I have something to tell you, dear reader. The web is fucked. It’s a sad state of affairs that we’re in - gone are the days of Web 1.0 where the humble personal blog and the likes of GeoCities reigned supreme.
Instead we’ve been left with Web 1.0’s rotten remains where centralisation, monopolies and tracking are the order of the day.
The Internet has been monetised by social media, by big tech, by search engines. Fuck, it’s been monetised by pretty much everyone. The whole concept of netizens and a community around the web, from the late 90s and early 00s, have been lost to the sands of time.
Again, it’s shit.
This a warning to everyone who uses the web. It’s fucked and it’s not gonna change.
Content warning: If you hadn’t noticed already, this page is not suitable for work as it contains curse words throughout.
What was Web 1.0?
I suppose a good place to start would be with some context. If you weren’t a user of the Internet back in the 90s and 00s, then you’re not likely to know what Web 1.0 was.
In short, it was glorious. Many people had personal web sites, usually published on GeoCities, where exploring the web was a fun adventure that was not fuelled by algorithms.
GeoCities homepage circa 1999
You could find all kinds of web pages, about all kinds of topics. Search engine optimisation didn’t exist. Fuck, there were no search engines in the early days.
If you wanted to find something, you had to navigate your way to it and that was all part of the fun. There’s a reason it’s called surfing the web and that traditional browsers, like Netscape Navigator, had a nautical theme.
You were the captain of a ship, sailing aimlessly through the wilds of the Web. Occasionally you would drop anchor and stop to peruse all the great content that netizens were putting out into the world.
Once you had finished, you would pull up the anchor and carry on your journey of discovery for more great content.
You wouldn’t hit a search, find something you wanted to read, then leave. That’s too surgical. Too informal. It was a community. We were netizens.
I fondly remember perusing Web 1.0 and reading anything from blogs about The Simpsons, to very personal updates, and everything in between. GeoCities neighbourhoods were great fun to wade through and learn about all kinds of stuff.
It very much was NOT shit.
Web 1.0 design
Websites of today tend to follow a tried and tested paradigm when it comes to design. Sure, things differ slightly, but it’s generally the same script:
- A couple of colours with large amounts of white space
- A header that contains a hamburger menu
- Mahoosive features images
- Ridiculously large and over-complicated frameworks
- All the tracking
- All the adverts
- Maybe, just maybe, some useful content
Back in the days of Web 1.0, web design (if you can call it that) was very different to how it is today. Scrolling marquees, blinking text, all the GIFs. It was great fun!
CSS was still in its infancy, so we couldn’t do all the cool stuff we can do today, which meant people had to think outside the box. Sure, accessibility was pretty low down the people’s priorities (read: not there at all) but some of the designs were amazing, unique and most of all, interesting.
Look at those glorious manifestations of 90s web design! Quite a lot different from the cookie-cutter design of today, right?
Lucky for us, there are still some parts of the Internet that are weirdly wonderful and wildly whimsical.
The humble web forum
Web 1.0 wasn’t just about personal blogs, GeoCities and scrolling marquees. Oh no, dear reader. We had our own version of social media back in the day - the web forum.
They were fantastic pieces of software that allowed communities to come together, discuss specific topics and generally hang out.
Anyone who used a web forum for any length of time is likely to reminisce fondly about their time there, and about the friends they undoubtedly made.
Forums have stood the test of time and still exist today. I myself often frequent the Royal Enfield owners forum.
Sure, forums are a little different today, and ads have managed to sneak their way in. But that’s usually to support the upkeep of the forums, rather than to exploit their users for gross amounts of profit. Which is fine with me as long as they’re non-intrusive.
We were happy. We had our personal blogs, our net neighbourhoods and our community forums. The web, version 1.0, was a fun and interesting place to be. But…
Then came Web 2.0
This is where things all start to go to rat shit. Web 2.0 is when a shift to social media and interactive platforms came about.
Instead of having interesting content creators sharing their experiences and knowledge on their personal blogs, guestbooks and forums, we started to see pictures of people’s lunch, political and social hyperbole and a whole load of other shit to boot.
The original Facebook homepage
Fuck social media
The rise of social media flipped content creation on its head. Instead of deliberately creating and editing content for static sites, people were now empowered to quickly and easily vomit their passing thoughts out to the world.
On the face of things, this may sound great. Social media was empowering people to easily create content online. It was allowing anyone with an Internet connection to have a voice.
The problem here, dear reader, is that social media was never about empowering people. It was all about one thing…
All that time you spend reading about that person from school you’ve never spoken to, you’re being tracked like a motherfucker.
Facebook is by far the worst offender for this. If they wanted to, those fuckers could tell how bad your shit smells. But why all the tracking? Well, again it comes down to one thing…money.
They track you so they can use your data to display more targeted ads on their platform. By having highly targeted ads, you’re more likely to click; and if you’re more likely to click, they make more money.
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t give two shits about your privacy - if you’re a Facebook user, you should be reconsidering your life choices.
Fuck search engines
Although Zuckerberg and his merry band of wankers have a lot to answer for, the death of web 1.0 and the humble personal blog is not their fault alone. Search plays a huge part in this shit show too.
Back in the day, search engines were rudimentary at best, but they have since grown into these Goliaths where even Google doesn’t really understand how their shit works.
In some ways this is good, as we get far more accurate search results. But there are two very important problems with this…
Firstly, as with social media, it’s all about money. The humble personal blog is often left out of search rankings, and is replaced by corporate entities who have teams of people on-hand that can manipulate the search rankings to their will.
This is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the industry.
The second problem is that because of all the aforementioned tracking, your Google search results become an echo chamber. You see, Google learns as you search and the more data you feed it, the more “accurate” the results become for you.
Try it yourself, do a Google search for something with your normal browser. Then download the TOR browser and try the same search again. I guarantee the results will be different.
It’s a double whammy. Corporate website owners are manipulating results so you’re more likely to see their shitty listicle posts instead of actual usable content that has been written by someone competent.
To add insult to injury, Google is also manipulating the results based on the shit tonne of data they have on you.
With all of this manipulation of results, you’re likely to get the results you think you want, but you’re unlikely to get the best results.
You could write the best, most informed post on any given topic, but if it isn’t “search engine optimised” it will never see the light of day.
Even if you do get your SEO juice just right, there’s still a chance that your post wouldn’t appear at the top of the search rankings. Do you know why, dear reader? You guessed it…MONEY!
Yes, it’s that old chestnut again. The moolah. The green. The Benjamins. Look at the examples below. On Google the entire fucking page above the fold is ads. DuckDuckGo is slightly better, and they’re also more private.
All of this has effectively killed off the humble personal blog. Personal blogging isn’t dead yet, but it’s extremely difficult to gain any traction with a blog these days.
Google et al were supposed to make content discovery easier. What the fuck happened?
Don’t fuck yourself
This is all very negative, so let’s inject some positivity into this shit show, shall we? The web is fucked that’s a fact, but there are still ways you can take Web 1.0 and sprinkle it with a little Web 2.0 so you can use it to your advantage.
Don’t be a social media shill
I’m not saying you should avoid all social media - that shit’s pretty much impossible these days and is reserved mainly for social pariahs.
You can choose which social platforms you use and how to use them so that it’s done in a healthy way. Here are some tips:
- Get the fuck off Facebook. That shit is a cancer.
- Look for decentralised alternatives, like Mastodon.
- Break your dopamine addiction and turn off all notifications from social media. This way you check it when you want to, than when it tells you to.
- Familiarise yourself with POSSE and make your site the single source of truth for all your online content.
Discovering Web 1.0 content in a Web 2.0 world
GeoCities is long gone. It’s dead, Jim. But there are still ways of discovering netizen generated content, despite all the shit I’ve written about above.
Neocities is a modern day implementation of GeoCities and it’s chock full of a great sites that would have fit nicely into the Internet of the 90s and 00s.
Just like on GeoCities, you can spin up your own site for free, and for a mere $5/month you can have things like a custom domain etc. It’s great.
If you want to get really nostalgic, there are even pages on Neocities that are similar to GeoCities neighbourhoods.
If Neocities isn’t your thing and you want to discover more modern personal blogs (like mine) then I got you covered there too. Sites like Blog Surf and Personalsit.es can help you discover some great personal sites.
Also look for a blogroll on personal websites you come across. If you own a website, add a blogroll to your site. It will help people discover content you enjoy without the need for Google’s gaggle of gobshites.
What about Web 3.0?
Don’t worry, we’re getting close to end now folks, but I wanted to quickly touch upon Web 3.0 and the Metaverse. If you don’t know what these are; the Metaverse is what that dickhead Zuckerberg is pushing with Meta and Web 3.0 is basically putting all the things on blockchain.
Yeah, fuck that. Fuck blockchain. Fuck Meta. Fuck Zuck the schmuck. That’s all I have to say about that.
I’m done. There you have it. That’s my opinion about how fucked the web is. Look, we will never get the web of old back. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t perfect either. The web of today is more accessible, more dynamic and pretty much a cornerstone of our society.
As long as we use the web with our eyes open and try to take advantage of the few positives it still provides, it may not be that bad.
Then again, the web might be completely and utterly fucked and it’s only gonna get worse. One thing is for sure, if Zuck the crook has anything to do with Web 3.0, things will definitely get worse.
If you want to tell me your thoughts on this whole big shit show, please feel free to get in touch.
If you enjoyed The Web Is Fucked, you might want to do a little more reading on the subject. If so, here’s a few links to help you get started:
- Rediscovering the Old Web by Parimal Satyal
- This Page is Designed to Last: A Manifesto for Preserving Content on the Web by Jeff Huang
- Old CSS, New CSS by Eevee
- The Old Web by Jack Clayton
- The Internet Has Changed by Sadgirl
- Yesterweb’s list of manifestos
- What is the Small Web? by Aral Balkan