Being a semi-nerd in the mid 50s I’ve been on the internet since the beginning. Well in fact I’ve been on the, or rather sort of a, net since before Internet made its way in Norway.
Back in the early’ish days one used Bulletin Board Systems or BBS, I did so in the last half of 80s. To use, and slightly re-write, a quote from a famous movie, “digital life is like a box of chocolate, you never know whatcha gonna get”. Pretty much how it was back then.
In the BBS world, different servers meant different content, different menus, layouts, setups, content, different everything. But you’d normally encounter something like this
I made a few such menus myself, fun to learn and experiment with. The era of DOS and basic scripting. Those were the days of digital excitement, digital diversity and nerve wrecking phone bills. Latter while having to use dial-up and a phone line to connect. Companies infrequently used dial-back solutions so that employees didn’t get a huge private bill if in need of connections.
That worked fine too but still, it didn’t change the reactionary approach that, interestingly, we see today on mobile services. Same shit, new wrapping, the new wrapping being that you pay for Gigabytes rather than time. All hail capitalism! Er……
The 90s was fun, diverse and exciting
Even if connection-wise ridiculously slow at times. The World Wide Wait we labelled it and for a good reason. Still, it was a fun period because people were experimenting with web design, with graphics, HTML, later additionally with Stylesheets (CSS). And of course, with content as well as lay-out and design. The internet was freedom, plurality, boldness. Not all experiments were successful, not everything looked great.
But taste is, and as much was, a subjective matter. Below a screenshot from my one of own web pages around the mid 90s. Just the front page, that site evolved into an huge conglomerate of pages with all sorts of different design.
Want to take a trip down internet memory lane? Try the Internet archive Wayback Machine.
Today, the internet has become Facebook and Google
A bit exaggerated but in some respects, not too far from the truth. The internet has become polarized, to some extent … monopolized. Survival of the fittest? I guess so but with a cost. The largest players have become fixed stars with a gravity pull that directly as well as indirectly impacts diversity. They succeed because we let them, BUT they also succeed because they’ve done their homework.
They keep on succeeding because they’re clever at coming up with new stuff, observe trends and listen to what people want. Facebook defining and dominating social network, Google also in that area but so additionally many other. As a designer I for instance use Google Analytics, and their online font library just to mention two things.
Still, we let ourselves be sucked into their gravity pull, and do more and more within their confined space, their design, their set of rules, format and everything. It hit me the other day
I find it a little disturbing. But why? Well for one thing because it like things to be diverse, different, and not only speaking of content but also presentation, format.
Before me and the Mrs used to communicate on mail whenever one of us was out traveling. Or we used a chat program, later skype or similar. But of late I find we, and I am sure many others, now more and more uses Facebook or similar for messaging too.
I think this is a sad development and quite often I miss the times when surfing was synonymous with sometimes finding the unexpected. Today surfing I find the expected, seldom the other. Design-wise things have gone uniform and sometimes immensely boring.
Does it matter? Well you tell me. As a designer I work to help people express their individual selves, whether we talk about content or design profile. Companies, small, private enterprises or individual people. Try to find what is them so to speak. I think it’s kinda boring when design becomes stereotype copies of something dictated by the few. Still it looks like that is what many wants.
Or not? Perhaps people just don’t give a shit?I hope diversity won’t go away, like in art, music we need it.. we need diversity?