What is the old web?
The old web refers to the internet's former iteration. It includes Web 1.0 and the early parts of Web 2.0. It is known as the age of chat rooms, message boards, Myspace and Livejournal.
The development of Web 2.0 emphasized user-generated content, ease of use, participatory culture and ease of use for end users. The early days of this era refer to a time when social platforms allowed the careful balance of an easy-to-learn interface and optional stylesheet customization. What started out as a huge leap forward snowballed into the SEO-crazed, overly sterilized internet we are faced with today.
Early social platforms such as Myspace, Xanga, Livejournal and Tumblr offered a balance of visual editors for formatting blog posts with ease, the option of using a premade layout, or the option of customizing the look and feel yourself entirely with CSS. This was a crowning achievement of the internet in the context of genuine social development and expression of social creativity.
What is the personal web?
The personal web isn't a reboot or a revival. It's been here all along, overshadowed by fast-paced modern platforms. The personal web about making the internet into a satisfying, expressive and creative social space. It's about having a space of one's own that isn't dictated by arbitrary limitations of a platform (such as word count).
A website of one's own
Isn't there something exciting about having something that's all your own, that you can customize in millions of ways? Websites are a great medium for:
- sharing creativity (visual art, writing, music, comics...)
- spreading information or resources
- writing about things that you love (hobbies, media, yourself, philosophy...)
- meeting others with shared interests (via web rings, Neocities...)
- creating a virtual space with any kind of vibe that you want (or all of the vibes at once)
A website is a blank slate that you can mold into anything.
If the only barrier for making your own site is a lack of technical knowledge - don't let that hold you back. There are some great tutorials online, and also lots of websites that offer free layouts for you to use on your site. No coding knowledge required.
How to start
I can't recommend the platform Neocities enough, because of it's unique dashboard that connects every website on the platform. It allows you to follow websites, leave comments and receive updates on a dashboard in a social media/website fusion. Plus it's free!
A Case Against Modern Internet
The necessity of the personal web becomes even more relevant when the current state of the internet is analyzed.
Search Engine Optimization
Ever Google something and get a bunch of results like this?
10 Tell-Tale Signs You Need to Get a New Cat
The Best Advice You Could Ever Get About Cats
11 Embarrassing Cats Faux Pas You Better Not Make
The 12 Worst Types Cats Accounts You Follow on Twitter
20 Gifts You Can Give Your Boss if They Love Cats
You can blame SEO for that.
The sharp rise of search engine optimization, or SEO. If someone develops, designs and writes their website in a particular way, their site has a higher chance of being found higher up on the list of results when people perform a related Google search.
To properly utilize SEO, you must follow a lot of rules, such as making 'punchy' headlines like the ones above, and peppering your writing with images. Since SEO is determined by a bot, many have found ways to 'game the system' so to speak, to bring their websites to the top of search engines. These websites have a lot of very shallow content, and much of it might even be labeled clickbait. Some of these sites are used by people as sources of passive income which they make via a combination of their large audience and ad revenue.
This type of content drowns out real genuine content from people. Nowadays, if you want to see people-made content, aside from the personal web movement, the easiest way is via social media.
Social Media or Social Marketing?
Modern platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are free to use in exchange for giving up your data and consenting to be a commodity.
When a platform has collected enough data on an individual (by tracking what the user reacts positively/negatively to), it builds a highly specific profile on that user which they can sell to advertisers - because advertisers always want to target specific audiences. This allows social media platforms to turn a huge profit while offering their platform for free.
In the beginning, ads lined the sides and tops of a website. The more annoying ones would pop-up in a new window. Still, there was a clear separation between ads and content. Soon, platforms learned they would make more money by interspersing ads with a person's social timeline and they made it so.
When the internet created 'celebrities', businesses and brands started using those celebrities to market their products and services. After all, these celebrities already had an audience, which allows the brand to skip all of the would-be salaries of their marketing team and assign the responsibility of gathering a sufficient audience to an individual.
The Timeline Format and Why It Sucks
Something all of these modern platforms have in common is the timeline. Sometimes this is called the dashboard or the news feed. This is usually a mix of content from everyone you follow (plus ads, but we'll get to that...) In the early days even on these modern platforms the timelines were reverse-chronological and simply showed the latest updates from everyone that you followed.
On modern social platforms, that experience is much different. Instead, platforms use algorithms to determine which posts you will see, and which you won't. These algorithms are meant to filter out "irrelevant and poor-quality posts so that the highest-quality content gets through". Instead, one might argue that these algorithms take the power away from the person scrolling through them, and filters them based on data that has been collected from their activity.
Even before algorithms and increasingly intrusive ads, the idea itself of a timeline was terrible. Timelines are designed to keep users on their platform for as long as possible (so the user sees as many ads as possible), usually scrolling vertically. This means that for the majority of users, they only see each post one time. Anyone who has ever mindlessly scrolled through Tumblr, Instagram or Reddit, it can be easy to simply like a post as a bookmark and make a mental note to go back to it later.
I almost never go back to it later.
Rather than user's posts being solely viewed on their own individual pages, they are neatly ordered into a single-file line for maximum advertising efficiency. In this way the user is also alienated from their content, their identity/person made secondary.
This is because the modern timeline was not designed for creators. It was designed for consumers. It's no secret that it's getting more difficult to promote yourself as an artist online. Anyone who has read a guide to marketing yourself on social media knows that it's a full-time job which requires constant activity and new content creation to keep followers engaged.
The timeline was designed for maximum profit
The "Follower" Model
Modern platforms use the terminology follow and follower to describe the interaction between two individuals. Following is a one-sided action - you can choose to follow an account but that account may not follow you back. In that situation, it's kind of like looking into someone's bedroom and reading all of their journals invisibly, like a ghost. Those who do follow you back are affectionately termed mutuals.
The goal is, and always has been, to gain more followers. Gaining followers means your posts will reach a wider audience. At the most basic level, this may indicate that people like you. If you are a creator, it may indicate that people will see your creations. If you own a business, or start a Kickstarter or a GoFundMe, it indicates that people may give you their money. At its most sophisticated, brands and businesses will reach out to you to promote their products.
Having a large following also has its consequences. The larger a group of people is, the harder it is to please everyone. But this is consequence is relatively harmless compared to the others. With more exposure and popularity, that person has a higher chance of being stalked and harassed, just like real-life celebrities. They also risk being doxxed, or cancelled (which tends to attract angry mobs).
The follower model promotes social imbalance, a one-to-many kind of connection rather than many-to-many - which could be seen in Myspace's Friend Request model.
The act of following another account is impersonal and one-sided. Building meaningful relationships with other people is second to amassing an audience.