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What happened to the good old days on the Internet?

Posted by on August 10, 2006

When you’ve been around the Internet for as long as I have, you will have noticed several changes, some for the better, and some for the worse. I’m not saying I’ve been around since the inception of the whole thing – that would be impossible given that I was born in the early 1980s, around the same time the Internet was. I wish I’d been around in the days of Gopher, and text based browsers, and when newsgroups were more the norm than sidelined as they are now. I’d say I first encountered the Internet in 1996 when my best friend’s family had it, and opened what was then uncommon, an Internet cafĂ© sometime around 1996/7. I know it was definitely there in 1997 because that’s where I held my birthday party that year. Back in those early days, all I cared about was IRC, playing multiplayer Diablo over the network and/or Internet, and browsing a few basic Web sites about my favourite celebrities and TV shows.

I can remember when Alta Vista and Lycos were the most popular search engines, Netscape Navigator was the most widely used browser, and Google hadn’t yet made a mark.

By the time I got the Internet connected at home, it was the beginning of 1999, I was about to begin year 11, and Internet Explorer was the norm. Or at least that’s probably what we were using on our computer. The Internet population was still relatively small, and people made their own Web sites on GeoCities or Angelfire. GeoCities had not yet been bought by Yahoo! Web sites looked cheap and tacky, with amateurs often using all the bells and whistles like IE’s marquee tag (even I had fallen victim to this) and a bit later on, anything that looked “uberCool” with JavaScript. This could be why I’ve always been fairly anti-JavaScript. Or it could be that it just didn’t make as much sense as other programming languages I’ve learned.

Although Web design has developed quite extensively now that you are able to find quite a number of impressive Web sites designed with CSS, HTML, PHP, and sometimes a database backend (yes, these are my preferred methods of Web development) and there seems to be far less FrontPage, Microsoft Word and Flash designed sites out there, the Internet is far from being a better place. These days there is far less respect for what came before, with people still only just being introduced to the Internet. They do what they do on the Internet simply because everyone else is doing it.

This brings me to my current pet-peeve about how certain Web sites became as popular as they are. Not so long ago, MySpace was listed as the #1 most visited site on the Internet. I do not know how it has gained in popularity above other similar, and in some cases better, Web sites. It has some fancy bells and whistles, and a lot of celebrity memberships (that admittedly until Zach Braff I did not care about – but at least Zach Braff has his own personal Web blog on his own personal Web site). But why have celebrities chosen MySpace over any other Web site offering the same or similar services? Certainly it can’t be the design factor, as I find it one of the poorest designed sites I’ve ever seen – and what’s with the VB style labelling on the Mail inbox table headings? (Among other things). Is it the ability to have a Web presense without having to actually design and code something properly? Because, my friend, that is not a Web presense. And if you’re relatively unknown, how then are you supposed to be found amongst an apparent 100 million members (these statistics must be blown out of proportion; how could MySpace possibly have penetrated 10% of the Internet’s current population?) Perhaps it’s the fact that people are able to share videos and music, as well as all the other “standard” stuff like blogging and meeting new friends offered by MySpace. Though from what I’ve noticed at MySpace profiles is that maybe 50% of them actually use the blog aspect, and half the profiles aren’t even filled in, or at least more than a paragraph long. More evidence that people have only joined because everyone else has. Give me LiveJournal (LJ) over MySpace any day. At least LJ doesn’t expect you to add everyone back as a friend, and allows you to read all of your friends’ blogs on the same page. Not only that, you have the ability to lock your blog entries to particular people only. Oh, yeah, and I’d say the general proper use of the English language is more respected. At least LJ has a spellchecker, whether it’s used or not.

It is possible that I am just jealous that certain comedians have opted to use MySpace over creating a profile on my ComedyDownUnder.com (CDU) which has been, until recently, ranked #1 on Google for a search of “Australian Comedy.” Now it ranks at #2, second only to Wikipedia. Although CDU still has far more information than Wikipedia, it has led me to feel somewhat redundant – moreso than MySpace ever could. Why? Because Wikipedia is at least respected in the general online-for-more-than-two-years community, as opposed to MySpace. At least I can live in the safety of the idea that MySpace is only just a fad, and everyone will get sick of it just like everything else on the Internet. Nothing lasts forever.

This whole discovery with Wikipedia in particular has inspired me to actually go back to my roots and do something I actually once cared about. CDU has not been properly looked after since its renovations in October 2003 when I first introduced the members section with a database backend. I did not finish what I started out doing with that Web site and, granted, comedians who join do not have a lot of features to play with. However, with Broadband now gaining popularity and my access to video editing software, I am keen to include some videos available for download. I already have a few in mind, including (but not limited to) my short film Dead, which has already been uploaded to the Internet.

I did intend on writing more about the good old days from my memory, and perhaps not so much about the crap it’s turned to now, but it’s midnight and I’m tired, I’ve lost my urge to continue on. Until next time…

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Dominica has a strong interest in exploring diversity in media, seeing people subverting corporate control of creativity through crowdfunding and indie publishing, and spending as much time as she can travelling the world and discovering culture. This is what she most regularly blogs about. In her spare time, Dominica is primarily focused on long-form improv theatre, and writing and publishing speculative fiction. You can find links to some of her free and published stories and screenplays on her writing page, or check out her pirate time-travel novel Adrift. Though born and raised in Australia to American parents, Dominica lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2008-2014, until she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a background in web programming, filmmaking, and stand-up comedy. For more information, check out her about page, or any of the specific pages about her various creative pursuits in the links at the top of the page.

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