What does the old web mean to you? What gives it value?

"The internet was an extension of ourselves and not the other way around."
~ AuzzieJay
"The old web means obsession, community, and patience:
    obsession of what introduces us to our friends online;
    the growth of the community that forms from it;
    and patience that a project may take a long time to complete, if at all.
The value, to me, comes from the mutual respect and understanding that is shared in the scene. It broadly feels utopian, but more realistically, the sense of accountability in the scene is unmatched. Less a big family and more like an autistic government. It's more well-behaved than real governments, too."

~ exo.pet
"Social connection and creation uninhibited by the giants of the web. It was weird, it was bad, it was good, but most importantly: it was a place where you could be abnormal."
~ Anonymous
"The unbridled customization and creativity [of the former web], not even limited to personal websites, but social media as well. I find this streamlined, "modern" look beyond bland; each user is lost in a sea of identical profiles rather than standing out."
~ IgneousRockCake
"The 'old web' was my childhood—it was the place that I grew up, and where I formed my identity and my morals. I was “chronically online” way before it was a thing, LOL. More importantly, the old web was a sort of Wild West where anything could happen: the rulebook hadn’t been written yet, the accepted “netiquette” was still being formed, and it was never certain what the future of cyberspace would hold. It was a place where raw creativity and chaos just happened. Like an artist splashing paint across a blank canvas. It wasn’t always *good*, but it was certainly always…something!

I think it has historical value—archiving and studying what the internet looked like in its early days should be considered a legitimate field of study, as it reflects the thoughts and feelings of humanity at that time. While looking at old websites, we can ask: “What were people talking about then? How did they connect with each other? What inspired them to create the things that they did?”"

~ Teddie
"[The old web was] a fun lil place to hang around - customizable and entirely personal, strange at times even, which I love so much... easy to breathe air with human respect still put into mind. Peace love unity respect, the ravers code."
~ TangoTrail

Describe a time when you made a genuine connection with another person on the old web.

"Talking with random people on IRC, I got made friends with a person who eventually told me they got a webshell on the forum we met on. We logged passwords from the logins and ended up hacking into the mod account on another forum, us sharing what we found together for giggles. Sure, it was illegal, but you didn't put your whole life on the internet back then, and it's not like we were particularly interested, so we didn't find anything beyond access to an FTP every mod had access to and some internal discussions."
~ Anonymous
"When I was a teenager, I kept a virtual "diary" (basically, a blog before the word "blog" was a common thing) on a website called "MyDearDiary.com". It was the only diary I ever wrote in on a regular basis, even if it was a digital one. I decorated my virtual diary with all kinds of pixel art and glittery gifs, and wrote about my daily woes. The community there was small and close-knit, and I regularly exchanged comments/emails with other teenage girls. We became so close, that those girls probably knew me better than my own family! I still remember their names, their favorite colors, their favorite bands…I feel blessed to have found such beautiful friendships during a very chaotic time in my life. They’ll forever have an impression on my heart."
~ Teddie
"Her name was Katie. I had typed in my own credentials into one of those AIM prank bots. These bots would message people and act like they were real. When I signed on I received a message from "Supabugz" saying "You're a Robot!!" and I said "No I'm Not!". We spoke for the next 7 years. Even though I never met her in person, she was a very real part of my coming of age. We drifted apart over the years. When Myspace came about she was part of my Top 8. When Facebook came around we wrote on each others walls."
~ AuzzieJay
"An old mega close friend of mine when we encountered each other on the older era of deviantart. We were even a bit active there in comparison to now, where that old friend is no longer active."
~ TangoTrail

Describe a community you used to be a part of that was displaced by the 'gentrification' of Web 2.0.

"DeviantArt.. most definitely DeviantArt... there was one hell of a community still thriving over there up until their whole "eclipse" update happened. It made the site feel suddenly far more disconnected than it was before, considering the drama and its 'culture' that went hand in hand with the drama. There was a definite lack of love for its users after the update."
~ TangoTrail
"Novice artists. Perhaps it's oversaturation, or the maturity of internet users increasing, but it seems harder and harder to make it big when you're below professional grade—and even then it takes tremendous luck and grinding."
~ IgneousRockCake
"Message Boards in general. I embarrassingly was a super-fan of a European Pop Star. I wrote prolifically on the message boards, meeting others just like me. While things like FB groups, etc were an extension of what message boards were, there was definitely a difference. Again, moving people from a self-hosted fan site to the centralized commercial web."
~ AuzzieJay
"IRC, 100%. Discord is as close as it gets, both in community (sorry Matrix, I was never a freenode type) and in functionality, but the little changes change so much."
~ Anonymous
"Since my early teens, I’ve been interested in a Japanese street fashion subculture called “lolita” fashion. In the early-to-mid-2000s, overseas fans of the look gathered on forums, and platforms like Livejournal and Blogger to pour over magazine scans and discuss the latest trends. Enthusiastic girls wrote long articles about how to best do your hair to match your dress, how to differentiate between different kinds of lace…but then explored deeper topics like having the confidence to dress alternatively in public, and how to handle your loved ones not accepting you.

…This community, once very close-knit and organized, got scattered when bigger social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter took over. It still exists—and is probably bigger than its ever been--but it feels watered-down…and the lifestyle/subculture aspect has slowly disappeared. There’s also the pressure to look a certain way in order to get more “engagement”, rather than just enjoying the clothes."

~ Teddie

What was your favorite website/community on the old web that is no longer around? What did you enjoy about it?

"I miss when new people didn't go straight for Facebook or Twitter or Roblox or Discord or... It's not a specific place I miss, it's the fact that people don't spread out anymore."
~ Haxrelm
"RIP THE GOAT SPACEJAM.COM (still up on https://www.spacejam.com/1996/ but ehhhh it's not the same lol). But I honestly miss ytv.ca's SiteKick community, they were basically avatars similar to Habbo Hotel except spherical robots.

...as I'm writing this I'm made aware of https://sitekickremastered.com/ and it just gives me so much comfort that, yeah, something like this could happen. The old web is cool, popular and longed-after. Bliss. A warm peace after death."

~ exo.pet
"I'd say the old YouTube because you had actual content - now it's super corporate and money sometimes seems to be the only thing that matters."
~ Matthilde
"A link directory called Bored.com. The idea was simple: it was just a collection of links organized by topic, meant to be a fun time-waster. The links were an eclectic mix of different websites: there was a site dedicated to cat facts, collections of flash games, and lists of inspiring quotes. I poured through all the links there for years, it gave me hours and hours of enjoyment…but there was a sort of innocence that I took for granted at the time. There wasn’t a huge amount of ads, and many of the sites listed had a homemade-feel. If you visited a website documenting weird crimes that happened around the world, you’d get just that: there weren’t any huge pop-ups asking to collect your cookies or trying to get you to buy some course.

Sometimes, you just want to learn a cool fact. Or play a little game. Or read a funny joke. It may have been intended to just be a simple “time-waster”, but the amount of enrichment I gained from that silly link directory has been unparalleled."

~ Teddie

What would your ideal social network look like?

"Something like the early days of web 2.0 like Myspace and Newgrounds. No algorithm, any promoted content is based on staff picks, and no echo chambers."
~ Haxrelm
"I would love it if people got off Twitter, I really would, but it largely won't happen since the problem with twitter is that people want what Mastodon can't offer—the ability to be able to interact with celebrities and comment on the news (in a Tumblr-like microblog infrastructure)—so much that they are willing to accept being governed by the one of the most authoritarian tech CEOs in the game. Shit sux! But I also have a SpaceHey and advocate for that in case the shit hits the fan. If we are to leave Twitter, why go to Another Twitter when there's a perfectly good myspace revival going on. https://spacehey.com/exo"
~ exo.pet
"A social network that has complete anonymity, but holds users accountable for their words. A network that rewards unique content but values the interaction between users much more than an 'algorithm'."
~ AuzzieJay

Do you have any ideas on how to make the old web more 'discoverable' by those who would be interested in participating?

"Linktrees are very common on social media nowadays. This is a gateway to making your own site. It's very simple to make your own link tree with something like Neocities. When you link it to your commercial social media you can build off of that landing page and introduce people to the personal web again."
~ AuzzieJay
"I think the most important thing--that anyone can do!--to make the small web more "discoverable" is to just talk about it!

If you think about it, that's how the internet operated back in the day: people didn't rely on an algorithm to push their content in front of people, and search engines were still in their infancy, so you had to find other ways to find people who were interested in the same things you were. Webrings helped connect sites about similar topics, and link directories lead to other pages about all sorts of things… following these links often would introduce you to new people and their topics; stuff that you might not have stumbled across while clicking around on your own.

So, if you see someone doing something interesting or inspiring—shout them out! Talk about it! Share a link! Be that person to send another web-surfer down that link “rabbit hole” that opens their eyes to something totally new and exciting!"

~ Teddie
"If google wouldn't promote sites to 'get exactly what you want' - their algorithm is fucked up and does not allow the discovery of amazing sites. Promoting webrings is a very good solution to discover sites around!"
~ Matthilde

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

"If the spirit of the old web and the idea of making a personal homepage at all intrigues you—go for it! Take this as a sign to make your own website! Even if you’ve never written a line of HTML before, take it as an opportunity to learn a new skill. You might just be surprised at how easy it is!

When I first joined Neocities, I didn’t know anything at all about web design. It took me a whole week to figure out how to make a picture appear on the screen. But I’m truly glad that I stuck with it as long as I did: I managed to learn way more than I could have ever imagined, and met some amazing people through my little site. It’s empowering to build something with your own hands!

~ Teddie

You've reached the end of the Zine! Thanks for reading!