The Future is Here!

By Shamus
on Jan 11, 2015
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

You know what’s a great way to celebrate the new year? By looking back on the past and laughing at it with the feeling of smug superiority. With that in mind, I’ve gotten some wonderful full-color laminated user guides for the Netscape-driven internet of 1997. It’s like looking at the internet of some alien species. A species with impeccable spellingby the standards of Earth 2015 but ghastly taste in web design.

These have copyrights stamped in the corner and even have an ISBN number. This raises some interesting questions about the speed of copyright decay in this new millennium. As a technical guide, these things are perfectly worthless. Everything that isn’t obvious is completely obsolete. This is like the driver’s manual for a Ford Model S. The only value is historical, because anyone still using one is obviously a weirdo hobbyist already knows how it works.

Oh yeah. ANIMATED gifs. Welcome to the future, kiddos.
Click for ginormous view.

I will say this about 1997: At least they realized how complicated and confusing the internet can be. Far too many people are dropped in front of a web browser these days and left to figure things out for themselves. And they do. They figure out how to Google their Facebooks and email their Pinterests. But they are never taught how to detect scams, spot dodgy URLs, deal with malware, or update their machine. This isn’t just dusty old folks, either. A whole generation of kids has learned to reflexively click on horrible back-alley sites like Adf.ly, which overwhelm the user with walls of confusing ads all labeled “Download Now”.

(This is a massive downside to Minecraft. For about two solid years the mod scene was a complete mess, and I really wish something could have been done. Young people+frequent indiscriminate downloading=massive security risk.)

In the old days the ignorant were mostly a danger to themselves, but now their machines end up being assimilated into massive botnets capable of staging attacks that harm all of us.

And the first step of educating the public isn’t just making good documentation, it’s realizing that documentation is needed in the first place. We’re all so used to the internet by now that we often forget how deep these systems are.

Newsgroups? Really? I thought that by 1997 those things were basically ruined by porn and spam.
Newsgroups? Really? I thought that by 1997 those things were basically ruined by porn and spam.

It was a strange world in 1997. I think we’ve got better aesthetics now, but a lot of the old problems remain. Flashing banner ads have been replaced with auto-play videos. Domain squatting has been replaced with patent trolling. Email spam is down, but comment spam is way up. And interstitial webpages have been replaced with… Uh. Actually, I guess we still have those. For some reason.

What I think is strange is that in 1997, corporate websites were generally safe and clean and easy to use, while the dark alleys of the net were where you ran into walls of banner ads and popup windows. This is nearly inverted today. If you want something really cluttered and advertising-heavy, you need to look at corporate news sites, because most blogs and hobby sites are relatively light and clean.

It’s a mad world. I wonder what it will look like in another 18 years.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] by the standards of Earth 2015


A Hundred!2018There are 138 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. kunedog says:

    The animated gif is a testament to the importance of compatibility and adoption for a file format. It sucks at compression and quality, and doesn’t support any sound whatsoever.

    How many expert committees and standards organizations and patent wars have revolved around implementing and promoting dozens of “superior” video formats (including codecs and containers and server/client software)? Despite all that effort and conflict, the animated gif reigned supreme as THE most widely used video format of the internet, at least until the rise of Youtube (and it’s arguably still competitive today). Because it works absolutely everywhere, since the 90s.

  2. ET says:

    It’s not just ‘the internet’ that we’re failing at teaching people. Computer use in general is something that people are left to learn by themselves. And instead of making computer stuff easier to learn, companies just try to remove the need to learn. Great example: files generally get saved, downloaded, etc, to the correct default places. e.g. Documents in /Documents, and the programs generally are smart enough to look in the default places and find everything. Everything works great, except without having learned what files and folders are, the user now has a giant folder full of 100s of unrelated documents, all completely unorganized.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I don’t know if this is an issue of availability of teaching, but a matter of user will. Personally, when I have some task I need done, I don’t want to go to a class or research the entire internet so I can properly use the relevant tool. I want to finish my task and go on with life.

      Now, I’ve gotten *really good* at figuring stuff out without an instruction manual, to the point where “the software does it all for you” causes me many more minutes of cursing software design than anything else. However, that skill only came from many years of software development, experience, and trial and error. I have no idea how people who aren’t passionate about computers manage as much as they do.

      Also, this seems relevant

      • ET says:

        “I don’t want to go to a class or research the entire internet”

        That’s what I mean by making things easier to learn. Currently, you need to go read some boring-ass book, or spend hours on the internet, to learn how to do things. Most computer programs however, could be made much simpler, without losing functionality. A lot of this comes down to shitty UI elements, or non-uniformity, which makes these programs harder to learn than they ought to be.

        • Abnaxis says:

          I’ll grant that improvements in UI design can help marginally improve the problem, but there is no set of UI design principles or documentation that will remotely come close to completely solving it.

          That’s because it’s not just about learning how computers work, it’s about learning how to do specifically what I want to do with computers while wasting as little time possible learning knowledge I don’t need.

          Let’s say I, a hypothetical PC novice, want to tell the computer to remind me to do something later. There are countless pieces of software to do this for me, both that I can download or even built into my operating system. All I need to do is find one of these programs, set it up with all the relevant information, filter through all the extraneous functionality (it probably has synchronization functionality, address books, social media stuff, etc. etc.), and finally set up my reminder and hope I did it right.

          Or, I could create a text document on my desktop and put my reminder in the file name (I have seem people do this). It’s a horrible solution, but hypothetically I understand it and I can get on with life without all that work.

          No matter what you do, there will always be the initial hurdle required to properly learn how to do something right, that the end-user is responsible for. UI improvements might lower the bar, but the hurdle is never going to go away.

        • Kylroy says:

          Making it easier would make more people learn it, but think about this:

          How much effort do you want to put into learning about your car? Not just driving it around, but routine maintenance and how it’s systems works and how to repair it on your own. Christ, most Americans can’t even drive stick. People want the things they use to work, and aren’t interested in a thorough education on how it happens. I find computer folks tend to act like they’re the secret masters of the universe while everyone else is stumbling around blind, when really they’re just the masters of one *aspect* of the universe, same as every other profession (car mechanics, lawyers, shipping, etc).

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            Most people what that. But that’s a thing that scales with ubiquity rather than is an absolute rule. 80 years ago, owning an automobile was an interest all on its own, everybody that owned one knew a lot about the care and upkeep, even just operating the thing (“motoring”) was seen as an activity rather than a mere means to getting from A to B. Boating on the other hand, due to its lack of ubiquity, still has most of that aspect. People take boats out to go nowhere and don’t think much of it. Most owners of boats know a fair amount about the systems they’re operating, to the point where know-nothing owners still elicit comment and some level of scorn.

        • Felblood says:

          So, there needs to be a wiki about basic internet use and online safety?

          That sounds like a tedious slog to administer.

    • Timelady says:

      Not to mention occasionally really, really bad at letting people know that they’ve just saved/downloaded said file to the computer. I work at a library with a bank of public computers, and I swear that one of the most common questions I get is “Why didn’t my document get sent to the printer?” Answer: Because you were just looking at a preview and clicking on the button downloaded it as a .pdf to the computer instead. Not to mention printing out an email (for whatever reason; people genuinely have them) a lot of the time can involve eschewing the browser’s print function, finding a button with three dots or a gear or whatever, and using the drop down menu under that.

      It really is amazing working with people with little to no computer experience sometimes. Things that seem obvious or simple just…aren’t. Mostly because they need a frame of reference that the person just doesn’t have.

    • Corpital says:

      I’m glad I won’t be there when we hit the dystopian future were everything is built by machines that are built by machines that are built by machines etc. and nobody know how anything works, except maybe a few techmages who can at best take a few vage guesses on how to fix something broken.

    • silver Harloe says:

      In my experience, (many but not all) people have already decided that computers are too hard for them and won’t pay attention to any instruction, no matter how “simple” it is – anything that uses a “jargon” word like file or directory or disk is *instantly* ignored as being too complex to read, even if it’s something they could understand if they just read the words in front of them. It’s not intellectual laziness or stupidity, per se, either: it’s a natural tendency people have to focus their minds on things that interest them. They use computers because they have to, and then want to get back to their carpentry or whatever, and they’ll read for days about their new lathe but not even a sentence on their screen suggesting anything about their computer’s usage because “computers are hard.”
      We won’t solve it until we have a generation or two behind us and computers are too ubiquitous to be hard. But we’re never afforded that kind of time before the next generation of innovation comes along, so it’ll be a long, long time before this problem goes away, I fear.

    • MrGuy says:

      Intuitive UI’s and sensible defaults are definitely great for making things easy to use. Apple’s recent dominance on several fronts is predicated on them being better at this (or, at least, having recently been better at this) than their major competitors – most things “just work” the way you’d expect them to.

      But intuitive design is actually a contributor to the problem Shamus points out about malware. Because if people get complacent with “I expect things to do what I expect,” then they’re trained that a button only pops up when it’s supposed to, or that following a link that LOOKS like it points to a known place actually WILL point to that known place. When people get used to “the machine behaves sensibly,” they have trouble being suspicious of it.

      Teaching people security is HARD, primarily because you can only teach it in context. Imagine someone who’s never seen a web browser before. You can’t start teaching them by teaching them to always look for https, or the “encryption on” marker, or the actual URL of a link on the browser chrome, when they don’t understand how a link works. You can’t teach them why they should be suspicious of adf.ly and not of t.co (or, more correctly, why you should think hard about both), when they don’t know what a web page is or how a URL works. You can’t know what a suspicious e-mail attachment looks like if you’ve never seen an attachment. Until you get a sense of the general etiquette around e-mail communication until you’ve experienced it, and why (for example) you actually SHOULDN’T reply to an e-mail sent to the “wrong” name with “Excuse me, I believe you’ve misaddressed this!” You can only really know what looks suspicious when you know what “right” looks like. And you really only get experience by trying things and (almost certainly) doing some things wrong.

      The September That Never Ended is a bigger problem than it ever was. Because now, instead of ticking a few people off while you learn the rules, you’ve most likely become part of a global botnet permanently before you learn the rules.

    • Zagzag says:

      Well, in the UK since at least the late 90s there’s been fairly comprehensive training to use computers. We started off with the basics, such as how to use a word processor (with a specially designed for children suite of programs to make it easier to pick up) along with learning the necessary abilities on how to save/load, organise files, etc. Our IT classes were overwhelmingly based on making sure that we had the necessary basic skills to use computers and learn how to do new things with them for the rest of our lives, we eventually moved on to how to use the internet and moved up to using real world software over time.

      The main problem was that the 7 year olds in the class were often better at computers than the teachers, some of whom were probably learning just as much from the classes as we were.

      The one thing they didn’t teach us which I remember my parents considering a major failure was how to touch type. Everyone was left to type however they wanted as long as it worked for them (which it usually didn’t). It wasn’t until many years later when I started playing MMOs that I really became fully competent at touch typing.

      • Trix2000 says:

        I know we had some typing lessons and sessions in the computer lab 15-18 years ago when I was in grade school. I don’t know how prevalent it was anywhere else, but we got a decent basis from those sessions to work off of considering how long ago it was.

        I wonder if they still do that…

      • WJS says:

        Seriously? That whole “kids are digital natives” bollocks? knowing how to use Facebook != knowing how to use a computer. Nor is knowing MS Office, for that matter, which is what I remember being taught. I’m pretty sure I had to learn everything about actually managing a computer by myself, and from what I’ve heard, this is pretty much the case everywhere (or was until very recently, anyway). Hell, one of my courses in an Engineering masters program was fairly basic Excel usage. Because apparently having actual requirements to a course is too hard or something?

  3. Angie says:

    It hasn’t gotten much better since 1997. Remember this from about five years ago?

    http://readwrite.com/2010/02/10/facebook_wants_to_be_your_one_true_login

    This web site posted an article about Facebook with “login” in the title, and then found out how many thousands (and thousands and thousands) of Facebook users apparently navigated to Facebook every day by typing “Facebook login” into Google and then clicking on the first result. The comments are different now (they kept going for an amazingly long time) but I remember hundreds of comments saying essentially, “Facebook changed again! I hate the new look! Give me back my old login page!”

    They were too ignorant to recognize that they were NOT on Facebook. Or to know what a bookmark was, apparently. They had no idea what a URL was; that line of code at the top of their browser was confusing so they ignored it.

    Back in the late 80s, Prodigy drew in many thousands of people who’d never been online before, many of whom had only recently bought their first computer. (Anyone else remember being unable to go into even the grocery store without tripping over a stack of Prodigy sign-up kits?) Prodigy was set up so that everything was graphic and clickable, back when the internet was still 99.9% command line driven. So every few months, when Prodigy did something else stupid and drove away some large chunk of their customers, a bunch of them ended up on GEnie, where I was hanging out at the time. It was like an attacking horde of shambling zombie kindergarteners — they all meant well, but knew nothing about how anything worked. Most of the bulletin board areas on GEnie had some kind of “Ex-Prodigy? Get Help Here!” type of topic prominently displayed. A bunch of us spent a good chunk of our online time leading them around by the hand, like kindergarten teachers trying to organize the horde into a safe and educational field trip.

    I think that until Using The Internet is a foundational subject in the public school curriculum (preferably starting in Kindergarten) this sort of thing is going to happen regularly. Too many people are either intimidated or just too impatient to learn how the internet works. If they figure out that Step A, Step B, Step C does what they want, they’ll do that forever no matter how ridiculous a back-alley path it might be, or how badly it goes wrong if some popular web site puts up a post that looks like their favorite path to Facebook.

    Angie

    • Ross Weseloh says:

      They had no idea what a URL was; that line of code at the top of their browser was confusing so they ignored it.

      You don’t even want to know how many people I run into each day that are like this. Trying to support one of my customers over the phone, and tell them to go to our website to download one of our recommended tools? Here’s a common exchange:

      Me: Alright, now type in (our URL) and press enter to go to our website.
      Them: OK
      …a minute passes…
      Me: OK, are you at our site? It should have a big picture of our store right on the front page.
      Them: I’m at the goobles/bing page. It says (business name). Do I click on (city name)?
      Me: ……….did you type it into the bar at the very top of the screen?

      And so on. Even better if, while inadvertently searching for our site rather than navigating to it, they mistype something.

      • Kylroy says:

        I deal with medical professionals accessing a specific website in my day job. Less than half of them can name the *browser* they are using to access the internet every day without help.

        People, in the main, do not learn what they do not have to, no matter how obvious it is to those of us who do, in fact, have to.

        • Abnaxis says:

          Uff, my wife works doing statistics for medical research professionals (the ones working on new cures and treatments for stuff), and she spends an inordinate amount of time teaching them basic excel functions (i.e. sorting) so she can get the data from them in a reasonable state.

          I mean, I get that being a doctor doesn’t make you savvy, but you’d think researchers might actually learn something about working with computer data…

      • Abnaxis says:

        Part of the problem, I think, is that the address bar defaults to using a search engine any time the address typed-in doesn’t resolve. I can understand the design choice–with it this way, you don’t have people getting as frustrated when they don’t get what they want for using the software wrong–but I don’t understand why it’s so hard to put up a page that says “you’re doing it wrong, that’s not how urls work.”

        That’s what I remember happening before the current system, except the page was so full of jargon nobody probably understood, which is at least as bad…

        • Kylroy says:

          Answered your own question.

          The time necessary to explain URLs to everyone (frequently individually) was greater than the time needed to just plug a search engine in the URL field.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Plus the users that know the difference actually appreciate having a single place where they have t type everything.Being able to quickly jump from tab to tab and search in one while going to a specific place in another is a great time saver.

        • Nicholas Hayes says:

          Not to mention the problem that there are actually surprisingly few strings that are NOT technically valid URL syntax, assuming your browser will let you skip the http:// from the front.

      • HiEv says:

        Ugh, yes. Not to mention all of the people who insist on adding “www.” to the front of every URL, or put in every site as “.com”, even when you explicitly tell them to not do that.

      • Purple Library Guy says:

        I wonder if the whole “url” problem would be any better if we’d ended up calling it the “address” instead.

    • hborrgg says:

      I’m afraid I still navigate to 95% of sites this way. I’ll type in “tw” into the url bar and the top result will be something like “google results, twentey siderd” and at that point it’s just click-click and I’m there. It feels way easier and quicker than mucking about in the bookmarks list.

      • Ivan says:

        yeah, definitely, though google chrome has like your 8 most visited sites show up on your homepage your homepage, if google is set as your homepage, and that’s even better. Though I definitely let it auto-fill web-addresses for other things outside of that top 8.

        • Ross Weseloh says:

          The URL autocomplete actually messes me up more often than not…I like to search Wikipedia by typing wikipedia and pressing tab, but somehow half the time my autocomplete list gets screwed up and instead of bringing up the “search site” box, it pops in (insert random thing I viewed on wikipedia several months ago), and makes it a pain.

          I still try every time, though.

      • ET says:

        Firefox and Chrome will both search through your bookmarks when you start typing. So, you get to Shamus’ site the first time, bookmark it once, then whenever you start typing ‘tw’, Twenty Sided shows up in the top of the list, since it’s bookmarked. Even fewer clicks than going through an online search-engine. :)

      • Tom says:

        Dude, bookmarks aren’t slow! At least, not if you organise them. Do you, perchance, have just one huge list of bookmarks, in the order they were first added, with no hierarchical subfolders? :-P

        Maybe I’m too old fashioned in favouring that sort of thing. The Gigantic Randomised List does seem to have become the dominant paradigm in interface design now, as a side effect of the ascendance of touchscreen devices, exemplified by Microsoft’s abandonment of the traditional start menu for Windows 8, in favour of a messy pile o’ buttons that can be whittled down by typing in a few characters of the name of the one you want – which,now that I think about it, is exactly the way you’ve been describing using your browser! I wonder if this is conscious mimicry of browser use on the part of MS…

        • ET says:

          Organized bookmarks FTW! :D

        • Felblood says:

          “Slow” is a relative term.

          With my job, I can find myself needing to open several new tabs and Google something different in each of them, in the space of a few seconds.

          Under those constraints, anything slower than opening a new tab and jamming search terms into the address bar (without even needing to wait for a search engine page to load) is too “slow.”

          • Trix2000 says:

            This is why I like the shortcut/bookmark bar – I just throw commonly used sites there, and one click (or right click -> to new tab) brings me to the page.

            I pretty much have all of my bookmarks in there (usually in category folders).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Or to know what a bookmark was, apparently.”

      And the worst thing about it:Because bookmarks arent used by most people,when opera got its (crappy) redesign,they decided to completely leave out the bookmarks.Same reason why theyve removed a bunch of really useful functions(like automatic reload).

    • Purple Library Guy says:

      My behaviour is actually almost an inverted version of this. I regularly navigate to sites I have bookmarked and go to all the time, by going to the url bar and typing in the first letter or two of their url and using the suggested autocompletion. I don’t remember ever consciously deciding to start doing this. When I think about it, it seems silly (like, what did I bookmark them for?), but it only takes a keystroke or two so . . .

  4. MichaelG says:

    I’m surprised you think email spam is decreasing. My addresses have been harvested off my domain name registrations (I know this because they are the admin contact addresses), and I get upwards of 300 messages a day. A huge nuisance! Also, some bots apparently like to use my domain names as their return addresses, so I’m also getting mail system “cannot deliver” errors for mail I never sent. Sigh.

    And as for usability, I’ve been using my Android tablet more lately, reading in bed when I don’t feel well. The Chrome browser is just infuriating. Between the text reformatting constantly with new ads, scrolling, page zooming and links, there’s no where safe to touch on the damn page while I am reading. And some sites auto-refresh, so that the thing starts to reload and twitch some more every minute or so. Gah!

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      So much of spam filtering is completely automatable now that it SEEMS like there’s a lot less. There are still spammers out there trying to deliver spam with return address domains that don’t exist, let alone have functional mail servers.

  5. Corpital says:

    The Tips for Newsgroup Novices seem surprisingly blunt. Refreshingly so, even.

  6. Zukhramm says:

    The internet is terrible these days. I couple of years ago I was hopeful that the increasing number of smartphones would reduce them amount of crap on websites but instead we got mobile versions of websites, sometimes with significantly different URLs and lesser functionality, and worst is those that keep redirecting you to them no matter what. The worst things is that nowadays even the mobile versions load slowly.

    Also someone somewhere decided pages were evil so now we see websites that load in stuff as you scroll down meaning there’s no way to quickly go to a specific point and if you click a link and then go back you have no way of getting to the same point but scrolling down and down and down again.

    And don’t get me started on sites that use non-standard scrolling instead of normal scroll bars…

    • Alex says:

      I hate that. I’ve completely given up on Wizards of the Coast’s official forums after one too many attempts to hammer it into Web 2.0 rubbish. Core functionality of the Gatherer system hasn’t worked in over six months, but at least the forums are awful.

      Anyone who tries to make a forum and doesn’t use phpBB or VBulletin needs to just put the keyboard down and step away from the internet.

    • I still don’t get why the site design that consists of a monitor-filling image and headline is at the top, requiring one to scroll a few miles down to get to any actual text. I’d love to see who they tested that with, because a lot of “magazine” sites are using it now and I’d love to know who I need to loathe for creating the templates.

      • Cuthalion says:

        Ugh. Agreed.

      • CJ Kerr says:

        You said the word yourself – “magazine”.

        That’s exactly what this layout is supposed to evoke – the feeling of reading a magazine and turning to a big double spread with the headline across both pages and maybe one paragraph of text in the bottom right.

        For certain kinds of content (photography blogs, for instance) it works quite nicely, but it’s often an enormous waste of time/space/effort.

    • ET says:

      Ugh. I hate sites which refuse to let you use the desktop version of their site on your phone. :S

      • Halceon says:

        On that note, I love the local social network draugiem.lv for how they handled this. When you navigate to the address from your phone, it offers you a choice between getting the app, getting the mobile page or getting the regular page.

    • guy says:

      Gah, I hate that progressive-load thing.

      Well, actually I’m fine with it on Google, because when I’m searching for something I like being able to just continuously scroll if I don’t see what I’m looking for. But it’s spread to lots of sites where I want to get to specific things in locations annoyingly far down the load hierarchy.

  7. Cuthalion says:

    I hope in 18 years websites will have stopped asking you to sign up for their mailing list the moment you visit one of their pages… by giving you a popup that blocks out what you’re reading… before you’ve even had a chance to decide whether you like the site.

    • Felblood says:

      Yeah, it’s almost as though the people that wrote this stuff actually had to interact with their customers on a regular basis, and were heading off questions that were actually asked frequently.

      • Cuthalion says:

        Um… did you mean to reply to my comment? It wasn’t about FAQs. It was about news or entertainment sites (or even blogs, I think) that, when you visit an article, block out your view with an ad to subscribe to their email list before you even know if the article was worth reading, let alone whether you want to get updates from them!

        Surely you’ve encountered these? I feel like there’s a 50/50 bet of it whenever I click any link a friend posts on FB.

  8. HiEv says:

    For the record, I used newsgroups right up to 2008 when Verizon removed the alt.* hierarchy from their news servers.

    I even still used Netscape to access them, because it was the best news client I could ever find (for non-huge non-binaries newsgroups, that is).

    I do kind of miss Usenet.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      USENET’s still out there, and traffic’s low enough that there’s seldom anyone even bothering to spam newsgroups. At least not the text groups. I’ve got no idea what happens in the binaries ones….

  9. Paul Spooner says:

    It is a pretty strange world. I too think we could do with more internet training materials. Just today I tried to get my daughter an e-mail address, only to be met with condescending warnings against letting children use the internet. We should be informing people, not trying to scare them off! Finally got her an account at Tryop, but it seems weird that Google and Hotmail won’t give accounts to children. It’s like they want you to lie about your age!

    Fortunately, not all corporate websites are garbage. For an enduring example, see McMaster Carr in all its transparent glory. I think the root of the problem with most corporate websites is that they aren’t actually selling any product through the web, so there’s no incentive to make their website anything but an advertising extravaganza.

    • ET says:

      Instantly bookmarked! Compare that to Gregg where they hide their catalog behind a link, and then the catalog is a barely-useable mess of separate PDFs, so you can’t even text-search through the damn thing. Luckily they let you search by exact part number to find out the name of it. Wait…that’s the completely backwards way to do things. ^^;

    • Steve C says:

      The real reason why corporations warn away children is for their protection. “Their” meaning the corporations and their lawyers.

      Corporations want you to agree to terms of service. Children can’t agree to a contract. Remember that if you receiving a free service that you aren’t a customer, you are the product they are selling.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        It’s less about contracts, and more about the privacy laws in the US which, unlike the UK’s laws about disclosing if you use cookies on your site, apparently applies to sites outside of the US as well.

        Generally, what this means is that it became an insult on internet forums to say “What are you, 12?” – because if they said *yes*, they were putting up information that would require the site owners to ban your account until you were 13 or older. And if they didn’t dispute it and make clear they were older, theyran the risk of being reported for violating the TOS anyways, which would probably lead to a ban anyways.

    • Jan says:

      Yeah, it’s really weird that children are not allowed to use email and social media sites.

      The net effect is that they either lie about their age, or use the chat in games (Minecraft, Clash of Clans) to communicate. Which has the side effect (for the children of course desirable) of blocking out their parents. I (as the computer savy uncle) am now playing Clash of Clans with my nephews, and know things that their parents never knew. It is a fascinating world, these 9 year olds communicating among themselves….

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      On that note,why does an email account require your birthday anyway?To push their email+ social network on you,whether you want it or not?

      • COPPA. COPPA is why they ask for birthdays and why under 13 are not legally allowed to do a lot of things online.

        http://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/childrens-online-privacy-protection-rule-six-step-compliance-plan-your

        • HeroOfHyla says:

          Good old COPPA. When I was setting up a (now defunct) phpBB board ages ago, it recommended that I have a COPPA “are you over 13?” message before account registration. A few people clicked it by accident, which meant I had to go through and manually change the birthdate associated with that user via the admin panel so that they could actually finish registering.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Which can be solved by a simple “Are you over XX years old?” check box.No need to enter the full date.

        • Steve C says:

          I can definitely see why COPPA would be the culprit now that I’ve looked at it. (I’m not an American.) Sadly that’s a good idea with a terminally bad unintended consequence. It likely makes kids less safe because it is just easier to design the system to deny access, at which point everyone lies to gain access. Protection that everyone circumvents is no protection at all.

          PIPEDA is Canada’s copy of the EU laws on privacy and data protection. Which is kind of like COPPA but unlike COPPA applies to everyone regardless of age. Is there any particular reason that the protections in COPPA can’t apply to someone who is 31yrs old? Or 113 yrs old? (The 113yr old probably being more vulnerable than a 13yr old.)

    • Trix2000 says:

      I’ve always liked McMaster. Both for their site and for their service. It helped they can ship parts really really fast.

    • Veylon says:

      Oh my gosh! It’s that very specific type of beautiful that appeals to engineers and other people who just want to get their thing and get out.

  10. 4th Dimension says:

    As a teacher while I want to inform my pupils of the proper usage of Internet and how to spot dangers, most of my and anyone else’s knowledge has been gained through trial and error and expirience. So how do we systemize that and boil it down to the level of a highschooler?
    Also even if we explain everything there is abount the internet how do we excersise them to use and keep an eye on the address bar. Because while I can tell them where the address bar is but at home they’ll go right back to using it as search engine and will soon forget everything about URLs.

    Oh and that tip for newsgroup novices is somebody anybody needs to read before engaging in any discussion on the Internet for the first time.

    • Steve C says:

      Are highschool student’s really that internet ignorant? I would have guessed that of all the possible demographics that highschool students would be the ones you *wouldn’t* have to boil anything down for.

      • Jan says:

        Many of them are extremely naive when it comes to internet privacy (which puts them on par with the rest of the world).

        Also, while they excel at various tasks which they do often (i.e. chatting using texts/Whatsapp/Facebook Messenger), most of them have no clue about what to do if something breaks. To call these people computer savy just because they grew up with them is not right, just like most people are “car savy” because they grew up around cars.

        • Purple Library Guy says:

          I actually think that those of us who grew up with computers as the whole thing was getting off the ground and suffered through the more “user unfriendly” stages, understand computers much better than the young people who are supposedly all “tech savvy”.
          Sure, they may know better how to use whatever app is currently fashionable. But the way computers work to be all powerful and user friendly has layers. Even if you’re not a programmer, a computer user from way back used to have to interact with lower layers because that’s all there was at the time, and got to see the newer layers being built up on top as they were introduced. The kids just come along and look at the top shiny surface and have no reason to know, or even wonder much, what’s underneath. Describing their savviness as “superficial” works very directly with this metaphor.

          • Steve C says:

            Very interesting. I would not have guessed that an old luddite like me (who eschews social media and more recent internet trends) would actually be more internet savvy then a teen who has grafted their phone to their hand. TIL.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Them being younger doesn’t magicaly make them better at knowing technology. Since they don’t NEED to know what the for example address bar is they don’t know what it is. After all for 99% of things you need to do on the internet simply typing it into Google will suffice.
        But when it comes to spotting scams and such they don’t have the expirience we do. Also how do you explain to them what is and what is not a shifty looking link?
        Also since I teach in a non English speaking country, there is a bit of a language barrier and no matter how simple the interface of something is they will still use rote memorization to remember how to do something and not learn WHY.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Also even if we explain everything there is abount the internet how do we excersise them to use and keep an eye on the address bar. Because while I can tell them where the address bar is but at home they’ll go right back to using it as search engine and will soon forget everything about URLs.”

      You mean how we teach them in schools to write YOU only for them to write U once they get on their phone?Or how we teach them to spell O,and they write it as 0?Etc.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Amongst other things. While I don’t excatly mind what they use in their private communication, it’s their private thing, they do need to learn that there are more letters in my lanugage’s alphabet than there is in English alphabet.
        This is also not helped by the fact that it seems a depressing amount of computer sellers will sell you a system on which the default input language is English and not Serbian (Latin), which while trivial to fix, leads them never to learn where our letters are.
        Also most of them learn computer writing on FB which reinforces some seriosly bad habbits which bite them on the ass later in life. For example for the majority of them the default key to start a new paragraph is not ENTER but Shift+Enter (because Enter in FB sends the message). On MS Word on the other hand for example Shift+Enter will break the line but will NOT break the paragraph. So for example if they need to new line and center that new line as a title, if they use Shift + Enter they will center EVERYTHING up to the position of the last ENTER.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          That second one is easy to rectify:Simply call “paragraphs” “messages”,so instead of telling them to write new lines,tell them to write new messages.

          What I hate about serbian(latin) is the decision to flip Y and Z.Since Im doing lots of writing on both sets of keyboards,I often end up screwing up and writing stuff like bz and mz and such.Its reallz annozing.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            No no, that would only give them another bad habbit, so when somebody other than me says “Paragraph shoild be indented by 1cm” they will be all like “What’s a paragraph?”. Also words Pasus and Paragraph are “similar” so it simplifys for them finsing the optiond concerning paragraphs.

            Oh and finally the problem is not conveying them the meaning of a paragraph or that Shift+Enter is not a defaiult paragraph breaker, they will grasp it quite quickly. The problem is that they are likely to replapse in future years if they don’t need to keep using the new skill. They will not be using word processors and such daily but they will chat. And thus they will forget even the basic stuff. That is why couple of years later they will be centering titles by *shudders* usind SPACE or TAB of all things.

            I have gotten used to and you don’t really need EN input since all keys are there in SR just tiny bit rearanged in order to accomodate čćžšđ. My problem is that while I have no problems writing normal text, it annoys me that I have reinforced the need to write code using EN keyboard. A lot of it is down to ease of access. Main is that I have an internal subconcious rule that č(;) is the default code line end key, while in SR I would need to press Shift+. . Same with the ‘ and “.
            On the other hand over the years I have gotten used to slamming Shift+Alt to cycle between input languages. So it’s not that much of a problem to write the code specific part using EN than press Shift+Alt twice to bring up Serbian (Cyrilic) and write the string/text part using Cyrilic letters, than press Shift+Alt again to switch back to EN.

  11. Hal says:

    If you want something really cluttered and advertising-heavy, you need to look at corporate news sites, because most blogs and hobby sites are relatively light and clean.

    Frankly, local news sites (e.g. your local newspaper or NBC affiliate) is where the most egregious examples lie. It’s often difficult to discern the content from the actual advertisements. When you can find it, that content is laid out in a bizarre, non-sensical manner. Endless categories are given; enormous screen space is given to photos/videos; actual stories are listed too close together with too small a font.

    And the ads? I pulled up my local newspaper and had to clear three advertisements before I could actually look at their page. Even more advertising is sprinkled throughout the main page itself, often more prominent and noticeable than the real content. It’s ridiculous.

    What’s even more bizarre to me is how standard this is. How did this become not just acceptable, but normal for news sites?

    • Ross Weseloh says:

      My local paper is especially bad. Not only are the pages (of the paper AND the website) COVERED in local ads, but THE WHOLE PAPER IS LOCKED BEHIND A PAYWALL. You have to be a subscriber to read the online articles.

      And then, because we’re a small town in a small (population) state, the majority of the stories are from Associated Press. There’s maybe a half-a-page total of actual, written-by-people-from-town articles in a 15 page paper.

      • MrGuy says:

        Not meaning to pick on you personally for a general rant, but this is a crazy complaint.

        There Was A Time when news was reported by professional journalists, for whom gathering news and publishing it to people was an actual job for which they got paid. And the way they got paid was that you gave money to buy a piece of paper with their words on it, and the sum of all those little bits of money was enough to pay for the bits of paper and to pay the journalists.

        Then, when the internet came along, we were able to do away with the bits of paper, which was great. But we also did away with the “paying for something” aspect of it.

        And no one thought too much of this, because “Hey, I only pay $0.50. What’s the big deal about $0.50?” The problem is that EVERYONE thought this. This makes it very, very hard for the professional journalists that we probably all want to have out there reporting the actual news and important facts (i.e. facts more meaningful than what the Kardashians are up to today).

        Paper subscription revenues and print ad revenue has gone into a free fall. News organizations have made massive cuts, which is a huge social problem – the power of independent news media to be a check on government and powerful interests is reduced when we have fewer journalists.

        News organizations have two options these days – go out of business entirely, or desperately try to squeeze some revenue out of their unique content. Paywalled subscriptions are one of the few ways to have that kind of predictable revenue stream that investors and bankers think is all the rage. And, yes, pimping out their sites to advertisers that can pay is another big way to keep the lights on.

        You know what? You don’t like it? Call me when you have a newspaper subscription. Or you have a better model. Professional journalists who actually give a damn deserve a hell of a lot better than our collective scorn over “what, you actually expect me to PAY YOU to write interesting stuff for me to read? LOL.”

        • Ross Weseloh says:

          I understand your point, and I totally know that the reason for the payment model is because otherwise they wouldn’t have money, but…. It doesn’t ring quite as true for our town. I actually have an (online only) subscription right now, because I wanted to be more up-to-date on local news. Now I’ve found out that there isn’t actually any local news in the damn thing. I’m still just as in-the-dark as I was before.

          So yeah, I was ranting.

        • Shamus says:

          Couple of things:

          1) Saying, “This is how much it costs to produce X” doesn’t automatically make X worth that much to me. If there are shoes that cost ten grand, then I’m going to scoff at them, even if that’s what the designer needs to charge to stay in business.

          2) A paywall is a terrible idea. Google can’t find it, so it won’t appear in searches. Even if I’m a subscriber, I can’t meaningfully discuss the content elsewhere on the net because I can’t share it. I can’t give you a link, because the paywall will block you. And I’m sure the paper doesn’t want me to quote the article in total.

          3) The fact that Ross (or me, or any of us) doesn’t have a viable business model for independent local news doesn’t mean we can’t comment about it. The problem exists, and Ross subscribing to the local paper won’t change the prevailing trends.

          • MrGuy says:

            1.) Fine. No one is forcing you to wear those shoes. That’s materially different from “I don’t feel your shoes are worth $10, so I’m just going to take them and not pay.” You certainly don’t have to pay. You just don’t have the right to their product. If everyone feels the same way, they’ll go out of business.

            2.) This is the argument I find bullshit. If I created content, why can’t I sell to whom I choose? Why do I have to give it away to google? You’re right that you can’t share the full article with who you want, and you’re right that by making that so I limit my article’s reach. But letting you share wherever you want makes my business model to get paid…what? If you buy a copy of a Tom Clancy novel, you don’t get to give copies of all your friends just so you can discuss it. But with an article, that’s ok? Where’s the line? What’s the good alternative if I dare to hold the currently heretical notion that I’d like to be paid for my content?

            3.) I have no problem with Ross, you, or anyone else commenting, complaining, or stating you don’t like it. I feel I have the right to take the countervailing opinion that, if someone (like most of the Internet) holds that paywalls are evil and wrong, that you do so while acknowledging paywalls are an imperfect solution to a hard and real problem. You can certainly complain about them absence having a “better idea”. It’s just not (in my opinion) productive.

            “Your business model is broken!” “It’s far from ideal, but it keeps the lights on. How can we do better?” “No, seriously, your business model is broken!” “OK, so help us fix it.” “Give us all your stuff for free!” “Um..we can’t do that. We need to eat.” “Your business’s model is broken!”

            • Hal says:

              I don’t begrudge news sites (local or otherwise) from advertising. I get that the business model has changed and that we have only ourselves to blame. My complaint is about awful website layout/design and the obnoxiousness of the advertisements. (Also a bit of bewilderment at how universal it seems to be.)

            • Shamus says:

              I NEVER said you COULDN’T sell your content however you like. And I never EVER said they were “evil”. Put up a paywall if you like. Make everyone register and subscribe to your newsletter to get your content. It’s your content and you can do what you like with it. It’s still a terrible idea for all the same reasons that it’s a terrible idea for ME to put up a paywall.

              Don’t put words in my mouth.

              • Shamus says:

                I just realized this is basically the DRM debate all over again:

                We need DRM / paywalls because people are taking our stuff for free!

                But it doesn’t work!

                We have to protect our investment!

                But it doesn’t work!

                We have a right to eat!

                But it doesn’t work!

                Stop saying you want us to starve! You’re mean!

                I’m just saying it doesn’t work and can’t work!

                Do you have a better idea? Are you in our shoes? No? Then you have no right to judge!

                But… it doesn’t work.

                Etc. Forever.

                • MrGuy says:

                  Sorry for in my last post not differentiating properly between “response to a thing you said” and “response to an argument I hear made frequently online that’s sort of on the same topic.” I did a better job in my first post, and it was all clear in my head, but it’s not always in written media. Apologies for putting you in with other folks.

                  To actually respond to what you said, I think both the problem and the rationale is very different between paywalls and DRM, and equating them is unhelpful.

                  DRM is publishers putting onerous restrictions on usage on people who have already paid for their content, to counter a putative threat that they CLAIM will bankrupt their industry (despite all evidence to the contrary), and which they CLAIM is effective, despite the fact that Day One piracy is alive and well.

                  Paywalled publishing content is putting restrictions on access to content to people for people who have NOT paid for it, to protect an industry that is really legitimately threatened by having their content given away with no recompense, and which (while imperfect) is demonstrably effective in having the desired effect of actually keeping them in business.

                  One isn’t necessary, doesn’t work, and primarily impacts people who legitimately paid for something. The other is arguably necessary, does work, and primarily impacts people who did NOT pay for something.

                  Sorry to keep picking on this, but this is an issue that gets my dander up. I keep hearing people (not from you, Shamus, or Ross necessarily, but from quite a lot of people on the internet) making the argument that paywalls are wrong because “content wants to be free!” or saying things like “sorry, article is behind an evil paywall,” or “here’s where I cut and pasted a paywall-free version of an article.”

                  And unlike the games industry, it’s legitimately killing the news industry. And in this era of unchecked government surveillance, targeted drone strikes, torture allegations, wasteful spending, massive budget packages being passed without time to be read or debated, we desperately need a strong and independent set of journalists more than ever. It’s a legitimately hard problem that NEEDS a solution.

                  • Trix2000 says:

                    The issue is that things like a paywall can also be driving away customers, making the financial situation worse. Given the choice between a (visibly) free and paid site, with nothing else to differentiate people will more likely go to the free one.

                    But here’s the thing – that ‘free’ site can still make money just like the paid one. It’s not an easy paradigm to rely on, but there are plenty of examples out there of things sustaining themselves off other means (ad revenue, donations, add-on content, etc) while still leaving the doors open for people to peek in without obligation. Constructing it well (which, granted, is the hardest part of making the model successful) may be much more desirable and profitable in the long run since it attracts and retains more consumers, who may in turn choose to put their money into getting more that they like from the site.

                    And if nothing else, paid sites don’t have to be obnoxious about how they handle the paywall or display content. That many are just seems like poor design to me, and could be corrected (again, not easily… but still possible).

            • krellen says:

              If you buy a copy of a Tom Clancy novel, you don’t get to give copies of all your friends just so you can discuss it.

              If I want to discuss a novel with friends, I will often lend them my copy of that novel to read. If I want to discuss a news article with friends, I can lend them the magazine or newspaper in which it is printed. I paid for those things and I can lend them to people as I wish.

              Why do the rules magically change because <thing> is digital?

            • WJS says:

              “Your business model is broken!” “It’s far from ideal, but it keeps the lights on. How can we do better?” “No, seriously, your business model is broken!” “OK, so help us fix it.”
              Why the heck is it our responsibility to work out your business model for you? Isn’t that your job?

          • Benjamin Hilton says:

            I kind of agree with MrGuy here. I mean I understand that allot of the restrictions placed by a paywall are silly, but at the same time Physical News Papers were things that had to be payed for, as well as having entire pages dedicated to adspace.

            Maybe I’m just showing an ignorance of the situation here, but to me it just doesn’t seem any different.

        • Purple Library Guy says:

          Sidestepping most of the argument, I’d like to suggest that these two phenomena (the radical cutting down of journalism and newspaper employment on one hand, and the serious decline of newspaper revenues due to internet on the other) seem like they ought to be causally connected, and no doubt there has come to be a relationship more recently, but in fact the internet (or at least, the public-facing internet) is not the main cause of the decline in employment in journalism.
          Employment in journalism started being cut drastically before the revenues of print newspapers began to decline (let alone those of TV news shows). The majority of the change has been caused by media concentration and other issues relating to corporate management. To the extent that the internet was involved it was by making the wire services that much more ubiquitous and by making it easier for PR sources to provide, and easier for news outlets to use, press releases as news. Essentially, when large media corporations began taking over masses of independent press and amalgamating smaller chains, in an era of easy electronic communication and transmission of documents, they realized they could both cut costs and better control their message by having all the separate outlets print the same stuff. Some have argued the resulting homogenization and blandness was actually one of the early drivers of decline in readership.
          This was in many places also due to legal shifts. In many places it had actually been illegal for media ownership to be very concentrated–I know it was in Canada–and these laws, after concerted pressure by people for whom that was inconvenient, eventually went away, were greatly watered down, and/or stopped being enforced.

          At any rate, by the time the internet had a serious impact on sales, the process of cutting down on reportage was already well under way.

        • Joshua says:

          This analysis is basically incorrect. Newspapers, at least, never paid for their reporting with sales of individual issues or subscriptions… those revenues were generally just enough to offset the cost of printing and distribution. The thing that made money was ads, and in particular classified ads, which is why subscriptions are so heavily discounted: higher circulation was worth the forgone revenue because it allowed them to charge higher fees to the advertisers. Web versions of newspapers can still sell ads, but they aren’t usually worth as much, and Craiglist has pretty much gutted classified ad revenue.

      • That is how ours is here. You have to pay for most of the site (though obits, weddings/engagements, and want ads are free to use.)

        • Steve C says:

          It seems relevant that TwentySided is paid for by subscriptions (Patreon) now that the ads are gone and there is no paywall. It can work, just the scale at which it will work has been turned upside down and dropped on it’s head.

          (BTW I read your comment and was at first confused. I thought you were referring to Shamus’ blog. I know what you mean now.)

  12. Zak McKracken says:

    1997 was actually the year I started to use the internet more than occasionally, and nesgroups were a significant and useful part of it. I still think that the format is way better then fora (which you need to sign up for, remember your login, blabla) or, worse, mailing lists. Especially after having learned (also in 1997, the very hard way) that “reply to all” should always be used sparingly — and now people want to send everything to everyone? Silly nonsense! The first time I landed in a mailing list (around 2004, I think), I actually started trying to educate the admin on netiquette … I mean, mailing lists are basically “We’ll just send the contents of the whole newsgroup to your inbox” … who came up with that?

    Still think that they were given up too fast, and someone should have just developed a proper spam filter for them, like they did for e-mail. This might be non-trivial from the admin point of view, but as a user, I lament their loss.

  13. Rax says:

    Heh, this is the polar opposite of a reddit post I read earlier about “3D HDTVs, Touchscreen smartphones, laptop/tablet hybrids, VR headsets, and VOD services being shown off at CES… in 1994.”

    So apparently we’ve come a long way since 1997, but not so much since 1994? I confused myself.

    • Arstan says:

      I’d say it’s a long way from prototypes (which you never can get your hands on) and consumer-level devices (which are manufactured by the millions). Because today at CES we have that fancy Mercedes, which will not be available anytime soon))
      And also, compare VR sets of 1994 with Oculus… Not really comparable anyhow.

  14. Bropocalypse says:

    Just another sign that formal education on certain subjects need to start damn early. Let me wave my crotchety old man cane around and say that we should teach practical life skills as a class in high school, if not earlier.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      The problem with this with regards to technology is that it changes so quickly – 20 years ago, VCRs and floppy disks were the new technology that people had trouble using well and effectively. Even CDs and Bluray discs are becoming obsolete soon, so the knowledge to how to install a multi-disc install, while I did have to do it for Dragon Age: Inquisition (4 disc physical copy for PC), it’s not a prominent use case for PC use that we really need to teach people how to do that.

      And that’s before we even get to browsers – the security controls you have in IE10 are *significantly* different than IE6.

      Or even operating systems – User Account Control was only a thing in the Windows ecosystem since Vista – at least as far as the regular consumer was concerned.

      None of which are getting into the differences in UI per software update, such as the Ribbon UI making most regular menu UI stuff for Office products.

      It would be like trying to teach students how to operate manufacturing equipment in elementary school and expecting not to have to reteach new equipment in late high school. Not only is it unfeasible, most students are probably going to check out of those classes anyways because they don’t intend to do manufacturing in the future.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But computers are now everywhere.They are used as much as paper.We should teach elementary computer stuff to elementary school children,along with spelling and basic calculus.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Even without teaching them in school they are teaching themselves because they need these skills to socialize. The bigger problem is how to reinforce good practices. You can teach them how to operate the machinery properly, but if they do not operate it that way constantly, if they can get by with their “improper” ways, all that teaching we did will be for naught.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Once we manage to do that with adults and cars,computers for kids will be easy.

            • 4th Dimension says:

              Ummm no. Most of us don’t know how to PROPERLY operate a car. What we do know is how to get from pount A to point B using a car if we know which roads to take and if conditions are not too impaired. And we know to take the car to a repair shop when it starts smoking (an overstatement).

              But most of us don’t care and can not be bothered to learn HOW it works. HOW to mantain it. How not to behave like an utter idiot/dick and a danger for you and others on the road.

              Cars have become easier to use but understanding of the majority has not particualry changed. In fact it’s worse since nowdays there is a lot of people that think they know everything about motoring while most of their knowledge comes from tips in the magazines and their friends hearsay. And these are the people that drive 80 in 50 limit heavily populated areas.

      • WJS says:

        That’s ridiculous. Just because how things are done will probably change (although things are already settling), teaching that the things even exist is a huge step. So the security settings in IE6 are different to IE10, and IE 16 will be different still? So what? At least they’ll know that security is a thing. The fundamental concepts in computing haven’t changed since before PCs were around. How many people just run their machine as “Administrator” because they have no idea what user profiles are? Does the fact that the UI for this will change mean it shouldn’t be taught?

  15. Veylon says:

    To answer the question that’s surely on everyone’s mind after viewing the image of that more-than-a-decade old obsolete instruction manual I need to say: Yes, yes it is still available. Wise individuals stockpiled copies for the day when it would once again be relevant. That day is now.

    You may let out the breath you were surely collectively holding.

  16. The moment the concept of ‘trending’ hit web design, web pages took what looks to be an irreversible nosedive in usability.

  17. Zaxares says:

    I actually find myself wistfully remembering the Internet from the Geocities-era with their eye-mangling colours, overuse of animated .gifs and the extreme difficulty of locating specific pages relating to your extremely, extremely niche interests. Nowadays Google makes it a breeze.

    Nostalgia really is a weird thing.

  18. Nick Pitino says:

    Yeah, a lot of the 90’s internet was pretty awful. Ugly webpages with too many tables, embedded MIDI music, gifs.

    Oh god too many gifs.

    But there are some parts to it that I actually kind of miss.

    For example, webrings. Handy-dandy way of communicating “Hey, you like this? Well here’s more related websites!” and it also feels like, looking back through the fog of memory, that it would often lead to finding more interesting and esoteric things than your modern Google search would. These days? If it’s not on the front page of search results and, be honest here, in the top five or ten results then it might as well not exist. Now I know that a lot of websites will have a side bar of links, but…

    ..this leads to my second bit of nostalgia. This list of links is probably a ‘blogroll’ leading to a bunch of personal blogs, the list itself residing on another personal blog. What I miss is when most websites were NOT blogs, when blogs weren’t even a thing. I don’t mind blogs abstractly as a concept, I enjoy this and many other blogs, but it’s kind of old and obnoxious to me that it feels like every webpage is a blog nowadays. Or at least formatted kind of like one. Back in the day if for example I found a website of someones electronics projects it would be arranged into “Here’s my electronics projects!”, maybe with sub-pages like “Radio”, “Home Automation” and “Robotics”. How clear and concise! These days the same website will be a blog with everything squirreled away in past archives, there will be the obligatory list of categories that will lead to a (*sigh*) list of blog posts of which half will be worthless and were just tagged because they happened to contain a mention to the subject you were actually looking for. If you’re very *VERY* lucky then the blog will be being run by an internet Saintly Figure such as Shamus and there will be a listing of “Here’s big interesting things I’ve done before, all collected together!”

    I know, I know, that’s an unusual and specific personal bug-a-boo to have. But at the end of the day I still prefer this:

    http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/

    To this:

    http://reshapingreality.wordpress.com/

    Also as one last bit of nostalgia; say what you will about Geocities and its ilk, but at least back then more often than not people would actually build their own websites. The diversity and strangeness was, to me at least, kind of charming and made exploring the web kind of an adventure. Nowadays if someone does make a website of their own it’s another damn wordpress blog, but more often than not they don’t do that but instead stick to the little walled off corporate webgardens of Facebook and the like.

    Yeah, yeah, crazy person here who wishes those punks would keep off of his intertubez…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “The diversity and strangeness was, to me at least, kind of charming and made exploring the web kind of an adventure.”

      On the flip side,it also meant a huge swath of eye soring red backgrounds and neon bright letters.An adventure,for sure,but one that required you to wear protective goggles or risk permanent blindness.

    • CJ Kerr says:

      “but it’s kind of old and obnoxious to me that it feels like every webpage is a blog nowaday”

      One word: WordPress.

      Everyone with half a brain knows they should be using a content management system instead of editing individual pages by hand. Unfortunately, the most popular CMS for personal use is WordPress, and WordPress makes it disproportionately hard to make things which aren’t blogs.

  19. Oh man how I hate those sites/pages “Click here to continue to the article” yeah, I don’t think so. If I see crap like that I close the tab instead and go someplace else. Don’t make me needlessly click an extra time, nor put a damn delay before I can click continue either. Not gonna work, if anything it will succeed in deterring me from ever visiting that sites or sites with that type of ads.

    Want to do ads properly? Make them inline and a border around them making it clear they are not part of the content, and make sure the ad is relevant to the article it’s in, I may actually take notice of that then.

    Also, these damn age gates are stupid. Year, Month, Day? Are you kidding me? First of all people will lie so it’s pointless. Second is that it’s just way easier to scroll down to the very first year and pick 1900 1 1 or whatever than actually try to find/scroll to my actual date.

    Wanna fix it but still for official reasons have something? Do this…
    Place a warning “The following content are only for a those of age 18 or older, by clicking Continue you accept the responsibility of the consequences this may have for you.”
    And then a Continue button, and if there is a back history then maybe programatically show a Back button, otherwise a Close button maybe, and don’t put a “Don’t enter” link that leads to Disney, it might be cute or funny to you but not for me, and probably not so funny for Disney either to be linked to in that way.
    Remember, Disney owns Star Wars now, you do not want them to get upset and mess that up due to revenge now do you?

    Ok! That last part was a joke but the rest is not.

    And please stop it with the Twitter/Facebook/Google+/whatever logins all over the place, don’t you realize if there are issues connection to those services (Facebook may be working but the visitors connection to facebook may be acting up due to routing issues) then they will not be able to login to your site, at the very least provide the choice to login to your site with your own login as well.

    And then there are the comments on websites, sure it’s convenient to just tack on Disquis or similar comment systems, but if there are issues with that service ten people can not make comments, and worse they can not even read the comments, I’ve lost count of the times Disquis or similar just showed a spinning loading icon forever.

    And finally. Please use https for logins and when handling private info and similar, or at the very least provide the option to use https. If https and a certificate is not included in the hosting package then go to http://startssl.com/ there you can get a basic website certificate for your domain, and it’s free.

    And one more just for good measure, please use gzip or deflate http compression, you may or may not be smart enough to cache stuff on your site but at least use gzip so that all that html is reduce anything from 30% to 70% in size, the smaller a page is in bytes the faster it loads and the less bandwidth is used, html and text are not the only things you can http compress, the same can be done with javascript (.js) and stylesheets (.css).

    I could go on and on with annoying stuff but I’d better stop there or this will end up pages long.

  20. arron says:

    I remember the time that I joined the internet back in 1992, we had the Mosaic browser, dialup, gopher and large tomes called “Internet Directories” – these huge books filled with websites on various topics. This was before things like Search engines and DMOZ existed. They were like phone directories, frequently out of date and expensive to buy. Still, it gave you something to leaf through whilst you waited for an image to download..very..slowly over a 14.4 kbit modem.

  21. Pinkhair says:

    I hate the look and feel of ‘modern’ web browsers, and of current operating systems. My first action when upgrading windows is to make it look as close to WinNT as possible, and to make firefox as close to pre-‘tabs on top’ as possible.

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