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I’m returning to the Web’s good old days

In the early days of the Web, there were only 12 pages on it.
Well, there appeared to be hundreds, even thousands, of pages on the Web, but only 12 of them actually had any real content. The rest of them were pages coded by college students, who were the only people who had time to learn HTML (they made time by signing up only for classes that met in computer labs and worked on their homepages during lecture). Their pages consisted entirely of their resume, a bunch of animated GIFs, links to however many of the 12 pages they’d discovered, and links to all their friends.

Then the college students flunked out because they didn’t pay attention in class–the professors handed them finals, and they thought it was scrap paper meant to be used to sketch out the next week’s big design–and two years later, after the school’s bureaucracy figured out they were no longer students and kicked them out, they went and got jobs.

Somehow they convinced their new employers that if they went and spent thousands and thousands of dollars on equipment and put their companies online, they’d make lots of money. The result of that convincing was the dot-com boom. The biggest difference for the students was that now they got paid a fortune to sit in the back of a cubicle programming Web pages that contained a lot of animated GIFs (provided by advertisers, rather than stolen from another Web page), and, in a novel bit of creativity, these animated GIFs themselves linked to one of the 12 pages on the Web that contained real content.

Well, after a series of IPOs that would have created hundreds of thousands of new millionaires had they not been forbidden by law from selling their stock certificates, someone finally remembered how to read a balance sheet and found that the total amount of money generated by the dotcom boom was four-fifty. Rubles. Investors panicked and sold off all their stock. Companies got investigated for fraud and the college students got laid off. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?) Once again, they hung around for a couple of years until the bloated bureaucracy figured out they didn’t work there anymore and kicked them out.

The upside of all of this is that the Web isn’t as commercial now as it was a few years ago. The downside is that the commercials are way more annoying than ever.

Meanwhile, those college students are still working on their personal pages, most of which now end in .com or .net or .org and they don’t have squiggly lines in them anymore. Now they annoy the 12 Web sites that still produce original content by deep-linking their stories on blogs and adding their own comments.

Meet the new Internet: Same as the old Internet.

So in that grand tradition, since I haven’t had an original thought all day and have absolutely nothing meaningful to say tonight, I’ll provide a couple of links to stories I found and add some worthless commentary to it. And someone will think it’s great and spectacular and declare me a visionary and I’ll start a new software company.

Or something.

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2 thoughts on “I’m returning to the Web’s good old days”

  1. Wonderfully circular writing! Or, is it self-referential? Both? Well, either way, I like the point; even though I don’t agree with it. It’s a true fiction–a false exaggeration that highlights a truth…

  2. Thanks.

    You’re right, it’s just pure satire, making fun of myself for posting a bunch of links Friday instead of anything original. Then it grew out of control.

    And you’re right, the only thing in there that’s really true is that the Web of today isn’t much different from the Web of 1994. It looks prettier, but the content’s pretty much the same.

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