I really enjoyed this post by Phil Gyford in which he reflects on what the internet — specifically blogging — was like 20 years ago. He notes that it’s easier to remember the experience of first getting on the internet in the mid-nineties than it is to specifically recall the mini-eras between then and now. I often try to recall those in-between moments, like that early 2000s thing where you had internet maps but no smartphones, so you would print out Mapquest directions before going someplace.
This piece is full of those “oh riiiight” moments, like the fact that permalinks weren’t a thing for blogs yet, nor was RSS, and a bunch of other stuff. This observation particularly stuck with me:
Some of the posts I read were very personal in a way that’s less common now, in general. I clearly remember that there used to be a feeling that if you wrote something online then “normal people” wouldn’t see it. What normal person would read the random thoughts of strangers on the internet?! Only people-like-you would read what you wrote on the web. It wasn’t secret but not public either — it was a kind of private, as Danny O’Brien described in 2003. I think this is less true today. Even “personal” websites (like mine) often have an awareness about them, about what’s being shared, the impression it gives to strangers, presenting a public face, maybe a feeling of, “I’m just writing personal nonsense but, why, yes, I am available for hire”.