A rallying cry for the Weird Wild Web
September 25, 2015
September 25, 2015
This year, 2015, marked the 20th anniversary of the first time I stuck some HTML on a server and put it out for the world to see. (Sorry about that one, world.)
Twenty years! Twenty years is a long time to do anything, especially in tech. Given how fast things churn, it’s rather unbelievable that I’m still gainfully employed to write HTML for anything at all in 2015.
I’ve been reflecting on this recently, as the web’s future keeps sounding rather bleak. It seems that nary a week passes without someone predicting the end of the open web as we know it. Perhaps understandably so — at a glance, the web appears to be suffering a death by a thousand cuts.
Let’s recap a few of the most common arguments for why the web is totally screwed.
Alright, so wow. That all sounds pretty terrible, doesn’t it?
A lot of those things are true. The times are certainly changing, as they always do. We web folk should keep thinking seriously about this, lest we become the old crusty janitors left to turn out the lights.
But hold on. Forget about all those problems for a moment, foreboding as they may seem. Is there anything good happening now? How about:
So where does that leave us?
First of all, let’s chill out for a minute. Maybe the naysayers are right and we’re all doomed, but the web is still alive and kicking right now.
Secondly, let’s reflect on our missteps and start walking back the most egregious abuses of slick tech and bad UX we’ve willingly let slide the past few years. Ad blocking on iOS is forcing the issue — but it’s rather sad that we let it be forced in the first place.
Twenty years ago the web was super weird. No one had any clue what this thing was about or how it worked, so we were trying everything. Sites were badly organized, ugly, strange. Some were loosely organized communities. Some were just text. Even the best produced sites had the feeling of being held together by duct tape and straws.
Now to be clear, I’m not nostalgic for that time at all. Making websites sucked. Nothing worked well. The tech was painfully slow and limiting in every imaginable dimension. I don’t want to go back.
But the one thing the web had then, and which it has lost a lot since, was the sense of rampant experimentation. The feeling that it was fine not to have everything figured out or perfectly polished before letting people see it. That we were all in this bizarre human experiment together.
If we want the web to keep thriving, we have to start letting ourselves experiment (and fail) more. The web still has a low barrier to entry and the biggest possible audience. That’s an incredible thing.
So c’mon everybody. Let’s mess this place up again! Get weird. It’ll be better for it.
This was originally posted on Signal vs. Noise.
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