What can we learn from the Old web?

Discuss the past, present and future of the internet. No drinks near the computers, please!
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Neonriser
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What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Neonriser »

What is something useful from the Internet from 1996 to 2007 that we can all learn from today?

It can either be a way to help improve online spaces, or to design better websites.

Internet veterans and historians are welcome here!
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Veezle »

I'd say one thing we can learn is that sometimes, less is more.

I think about how many old websites (and older versions of websites) looked and worked so much better than ones today with the fancy modern layout, full of unnecessary features and animations that just make them a headache to navigate.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by yequari »

That for a large amount of use cases, the old model of "files served over a network" is totally sufficient, and you don't need to over engineer your web application to abstract that away.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by auzziejay »

I think the most important thing we can glean from the Old Web is the fact that there was a time where the internet existed without being such a walled garden- where advertising existed but it wasn't as insidious. It's important to remember the Old Web for what it was.

The Old Web suffered from the same problems we have now, but the insular nature of websites allowed people to build their own networks. Now everyone is on the same networks and interactions can be extremely toxic. The only way you can get away from those interactions is by leaving the network- but that means leaving your friends. It's a hard pill to swallow.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by youngsterj4y »

I'm a firm believer that it's important to keep in mind the whimsy/wonder about how incredible the internet really is. Like, you're sharing information with tons of strangers all over the place. You can create entire pages and graphics and documents just using pure code. All of this is done through networks, which in itself is such an incredible concept. Keeping the 'awe' and optimism about this technology, which isn't quite so new and shiny anymore, I feel is important to continue using it in positive and productive ways.

Also, the internet is just so cool. This mindset was more prevalent in the old web, when everything was new and unfamiliar. But I feel like remembering these roots can help us treat the web in a... nicer way? Idk how else to describe what I mean haha.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Sadness »

I think we can work on rebuilding a sense of genuine discovery and exploration that isn't driven by an algorithm. I'm tired of being told what to look at, and I want to discover things based on how I'm feeling on a particular day.

The problem with algorithms is that they assume we are some consumer-monolith that has been hyper-tuned to our particular likes and hobbies, when we are human beings with thoughts and feelings that change from day-to-day. In order to be convenient for advertisers, the interests of the big websites today are to treat us as less than human.

And so, I think the core of everything is to bring the "human" back to the internet. People are literally bred to hate each other with the way sites like Twitter work. The algorithm is specifically designed to elevate controversial stuff, to make people engage with the app (by engaging with each other, negatively).

If there's One thing I can name as the core tenet of the Yesterweb, this is it.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Grafo »

Sadness wrote: Fri May 20, 2022 11:17 pm I think we can work on rebuilding a sense of genuine discovery and exploration that isn't driven by an algorithm. I'm tired of being told what to look at, and I want to discover things based on how I'm feeling on a particular day.
So much this! Algorithm driven platform are just so insidious and they truly mess out with your head. :evil:
One thing I think it's necessary to remember is that most of the stuff that these platforms promises were already possible before, everyone already connected to new people trough MSN, forums, blogs or whatever. They just repackaged the stuff in a single box and now we all found that convenience is really really expensive.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by TropicalVoxel »

Veezle wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 9:08 pm I'd say one thing we can learn is that sometimes, less is more.

I think about how many old websites (and older versions of websites) looked and worked so much better than ones today with the fancy modern layout, full of unnecessary features and animations that just make them a headache to navigate.
I second this- most modern websites are kinda a pain to navigate, honestly. They used to be a lot easier to navigate, and always had a unique flair to them that kept them good looking, but nice to actually y'know use.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Squid-Died »

tbh one of the biggest things that annoys me is how many popular social medias don't allow you to put an inline link. Itd do so much to facilitate an easy conversation and make it easier to add sources without having to interrupt your messages with a big ugly link or shove them all down the bottom where no one will see. Im sure u can find examples of the same kind of crap back in the old web, but in a space where everyone has their own homepage at least youd have the choice of whether or not itd be a good feature.

Its almost like platforms like twitter wants to encourage its userbase to misunderstand eachother and get into fights or somthing 🙃
Sadness wrote: Fri May 20, 2022 11:17 pm ...The algorithm is specifically designed to elevate controversial stuff, to make people engage with the app (by engaging with each other, negatively)....
Grafo wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 3:06 am So much this! Algorithm driven platform are just so insidious and they truly mess out with your head.
also i agree with both of u so much. I hate the way it feels to just exist in an environment where you're just conditioned to interact with stuff you dont actually care about because its been forcefed to you, or getting stuck in a mob mentality when someone needs to be canceled or whatever the fuck.

other shit i dont like:
> corporate twitter accounts that roleplay as real humans, that shit is insidious af
> people putting making carrds to put in their bio that list all of their personal info/triggers/disabilities as if u can just trust any internet rando with that information
> algorithms that punish you for not posting 24/7 and erode artists’ self worth

i swear to dog modern social medias must have a department of energy vampires or something that devise this shit XD
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Cobra! »

I think the old web can teach us a lot about space/file optimisation, since they had to be optimised for limited server space and slow Dial-Up connections. Nowadays, a single GIF can be as a big as entire Geocities websites used to be!

There are communities of people who make websites under 512KB, and some even smaller! I have a long way to go myself with my site. (Currently 50MB!)
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Squid-Died »

Cobra! wrote: Sun May 29, 2022 11:17 pm I think the old web can teach us a lot about space/file optimisation, since they had to be optimised for limited server space and slow Dial-Up connections. Nowadays, a single GIF can be as a big as entire Geocities websites used to be!

There are communities of people who make websites under 512KB, and some even smaller! I have a long way to go myself with my site. (Currently 50MB!)
sort of unrelated to the topic but, same with games? theres so much wasted space now, like as glitchy and fucked as the original pokemon games were, those things are amazingly optimised for space
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Cobra! »

Squid-Died wrote: Mon May 30, 2022 5:31 am sort of unrelated to the topic but, same with games? theres so much wasted space now, like as glitchy and fucked as the original pokemon games were, those things are amazingly optimised for space
Definitely! I'm always fascinated by how in the 90s, developers managed to fit CD games from the Sega Saturn and PS1 onto Nintendo 64 cartridges, which are way more limited in space. More often than not, how they go about it is really creative and interesting.

The best example is the port of Resident Evil 2, how they managed to squeeze 1GB of data from 2 CDs onto a single 64MB cartridge, including the pre-rendered cutscenes! Obviously, quality was compromised, but the fact they got everything on it is a massive achievement!
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by Squid-Died »

Cobra! wrote: Mon May 30, 2022 6:04 pm The best example is the port of Resident Evil 2, how they managed to squeeze 1GB of data from 2 CDs onto a single 64MB cartridge, including the pre-rendered cutscenes! Obviously, quality was compromised, but the fact they got everything on it is a massive achievement!
thats insane lol
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by marginalia »

I think a lot of the great part of old websites is that they were often built because the creator wanted to build them, they had no thought toward founding a startup or padding their CV or whatever. This allowed a lot of creative experiments, and an authenticity that is missing today. Not everything was great, but some of it was in a way that is extremely rare today.

Like I even get this attitude from other people. When people I know IRL learn of my projects, they either tell me "oh wow, you're gonna get so rich", or "there's no way you're going to topple Google, for this and that reason!". What if the point isn't to become a bajillionaire? I want to build stuff because it's fun, and if it enriches someone else's life, then that's great too but if not then also, whatever. This pressure to "succeed" is incredibly crippling to any ability to actually build stuff. The dark truth is that as long as you know programming, you can build yourself almost anything you can imagine. It's almost dizzying to think about.

This has been happening all over culture. We've become so busy attempting to discover the formula for guaranteed success that we lose track of what was actually good about that thing we're copying. The Dark Knight got good sales, so they made an Iron Man movie. That got good sales too, and in the 12 years since then we've had over 24 super hero movies in the MCU alone, ticking all the boxes in terms of budget, but having very little soul or creativity or risk taking.
Sadness wrote: Fri May 20, 2022 11:17 pm I think we can work on rebuilding a sense of genuine discovery and exploration that isn't driven by an algorithm. I'm tired of being told what to look at, and I want to discover things based on how I'm feeling on a particular day.

The problem with algorithms is that they assume we are some consumer-monolith that has been hyper-tuned to our particular likes and hobbies, when we are human beings with thoughts and feelings that change from day-to-day. In order to be convenient for advertisers, the interests of the big websites today are to treat us as less than human.

And so, I think the core of everything is to bring the "human" back to the internet. People are literally bred to hate each other with the way sites like Twitter work. The algorithm is specifically designed to elevate controversial stuff, to make people engage with the app (by engaging with each other, negatively).

If there's One thing I can name as the core tenet of the Yesterweb, this is it.
Can't we just build our own algorithms, though? I think the big problem with social media and so on is that they are so driven by maximizing engagement. Makes sense if you're selling ads or making money off people using the platform, but you could optimize for something else. Algorithms are ultimately just a tool that can be used for whatever end you want. You definitely don't need to be a multinational megacorp to wield algorithms, even if many people seem to assume as much. If anything, I think it's time to level the playing field.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by 少女の口びるに蝶よ止まれ »

marginalia wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 11:21 am Can't we just build our own algorithms, though? I think the big problem with social media and so on is that they are so driven by maximizing engagement. Makes sense if you're selling ads or making money off people using the platform, but you could optimize for something else. Algorithms are ultimately just a tool that can be used for whatever end you want. You definitely don't need to be a multinational megacorp to wield algorithms, even if many people seem to assume as much. If anything, I think it's time to level the playing field.
While I fully agree with you (we should wield algorithms for new, emancipatory uses), the more collective such subversion of algorithms is, the harder it is to escape from the capitalism-conquered Internet's logic. Algorithms are quite amenable to our commodified societies, and salvaging them would take more than just optimizing them for new uses.

That's why I personally believe we should start by recovering/maintaining simpler, older algorithms (and non-algorithmic solutions) and building upon them when we need more complexity.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by BradE »

marginalia wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 11:21 am I think a lot of the great part of old websites is that they were often built because the creator wanted to build them, they had no thought toward founding a startup or padding their CV or whatever. This allowed a lot of creative experiments, and an authenticity that is missing today. Not everything was great, but some of it was in a way that is extremely rare today.


Can't we just build our own algorithms, though? I think the big problem with social media and so on is that they are so driven by maximizing engagement. Makes sense if you're selling ads or making money off people using the platform, but you could optimize for something else. Algorithms are ultimately just a tool that can be used for whatever end you want. You definitely don't need to be a multinational megacorp to wield algorithms, even if many people seem to assume as much. If anything, I think it's time to level the playing field.
>> wanted to build them

I think this is right. There was no mechanism for compensation for webmasters in the early web and most never even thought about it. They just wanted to share what they knew or display their HTML talents.

Once money comes in the picture everything changes.

>> algorithms

Even my directory's search function has a very crude algo. Like if the keyword is in the Title field it weighs more than if it is in the Description field or some such.

But technically, even how listings are sorted in the categories is an algo. Alphabetical, reverse alphabetical, reciprocal linking sites first, highest rated, etc.

But yes I do agree with Sadgrl's point. When you combine an algorithm with a near monopoly as in search with Google or information flow like Facebook or Twitter you warp things, be they how we build websites, who we link to or warping perceived reality like FB.

Anyway, not surrendering our control as humans is a good thing.
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Re: What can we learn from the Old web?

Post by atKingMSPFA »

marginalia wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 11:21 am Can't we just build our own algorithms, though? I think the big problem with social media and so on is that they are so driven by maximizing engagement. Makes sense if you're selling ads or making money off people using the platform, but you could optimize for something else. Algorithms are ultimately just a tool that can be used for whatever end you want. You definitely don't need to be a multinational megacorp to wield algorithms, even if many people seem to assume as much. If anything, I think it's time to level the playing field.
I believe that algorithms can remove a lot of the busy-work in finding something you're looking for.

The problem arises when it starts to decide what things you were looking for in the first place.

On a site like SpaceHey, algorithms are firmly non-intrusive and constrained. On a site like TikTok, you're essentially the algorithm's bitch. This is the difference.

And yes, there are some algorithms on SpaceHey. See the /browse and /blogs feeds.
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