I just wanted to write down some notes on what I think about the current web and reason about my nostalgia goggles.
I recently deployed a personal project on mastonews.com, a website that creates an RSS feed from the verified websites of the people you follow on Mastodon (the defederated Twitter/X alternative). a "verified website" is a website that uses the rel=me HTML attribute to indicate that the website owner is the same as the Mastodon account, basically a nifty semantic way to say on Mastodon "hey this is my website". I mostly made this app for me, but reasoned more people that are less tech savvy would find it useful too, so I made it a WebApp.
I had the idea for the app after checking some of the profiles of users I follow on Mastodon, and noticed some of the had some quirky and cool little websites - stuff that I'd totally miss otherwise, since we're living on a hellscape of SEO-optimization sites and AI generated content.
I think there are two things that affect how I reminisce on the "old" web:
Not to say social media wasn't an improvement in everyone's life, but depending on social media means we did lost content that social media doesn't support. When you build a website or a blog, there is an identity you have to build in it that doesn't happen with the same complexity on e.g. Facebook, and the kind of content you build is much more free in shape and form. Internet was quirker and weirder, and that's the 'fun' I reminisce about it (definetely not the Flash ads boom though).
The increasing popularity of a federated web (and by extension the Semantic Web, or the real Web 3.0) seems like an opportunity to hack our way out of SEO's and Google search engine enshittification to give Web visibility back to individuals. I want more weird and quirky websites, not just for the joy of finding cool websites, but because I want the joy of platonically connecting to new individuals I can trust.
And even if are past the point of understanding how dangerous a platonic social connection can be, a self-aware platonic connection is much healthier than the environment we are creating ourselves with social media and SEO-driven search engines.
Having said(written) that, my own personal next steps is to make my own website weirder.