When I was a kid, my family always had a computer in the house. We also had an Internet connection pretty much as soon as they were available in our town, so I started surfing the web and exploring cyberspace in my early teens. I remember how it was in "my day". Now, by no means will I attempt to claim that the Internet of the mid to late 90s was superior to that of today. I definitely don't miss the pre search engine, directory based browsing of the web, or the slow speeds that could take minutes to load a simple picture. But there are a few things from those early, carefree days of the Internet that I do miss a little bit.
Before Facebook and Instagram, before there was even Myspace, there were places like Geocities and Angelfire. These free "web hosting" services offered users the ability to create mini websites using some site building tools as well as code. The end results were usually horrifically ugly sites about bands, video games, puppies and anything else you can imagine spangled with animated gifs. In today's homogenized Internet, where every social media profile looks essentially the same, it's hard to imagine having the freedom that these services offered, for better or for worse.
If you're unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, take a look at this.
Flash is still around obviously. In fact it's used for some pretty major cartoon series, and its capabilities have grown incredibly over the years. But in its infancy, before Adobe acquired Macromedia, Flash was synonymous with low-quality, bizarre online animations. Now it seems most flash animators take their work a little more seriously, but back in the day it was all about the weird and wonderful world of things like Stick Death and Group X. I guess people just expect a different type of entertainment these days. But there's something to be said about those early pioneers.
Back in the day, before Google, before any kind of real search engine existed, navigating the web was considerably different. This led to a sort of mystery online where discovering a new and bizarre website was very exciting. It generally meant typing random URLs into the browser or being told, by a real human person, about a strange website worth visiting. Now, we of course have the dark web, but in the mid 90s, basically the entire Internet was a dark web. Knowing about a certain online artifact before anyone else was a sort of badge of honor back then that just doesn't really exist anymore.
Online, as well as real-world anonymity has become elusive due to the modern Internet's ubiquity. This was not so in the early days of the web. For starters, browsing the web didn't generally mean an advertiser or the government was tracking your every move. They weren't that sophisticated yet and there weren't enough people using the technology for it to be of much interest to them. The Internet also hadn't become an extension of the real world yet, so your online presence and real life could be fully separate. Nowadays, what you do online most definitely does not stay there.