World Wide Web Nostalgia

In 2018, I had had this exchange:

…and then the idea just stewed, like some ideas do. Ideas that linger and you never quite let go of. For almost three and a half years.

And very recently something just put me into motion. Maybe it was the craziness on social media. Maybe it was visiting one too many websites that take a full five minutes to orient themselves with cookie notifications and pop-ups and appeals to newsletter subscriptions before I can begin reading. Maybe it was the governor who accused a journalist of hacking a website, when all they really did was view its source. Maybe it was rewatching Cowboy Bebop and some of the promises it made. I realized that I miss the World Wide Web. So, I decided to make a “weird web art project”, but genuinely and earnestly.

I googled around a bit for “early websites”, which was a little fruitless and also encouraged me. I searched on the Wayback Machine. I poked around in my old portfolios, on some of my old old old websites (we’re talking websites so old that they had browser sniffers to take advantage of the latest technology: JavaScript). I reread some old interviews with and articles by Tim Berners-Lee. I web surfed again, for the first time in 20 years.

Then I built a new site using HTML — with just enough CSS to prevent me from using tables for layout and also prevent me from using attributes on the body tag to apply background colors (~1700 bytes worth), which would still work by the way. As much as possible I wanted to let the pure HTML show through. And it made me ♥ giddy. I had solved my web development burnout in just a few days by writing HTML. I built it all in the early Web style, as a call back to the Netscape Navigator days. And deep inside I giggled with how ridiculous the very idea is, and at how much I’m enamored with the idea of recreating the good parts of HTML and the early days of the World Wide Web.

But, part of what put me into motion was realizing that I couldn’t just long for how the web was in the good old days and build an old school website with HTML as a weird form of defiance. I had to help show others, share it with the community, how it’s done and how easy it is to do.

That’s why I made The HTML Hobbyist.

It’s a website where someone can learn basic HTML coding, how to find a web host, and get your files into cyberspace. Probably a dozen other foundational topics will make their appearance in the very near future.

I wanted to show just how easy and affordable it is for just about anyone to purchase a domain name, code a website with HTML, and upload those files to the server.

I don’t think this is going to be the start of a grand renaissance for the World Wide Web, but I can’t tell you how much fun I had doing it. I hope you can find half as much joy in visiting the HTML Hobbyist and building your own website as I had in building it.

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