The Old Web Was Better

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Article ID: 9

When I go to an average "modern" World Wide Web site with the default configuration of Lynx, a wonderful plain text Web browser, I am usually greeted with things like cookie: some jibberish Allow? (Y/N/Always/neVer) for which I'd press V a couple times. Then, I would press C-f or page-down a couple times to scroll past a giant navigation bar full of nested lists, a few HTML login forms, multiple search bars. Then I'd see the actual text of the article I'm looking for. Or sometimes, the site would show "Please enable JavaScript to view this page." or some Cloudflare prompt saying that I need to enable JavaScript to solve a proprietary CAPTCHA to view the page because they have detected "unusual activity from my network". Or I would be met with a blank page. If I decide to visit the modern Web with a "normal" Web browser such as Firefox or Chromium, with a default install, I'd get a ten-megabyte load of a bunch of fancy advertisements at the top of the page, a giant navigation bar that's really colorful to distract me from what I actually want to see, some pop-ups wanting me to fill in my email address to sign up for their newsletter (which as people say would usually be weekly HTML email spam), flashy advertisements on the side bar, and when I finally scrolled past the header part of the page, a few hasty paragraphs with large paragraph seperations unreadably wrapped in a narrow column. All to display a few kilobytes of actual text, and rarely a few hundred kilobytes of useful images.

The Web, which people often refer to as the aggregate of human knowledge and high-speed distribution of information, has turned into a degenerate mess of advertisements, JavaScript, slugishness, tracking and profiling, security holes, and slowness. In summary, the modern Web is painful.

I'm looking back towards the 1990s, where Websites would be like this one. Simple (X)HTML, plain text, or another lightweight markup language. No ads, trackers, JavaScript, popups, Software as a Service Substitute etc. Just distribution of information and ideas, as gophertext, plain text, or simple (X)HTML. As simple as that---basically "use the simple defaults of your Web server program and don't bother with huge management systems".

Though, some semi-modern things are good. MediaWikis, for example, while their behind-the-back workings of mulplitudes of PHP mountains, SQL databases, and recently JavaScript-infested visual editors are extremely unelegant, they do provide a consistent simple user interface, without many browser requirements, for users to distribute useful information with. Just not loads of JavaScript and margins and paddings and ads, please.

It would also be better if more people were to have personal Websites to express themselves with, rather than relying on centralized social media giants, who once again display a bunch of ads and wraps articles/"posts" at 30 columns to make people uncomfortable reading comprehensive ideas and get them inclined to write short illogical rants and personal attacks. Tuxiversity and are useful resources to get started with.

The same applies to the Internet more generally. Don't send huge, clunky HTML emails. Simple chat protocols like IRC. Whatever.