted directly from your GitHub repository. Just edit, push, and your changes are live.

View this page on GitHub.