Why I made this website

After many drafts, this post is ultimately a companion to one that my brother wrote: "Why island hop on the classic web?". While writing, I realized that Dan already made a lot of the same points I was trying to. It makes sense, actually, since Dan is the reason why I joined the classic web.


I want to begin with my own experiences on the web. Today, I often describe it as sleepwalking: scrolling mindlessly, looking at nothing in particular, and feeling a general malaise about what has become more or less an addiction. None of these habits are qualities that originally drew me to the web. Instead, they are quite the opposite.

When I was younger, websites and personal blogs were made by individuals who wanted to share slices of their life, interests, or hobbies. This was the pool of inspiration I dipped into when I made my own websites, full of my photography or drawings, to share with no one, really, besides my family. Yet, it felt so fulfilling to create a space I was proud of where I could share what mattered to me personally.

During the early days of social networks, I was also part of a small nature photography community that motivated me to get outside and engage with the world around me. Back then, the web was an outlet to get more involved with activities you liked to do. Now, it feels like an activity itself, only an empty one.

I recognize that some of my affection for the old web comes from childhood nostalgia. But the bleakness I feel about the web today surely cannot be explained away by rose-colored glasses. What happened?


As I was growing up, the web changed in two ways. First, space on the web rapidly became a profitable commodity, and privatization buried the "classic web": the original stronghold of personal websites that made the web open to creativity and self-expression. Second - which of course is related to the previous point - the web became a "social web".

Unfortunately, the social web evolved in the most antisocial and unnatural ways, driven by fears of being left out, obsessions over private aspects of people's lives, and addictions to always being online. Then, the commodification that leveled the classic web came for the social web, and this wave has carried us to where we are today.

I started to take steps to change my relationship with the web about a year ago. In particular, I tried to reframe my activity on the social web around my hobbies and interests again, to shake myself out of the feeling of sleepwalking that I described above. Yet, I could never get away from the same low-quality, inauthentic content that seems to always win the bid for attention. The social web ultimately selects the content you see; a secret machinery running in the background restricts what you will discover, and by extension, what you will share. When you never see authentic content anymore, you stop making it.

This exercise made me realize that I needed to fundamentally change how I interact with the web. That's when I really started to think about the classic web, which, optimistically, still exists. Because these websites are small, and owned by individuals, not corporations, they are still up and running for the low price of a few dollars a year. And without the fancy graphics, scripts, cookies, and "bloatware" running on websites today, none of them have changed much. HTML and CSS have been the web standard for as long as I've been alive.

When some giant of the social web inevitably falls, they wipe their servers and everything you ever did on there is gone forever. But the classic web is made to last. Through all these years, it has been a stronghold of a better web: a web we once knew, and strayed away from, but is still right there for us to bring back to life.


On the classic web, each website is a sandbox. When you take away the social templates that we are used to following (like ruts in a dirt road), you can express yourself how you really want - not how you're pressured to do. When you look at an empty page, you ask: What do I want to put here? The stories you share convey what is personally important to you, and they ask for more from others than a brief moment to flick past on their phone. There is an individuality that is brought forth from this exercise; it is the activity of knowing yourself.

When I was writing my first post for this website about my native plant garden, I was struck with the realization that I had shared very little of this project with my friends outside of a few photos. Think about that: I spent my whole summer working on an activity that I wrote nearly two thousand words about on my website, but I had nothing to show for it on the social networks I'm supposed to be using to share my life with others.

But how could I have shared something like that on the social web we know today? The answer is that I didn't share any of it, because the social web is no longer a medium for genuine connection and self-expression. I would guess that implicitly, many of us already know this. Yet, to confront such a massive issue, you need an alternative to share your life, because there is a human need to share.

The classic web offers a way to deliberately build habits and connections outside of the social web. It allowed me to learn more about myself than I ever did on the social web of today. I learned about how much work I put into my garden project, and how proud I am of it, from the simple exercise of writing about it in a really authentic way.

My personal view is that by sharing authentic content and supporting similar content on the classic web, I am taking a not-so-insignificant step to make a change. My hope is that other people I know will try to share their lives away from the social web, too. Maybe... you?