Thursday, February 3, 2011

Internet Behemoths

Taken from Laughing Squid's Flickr profile, used under Creative Commons licensing.

Back when the Internet and I were first introduced, the Internet was kinda cute.

Using server space provided by the University of Idaho, and encouraged, by of all people, a rather dyed-in-the-wool French teacher, I put together some very simple web sites including, of course, the inevitable mid-1990s "home page." It looked like this (thanks again, Wayback Machine). I had the obligatory self-promotion. The obligatory pop culture references. And, eventually, the obligatory fan boy pages (for more, go here).

It was all hand-built. I learned by sneaking peeks at others' source code, and then by copying and tweaking.

But you know what, today's Internet ain't the Internet of my youth.

We're now in the age of Internet Behemoths. Sites like, say, Amazon, Facebook, Reddit, which just recently joined that exclusive club of sites with a billion page views a month. That would have absolutely broken the little "visitors meter" I had on my page for decades, and which you can still find on pages in odd little corners of the web where the Aughts have never seeped.

And we're now in the age of rebellion against these behemoths -- and not merely against those who became behemoths thanks to bricks-and-mortar money.

Soon, I predict, there will be preservationists on the web interested in protecting mom-and-pop Internet ventures against the big boys who want to swallow them whole. And not necessarily because mom and pop are more willing to protect personal data -- there is no privacy any more -- or react in a more agile fashion than their ginormous competitors, but simply because of the romance of the Lycos Age, (who knew they were even still alive?) the Bronze Age of the modern Internet. There will be people who prefer to surf a web walled off from modernity, a Wayback Machine-level net where Lycos is king and everybody has a site visitor counter and where e-mail was about the only way to keep up with your distant e-mail compatriots because no one had even fathomed the idea of allowing people to make live comments on the stuff you were posting. Guestbooks were about as sophisticated as we got back then.

I'm not saying Web 1.0 was better. But then again, since I used that technology to build my own web sites, rather than merely using someone else's technology to babble on about my inadequacies, maybe it was better. I certainly knew more HTML back then. It's a pity I didn't keep up with it. Then again, I don't have to pay for server space here at Blogger, so let's not take the nostalgia too far, shall we?

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