I’ve recently been reminiscing about the “old” days of the web. They felt much more like expressions of personality and creativity.
These days, most people have social media accounts on mainstream services that act as their sole representation of themselves online. Whilst the content can be different, everyone’s own pages end up looking the same, with avatar images, feeds, and other components having layouts and “look and feel"s controlled by the service - the creativity is lost and things become bland.
This looks like the current trend in such platforms. Previously, MySpace offered some nice ways to customise things on individuals’ pages, but before that the main way to fully control your representation online was to own your space - i.e. have an actual website you can control.
Personal websites are still very much a thing, and in many ways are making a bit of a comeback. The concepts are described nicely in Aral Balkan’s blog, in which there are also arguments that personal websites can interconnect - an initiave also made possible through technologies like ActivityPub.
Either way, modern personal websites tend to all be quite minimalistic and sleek. People often share tools and software (e.g. CSS libraries), which are good ways to get something off the ground or to help enable those that are less tech-able. Whilst this is also great for providing useful reading experiences, enhancing accessibility, and encouraging mobile-first principles, I worry that perhaps something is lost in the expression of creativity.
I recently stumbled across the Yesterweb webring. For those not familiar with the concept, by joining your site to a webring it gives your website additional exposure, since each member of the ring publishes a link to the next site along. As a visitor, they’re a great way to explore and discover new sites.
This particular webring showcases websites with very distinctive 90s vibes - many of which are hosted on Neocities. They feature bright colours, lots of scrolling banners, animated GIFs and more. Some also bring back concepts like visitor counts, guestbooks and chatboxes. It’s a refreshing and fun experience.
It’s great to see and to explore! I will show and link to a few below, but I recommend taking a look through yourself too.