Why Web 1.0 Needs to Make a Comeback

Why Web 1.0 Needs to Make a ComebackI’m quite young — 18 years old, but still quite young. Nevertheless, I was also introduced to the Internet and the Web at a very early age, so I can personally say I have grown up alongside it all.

I remember way back when there was no Twitter or Facebook or even Wikipedia. Google was not the mainstream search engine (when I began using the Web, Yahoo! dominated every area of the Web you might have looked). I remember our family initially subscribing through NetZero dial-up (the company still offers it today, which is a scary thing to think about), and moving on to SBC DSL when we started seriously using the Internet (which, for the most part, meant my dad needed it for work).

Anyways, back then when you wanted to look something up, you typed a query into Yahoo! or AOL, then scrolled through the listing to try to find what you were looking for. Yes, I actually remember scrolling through multiple sites to find what I needed to know, whereas nowadays, Wikipedia articles are typically the top results for most simple queries.

The websites back then were hardly as stylish as the Web is today. CSS barely had any real adoption; for the most part, Web pages were built entirely out of raw HTML. I remember operating my own GeoCities site, dabbling in the magic that was hypertext markup. I had not realized it then, but the majority of the Web was pretty much as unglamorous as my GeoCities site was.

Enter Web 2.0. With it, the Web evolved from static Web pages to dynamic, stylish, and interactive streams of content. That is, not only was CSS and JavaScript being used more widely to make websites more appealing, but webmasters (or rather, content producers as they were) enabled guests to their websites to provide feedback. Services began to pop up that allowed people to share and access the latest news and content quickly and easily (via methods like RSS). The Web began morphing into its current form.

But there is a problem with the state of the Web as it is today. When people produce content on services like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, it is located only on the servers of Twitter, Facebook, and Google. WordPress-hosted blogs store all their content on the WordPress servers. Flickr photos are stored on servers operated by Yahoo! The people creating the content aren’t actually the ones serving it.

But all of these services are doing content producers a favor, right? They offer to host all of your wonderful content for what appears to be absolutely free on your part. But is it really free?

In reality, all of these services make money from your content. Either they serve advertisements next door to your content or they are targeting advertisements towards you, specifically, depending on whatever it is that you are sounding off about on these services.

And what’s more, what would happen if, all of a sudden, these services just ceased to exist? Where would all your content go? Google allows you to download most of your data, but it obviously has to still be online to do that. What if these companies go bankrupt, are subjected to a malicious hack, or become overrun by a software malfunction? All of your content, which you might have spent years pouring yourself into, could be gone in an instant.

Back up your data? Sure, it’s a nice thought. But no one really backs up the data they care about in the end.

That is why, friends, I want Web 1.0 to make a comeback. I want users to take back control of the data they are producing. It’s your content, after all, and you should be able to call first dibs on being able to gain from it.

Services like Twitter and Flickr don’t have to go away, though. Rather than being the means through which you produce and distribute your content, these services should simply assist you in formatting and relaying your content to a broader audience.

Am I suggesting that every person who wants to produce content as simple as a 140-character status update set up a Web server in their own home? Perhaps I am. Does that sound like a step backwards? It might to the few who have become reliant on the services that dominate the Web today, who see no other alternative nor are ambitious enough to give something else a try. Maybe it could be as simple as having your own slice of the cloud, where you let a service merely provide the pipe through which your content makes its way to the rest of the world.

My point is, I believe we are headed in an awkward direction for the Web. Unless something is done about it, we might just get stuck with a few dominating corporations that exist solely to monetize and monopolize your creative expression and intelligent thought on the Web.

CC licensed Flickr photo by believekevin

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  • http://thinkboxly.wordpress.com/ LukeLC

    Glad to see I’m not the only one starting to feel like the ‘new’ web is taking us in the wrong direction. I just have to wonder…while we can dig up the remains of past civilizations and find their artwork, currency, and such, what will there be from what’s all around us right now for people to find 1,000 years from now? All of our pictures, literature, currency, and more could be wiped out beyond recovery, and thanks to environmentalists pushing everything to be biodegradable, half of what exists in the physical world would be gone before long, too. We could very well be creating for ourselves the forgotten generation, and the web–as much as I love it–very well might be the biggest contributing factor to that. I won’t stop using technology because of any of this, I just have to wonder…

  • http://FireYourBossProject.ORG/blog Sandor Benko

    Yes I agree. Self-hosted blog and other content is the way to go. Yes you’ll still have to use Youtube and social media sites, but you have backups, right? ;)

  • EmmaGeraln

    I agree in part, but it’s these very services that have enabled so many people to create content freely. I could build a web server if I had too (eventually)… but my mum?… no way…

    The internet may not be the geeks utopia it was in the early days, but it is at least open to everybody, regardless of technical ability and interest.

    • Kris

      I agree. Like Eddie, I’ve grown up with Web 1.0 and while I do miss the good ol’ days this web 2.0 is the revolution that turns geeky pursuits into relevant tools for common people.

      I would argue the real problem is a lack of common sense in its particular usage. People become dependent on it, live on it, dwell within it, and give up their imagination and even their privacy in the name of social networking. The Internet was designed as a public library for information, and while we’ve made it into the most convenient and friendly library ever (where anyone can contribute, share and take information from pretty boxes with rounded corners), people seem to forget that “the Internet,” as they know it, is indeed just a really big public library.

  • imercury

    I would just like the pages to load easily like they used to.

  • Lunisce

    This is a weak argument.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to back up their own data and be in full awareness of what may or may not happen to THEIR own data.  Using these services is a convenience, like everything else, a convenience that comes with risks.  It’s up to the user to be fully aware of these risks and be fully prepared for all possible outcomes.

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    I still have control of my stuff. I’ve yet to fully embrace web 2-3 and so forth. I use it sure. We all do. But my main place to put stuff is my own website, which I’ve had for a good 12 years, though it’s moved to different hosts many times, and doesn’t get as many views as deviantart / facebook / youtube, exc. It’s still “my domain” as it was intended to be. Being a “webmaster” may not be a cool title anymore, but I can safely say I still am one. The fact it’s moved from host to host assures it will always exist, because I have local copies I can re upload to a new host if the old one kicks the bucket. Same domain, same URL, exc. :)

    • http://decafbad.com/ Les Orchard

      What happens when Dropbox goes away? You might have your own domain – but if you redirect to dropbox.com, all your URLs are on their domain.

  • http://twitter.com/djmoore711 D. J.

    Sadly, you’ve always had to rely on someone.  If you host your own server (if your ISP allows and you have the bandwidth) then you are reliant on your ISP.  If you use a hosting service, then you are reliant upon them.  Web 1.0 wouldn’t make us any less reliant on someone.  You have to trust someone, and that someone always has the potential to go out of business.

    • http://decafbad.com/ Les Orchard

      The big difference, though, is who’s paying?

      If you’re paying to have your content hosted, then you’re how the host makes money.
      If access to you and your content is what the host is selling, then the host makes money by selling you.

      In which case are yours and the host’s interests more aligned?

      This isn’t about being 100% self-reliant or anything, it’s about having control over your stuff. Paying for hosting (which is *super* cheap these days), versus being the product is the key.

  • http://decafbad.com/ Les Orchard

    It’s not about backups. To where would you restore those backups?

    I mean, sure, make sure you have copies of the things you care about. But, if what you care about is long term availability of your content and social connections… just making backups doesn’t really help.

  • parkerj

    I agree. With lots of opensource software out there, you can definitely achieve your own personal Twitter, Dropbox, etc and invite your friends and family to participate in what you are posting. And since VPS is fairly cheap, it wouldn’t hurt your pocket. More and more I am moving away from these applications and hosting my own.

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    Well that’s why you keep backups like I explained. Everything you put online, should also be kept organized locally. If it does go away, get a real host and upload to it. :)

    • http://decafbad.com/ Les Orchard

      Yeah, but the web is about links. Doesn’t matter if you have your own domain and backups, if all your original URLs start with dropbox.com

  • Jake

    Totally agree with you, nothing more to be said.

  • Palesa Floret

    How about pages that don’t look sleek and boring. Myspace, youtube etc. I’m looking at you. I remember no matter how crazy and loading crazy some were it was nice to see a page that could be customized. Youtube channel be pink, purple or what have you. Now it jus looks eh.

    I still remember having to upload Quicktime video files from your own computer vs. today and uploading on YT etc.