Early internet nostalgia at MeFi:
The amateur web circa 1999 actually took a certain ammount of technical knowledge to participate in. You at the very least had to know how to work a WYSIWYG editor, and more likely, knew HTML – all to put a site up on Geocities talking about how much you hate the Spice Girls, and your movie review for the Matrix. The Amateur web today requires about as much technical knowledge as it takes to operate any other basic computer program, since Web 2.0 has turned web pages into applications. I’m not qualifying one era against the other, and in fact I prefer the more egalitarian Internet, but it’s still interesting to look back through. A garish tripod page about cool gifs has a little more of a personal touch than even the best Facebook profile.
But then again:
The problem with that was that most people didn’t have the skill or inclination to make their own website and fill it with interesting content, so most sites were just simple text and random images that were stolen (or hotlinked) from somewhere else on the web. This resulted in most of the web being filled with poorly designed sites with a few random animated gifs, and those sites were usually incomplete and/or abandoned by the author when people found them. If you want a vision of the web in 1996, imagine an animated Under Construction sign blinking at the bottom of a page – forever.
A sort of similar point was made offhand in the BBC documentary series Electric Dreams, in which a modern family is taken back from their electronics filled home to 1970, to live through the seventies, eighties and nineties and experience what live was like then. In the middle of the eighties episode, when the time came for the family to chose a home computer, the experts talked about how different expectations of computers were “back then” than they are now. The idea was that everybody would learn how to program to be able to use them and now of course you don’t need to know much more than how to click your mouse. Computers, like the internet, have become much more useful, many more people can use them, but still something was lost when this sort of expertise was no longer needed. On the early internet there was a feeling that you could do anything, that the sky was the limit and nobody could stop you, as long as you yourself figured out to do something. These days, the internet is just as commercialised and fenced off as any other mass medium and there are rules, man.
(Via Sore Eyes.)