In 1998, my parents got our home dial-up Internet access for the first time.
The Internet was different back then. Google was in its infancy and barely known--most people used Yahoo, AltaVista, or Lycos to search the Internet (and they sucked). Fandoms stayed in contact through webrings, Usenet, and online mailing lists. Yes, there were corporate websites, but there were also thousands of personal webpages on sites like Tripod, Angelfire, and Geocities. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, and Tumblr did not exist. Webpages were super-simple, and consisted primarily of text, GIFs, and maybe an autoplayed MIDI song file. (There was nothing stopping you from seeing a whole lot of weird porn that you didn't want to see, either, unless the site required your credit-card information to prove you were over 18.)
Yet despite all this, the Internet was fun. There were separate websites for kids, teens, and adults. (Just try finding a genuine just-for-kids or just-for-teens website nowadays. Everyone's expected to share the same handful of websites.) You could read all kinds of interesting opinions, play games, or look at pictures of a strangers' pets. If you saw something you didn't like, you just typed a new URL into the address bar and went somewhere that you knew you did like. More importantly: Big Business and social media did not monopolize everyone's attention. There were no algorithms steering you towards upsetting political topics or trying to sell you stuff. Nobody was tracking your web-surfing habits to sell to the highest bidder. Conversations were on small forums of a few hundred people, not on behemoths like Twitter and Facebook. People could be anonymous and use silly usernames without anyone acting like we had something sinister to hide.
When you searched for something, you got a wide range of websites. You didn't have to type "-pinterest" because there was no Pinterest. There was no SEO, so independent websites were equally as likely as the corporate stuff to show up near the top of a search. Google was not holding you back by limiting your search results to pages on a handful of websites.
I want that aspect of the Internet back. The freedom. The anonymity. The spaces untainted by corporate greed and advertising algorithms. That's why I use Neocities. That's why I link to pages that are independent and, when possible, ad-free. Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 were a mistake. Let's bring the spirit of Web 1.0 back.
Post your own manifesto if you want it back too.