November 2020 Weblog: Weird Web, Independent Web

Chapter 5 of my series is out now, so make sure to get caught up! Plus, the weird web of the past and the independent web of the future.

Experience the web, from the beginning

I’ve just published Chapter 5 of my series for CSS Tricks, recounting the web’s history one theme at a time, moving forward from its creation. I’ll likely publish an excerpt from the latest chapter next month, but you can catch up on the first five chapters now:

And don’t forget, all of the above are available in audio and podcast format as well. Click the links at the top of each post to listen, or subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, or your podcast catcher of choice to stay up to date.

The Weird Web

I’ve been doing some research from an upcoming chapter about how web design came to be and I’ve come across some truly radical examples. I won’t be able to fit all of them into my post though, including a site called Superbad, which is abstract and bizarre enough to earn a spot on the Net.art roster. Caroline Delbert wrote an excellent piece about it last year for Popular Mechanics called “When the Web Was Weird“.

Towards an independent web

It feels simultaneously grandiose and tedious to make this point: I believe 2021 will be a great year for the Indie web. Case in point, this month  Eli Pariser published a post on Wired called To Mend a Broken Internet, Create Online Parks.” Pariser makes the case for spaces online backed by public funding, incentivized to create unity and common living rather than profit. He argues that independent spaces on the web that force users to come together (without algorithmically boosting the most wild and absurd voices from the minority) may help us bridge a widening divide among people. Tanya Basu takes on a similar movement in MIT Technology Review, known as “digital gardens,” personal domains curated by individuals using it to express themselves and catalog their interests for personal use. Digital gardens are small, managed websites imbued with the personality of their creator, a refreshing alternative to walled gardens.

I would just argue that we are already seeing spaces that are beginning to change the incentives. One only needs to look to smaller, niche independent networks like Micro.blog or Mastodon. Or to more open, humans approaches to everyday digital products, like Bookshop.org which sources books from independent bookstores, or Ampled which collectivizes monetization for musicians in a much more equitable way. If you put your ear to the ground, you can already hear the hoofbeats of the indie web. With any luck, it will be on us soon.

A cool shoe

This month’s weblog was a little long so I’ll leave you with this: Puma has a shoe inspired by Internet Explorer. (h/t @robertnyman).