The "Old" Web: What Have We Lost?

Published Feb 14, 2021

Many web users nowadays looks back on the days of Web 1.0 and cringe at the likes of Geocities and Angelfire. But there is something in those old platforms and the websites that they contained that seems to be absent from the modern web. But what exactly is it?

First, we need to compare the objectives and traits of websites then vs now.

(Shoutout to sadgrl for the inspiration for the table!)

As you can see, the old web focused more on individuals and individuality, whereas the new web is less individual and much more commercial. While I'm in no way discounting the value of sites like Twitter and Tumblr (especially the latter as it allows at least some amount of customisation in terms of user pages), the Web 1.0 style allows much more space for someone to make their online presence exactly how they want it.

However, on the modern web, nearly every page looks the same. Case in point: almost every site made with Wix/Weebly/Squarespace or any other "free website builder" service. Everything seems to be about flashy buttons, paralax backgrounds, and solid-colour backgrounds with sans serif fonts, with flashy hamburger menus and fancy (pointless) CSS animations for everything.

Additionally, most social media platforms are completely discouraging customisations. Take for example MySpace 1.0 and the older version of YouTube from 2005-2011. These had a general layout, but both (especially MySpace) let users customise their profile page so it looked how they wanted. However, on modern YouTube, as well as Facebook and Twitter, users can only change their page description, as well as an avatar and header image, which pales in comparison to the customisation of the web of old.

I could rant for ages about the new Web's limitations, but for now that'll have to wait. I may update this article with that at a later time, however!

In conclusion, Web 2.0 and 3.0 are entirely too uniform, and limit users' control over their web presence much more than is at all reasonable, and it is quite frankly sad to see how much we've lost.