I have been maintaining websites on and off for several years, starting at the web’s infancy in the mid-1990s. In recent years, these websites disappeared because of a variety of reasons, sometimes because I lost interest, sometimes because hosting providers disappeared, often because I lost data. For a while, I worked as an SEO consultant. Eventually, I lost interest in webmastering and writing - stuff became too complicated to “look good” - a metric that at some point in time was important to me. Around the same time, we saw the creation of the framework, often masqueraded as “content management systems”, which - badly designed - became the major way to hand control of your server to some east-european hacker collective. I now see how misguided this overreliance on graphics, on clicks and on the flashy side of the net is.

The internet has changed since I got introduced to it a quarter of a century ago. Increasingly, information gets locked into gated communities and into walled gardens, it got spammed to death with ads and cookie warnings and self-playing videos … and it got incredibly hard to find the strange, the weird, the interesting stuff. Search engines rose to power, only to slowly get played by marketers until they became useless, or worse: instruments for political influencing. What was once the cypherpunk equivalent to a Burning Man festival became just another mall, and just like malls, it became bland and is on the verge of dying.

This trend needs to be stopped.

Links should again be shared between site owners on a basis of trust and mutual interests. Links are essentially an endorsement of another website, and a recommondation to viewers.

Websites should again be accessible, and provide visitors and readers with interesting, if sometimes quirky content instead of marketing. I want to scream when I accidentally get redirected to some clickbait article that happens to be a forty picture gallery with one sentence tucked below each picture - requiring another click and thus another page impression to go on, reloading mebibytes upon mebibytes of data every single time.

Without marketing, there is no more need for user tracking - websites should no longer engage in espionage against their users. This means that we should not use third-party cookies, we should not use graphics hosted on another server, we should limit external includes to our pages, and we should have a good, hard look at the necessity of keeping logfiles.

Reality check

I realize that I can only give a small contribution for the betterment of the net. I also realize that we cannot banish the marketers, the mall-owners, the influencers. But we can reestablish a community, in the sense of a village, not in the sense of the so-called “social” networks of today.

We will not reach everyone. Some people are comfortable in their bubbles. Some people have no interest in writing, or reading. Some people prefer information bit-sized.

That’s OK.

But for those of us who want a vibrant web, one where ideas once again are shared freely, a web of learning and discussion, these people need to get a community in the original sense of the word, running again - and they do that by participating. Create your own personal pages again. Link to interesting content. Support each other (remember Webrings?). Together, we can make the web a better place for everyone.