I started out on the Internet back in 1995. (To be honest, I started out even earlier when it was just BBS and sysops and text messages.) It was still a fledgling entity then, full of hopes and promises and dreams. The potential was largely untapped. Most of us could see the majesty and grandeur of what it might become. People becoming one, a loud voice in the darkness.
Things were simpler back then. HTML was in its infancy. WebPages were simple affairs with just text and static images. Animated gifs were just coming into vogue, but Flash animation? XML? Light-years away.
Back then I spent a lot of time at a place called Virtual Irish Pub. It was actually based in Ireland and was probably one of the best chat rooms ever. Back then most of the people were nice. No trolls. No smurfs. Just the occasional jerk. Not sure whatever happened to it. Ownership changed hands, servers changed, the interface changed. The home page was an actual picture of an Irish pub and you’d click on the door to enter.
There were a few simplistic forums back then, and as I said, it was the beginning of personal websites, mostly on GeoCities or others like that. Getting your own name space and URL were expensive, as I recall, something like $75 a year.
Alta-Vista was king of search engines then.
Ads were unobtrusive back then. You could ignore them. They didn’t create a popup window. They didn’t say “Hello!” in an annoying robotic voice. They weren’t animated. They didn’t take over your browser. You certainly couldn’t interact with them. It was a simple sign like, “Eat at Joe’s.”
Viruses were minimal. And adware non-existent.
Like I said, it was simpler, maybe happier times. You could surf using dialup and a modem that ran at only 14kbps and surf well. Pages loaded fast, considering there was just text and simple graphics.
But somewhere along the way, corporations took over, and then everyone and their dog got a website. Cybercommunities popped up like ezboard, myspace, and so on. Search engines became huge monster affairs that sucked your brain if you weren’t careful and would attach things to your browser whether you liked it or not.
Now the web is one big advertising space. Everything moves, flashes, sings, and dances. If you don’t have a highspeed connection, forget it. Things take forever to load.
And the dream of people being one loud unified voice in the darkness has become thousands of individual incoherent voices, each trying to out-shout the other, creating a giant incomprehensible cacophony of noise.