Earlier this summer, I was sitting on my couch staring into the social media hellscape and wistfully remembering the old web; the web of personal web pages, blinking gifs, and half baked archives of humor and files. It was a different sort of web, one that existed to shout your interests into the void in the hope that someone might stumble upon them. The gifs blinked on into the night, and every now and then you would stumble upon a kindred spirit’s page. Even better, sometimes they would find your page and sign your guestbook!
Nowadays we don’t do that. We have stark, sanitary, and overly readable websites. They just don’t have the same spirit of the old ones. Worse, the people who once shared with each other are now yelling at each other on platforms that are literally designed to make them angrier with each passing day. What does the modern web get us but a feeling of haplessness? Why should I have acrimonious political debates with strangers about issues beyond our realm of influence? Worst of all, where are all the glorious background images?
So I decided to do a little bit of actual surfing. I pointed my browser away from the corporate websites and went looking for the time honored guide to all things cyberspace. That’s right, I went looking to see if there were any modern webrings! I found two almost right away, Hotline Webring and the Yesterweb Ring. There they were! The old kind of websites, and they were linking each other once more. I didn’t know if it was a revival, or maybe it was just I who had wandered away from my old web surfing ways. After a few happy hours of clicking, I decided it was probably a bit of both. A few holdouts were probably always out there, but I think there has been a resurgence of the old-web aesthetic and content.
As I browsed, I stumbled across web shrines, archives of original writing, and little animated construction workers letting me know that the sites were still under construction. A lot of them were even formatted to look like the old web. One site, Castle Cyberskull gave a name to this aesthetic. They called it “net deco.” I am not sure if that was original to this site, and I have not seen this term used anywhere else, but wow does it ever fit this era!
So now I had been reminded of what was lost, and I had found a webring. The next step was to participate! I decided that I would mine the old geocities sites and pull in the backgrounds and gifs I had once seen, some of which I had once used on my own personal homepage from back in the day. I searched sites like archive.org and their wonderful Way Back Machine. I went to geocities archives like oocities and Restorativland. Eventually, I had the raw materials, then came deciding what to do with them.
My first instinct was to build the sites like we did back in 90s. I would hand-code everything in html, and I would overuse tables. The downside, of course, is that a lot of what we did back then has been deprecated. Some of the tricks and special effects just do not work with modern browsers. So I reluctantly decided to use a little CSS and to use a template system through Jekyll. I did try to keep things somewhat old school though in that I am certain using tables in ways that would anger modern web developers!
So after settling on targeting modern browsers with a few modern techniques, I decided to stick to the blinking gifs to accomplish my look. They are just too much fun to leave out!
As for content, well that was always the hard part. I had a few floppy disks full of files I had pulled in off the web, mostly humor files and bomb-making recipes. I decided against publishing the dangerous stuff and dusted off my humor collection. I thought about linking to the sites that they came from, but alas they have gone dark. So I put them in a presentable form and put these old files here for you to enjoy. Lastly, I decided to write a mixture of blog posts and static pages.
So there it is, I will have new content on an old set of backgrounds. A mixture of a few web eras, to be sure, but much more than what the algorithmic stew would want from me.
I hope you enjoy my website, but most of all, I hope you make your own. It really is a lot of fun!