September 2020

Web 1.5

A Brief History of the Web

The modern web was arguably born in 1989, with Tim Berners-Lee and his invention of the hyperlink. It was frequented by those users who were technologically advanced relative to the general population - they needed to be able to use their computer, connect to the internet, and navigate what is probably best described as a prototype. The web in its first few years is often described as "a wild west." Indeed, it was fully decentralized and without oversight.

In the early 2000s, the web evolved to accommodate the flocks of new users as the mainstream population began to explore the internet. The change, "Web 2.0," saw the introduction of more interactive material and the growth of services like Google, Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook. This also brought an organizational change to the web: it became more and more centralized.

These sites have tested the technological capabilities of the web, but have also altered its ideals. They have led the wave in sites becoming more and more unnecessarily large. This bloat often serves little purpose other than to make sites more visually pleasing or to track users. However, it has led to a stagnation of load times, even as internet speeds have improved dramatically. (Mobile loading times have actually increased.)

Worse, these sites have taken over control of the web. Almost every site uses Google Analytics or Google Ads. Facebook trackers follow you across the internet, gathering information about your every move. But why must simple sites become a web of scripts?

A Modest Proposal

Every computer from this millennium should still be useful on the modern web - few websites truly need multimedia and other frills. I believe that the time is ripe for a movement back to the static websites of the 90s. This will not replace the current websites by any means, but there ought to be lightweight website alternatives (whether text-based, as this one is, or not - just avoiding heavy JavaScript would be hugely helpful).

This will serve the dual purpose of allowing users with slower internet connections (as of 2018, 162.8 million people in the U.S. have slow internet) access to a version of the modern web, and well as extending the lifetime of consumer electronics.[1] I'm typing this on my 2004 PowerBook G4 - a perfectly useable machine, except for when I venture outside of my curated list of safe sites.

Here are some examples:
This site
Hacker News
NPR Lite
DuckDuckGo HTML version
...And more