The HTML Hobbyist

The Web is for everyone.

Once upon a time on the World Wide Web…

Once upon a time, the World Wide Web was the Wild Wild West. It was an Information Superhighway that contained research from 1,000 different universities, and 1,000 different research centers, 1,000 different scientific organizations. The late 1900s was a tidal wave of published content where you could surf 1,000 different fanzines; 1,000 different personal sites; and 1,000 different hobby sites. The World Wide Web promised a democratization of publication and a liberation of information; an open community of sharing for mutual benefit. Anyone could get online and create a website.

25 years later, the barrier to entry in creating, publishing, and maintaining a website is not any higher than it was in 1994. If anything, it is cheaper and easier to publish a website than it has ever been before. Domain names can be had for under $20 a year and hosting is as low as $2 a month — meaning that you can keep a website online for a year for less than the price of a video game. To build your own website just takes access to a computer that can reach the Internet, a little knowledge of HTML, and a method to get your HTML files up to a server. There’s much more that you can learn after that, but this will get you started.

The HTML Hobbyist Mission

  1. Show how quick, easy, and affordable it has become to get a website up and running.
  2. Show how enjoyable building a simple hand-coded artisanal HTML website can be.
  3. Provide instructions and guidance on how others could build and upload a similar hobbyist website to share with the community.

We left the World Wide Web…

We left the World Wide Web for commercial magazines and we got advertisements. We left the World Wide Web for eCommerce and got cookies and tracking, so that they can tell us we’ve forgotten products in their shopping cart, or send ads to follow us after we’ve just purchased that exact same thing. We left the World Wide Web for centralized blogging platforms and we lost control of our code, relying on prebuilt templates. We left the World Wide Web for social media and we got locked in to algorithm driven walled-gardens, and we don’t even have a wall any more, we have a stream and all manner of refuse flows through it. We left the World Wide Web when we decided that user visits and going viral was more important than just writing good content, even if only five other people in the world found it useful.

We left the World Wide Web when we didn’t realize that those five people are a treasure.

There are a myriad of problems with the modern Web, everything mentioned so far: advertising driven monetization of content, blogging software, social media sites, and mobile apps, each in turn, came along and changed the Web and how we use it. The current user experience is dreadful: over-animated advertising, an abundance of pop-ups, cookie opt-ins, paywalls, and notification permissions.

The advances in web development and design are no better than the advances in the web experience. The designers begged for additional control of colors, typography, and layout that would become CSS and the developers desired more control and interaction, in which JavaScript would eventually become the clear winner. The modern JavaScript heavy, framework driven, post-processed, package imported tool chain is just a very fancy, very complicated, and very automated way to deliver HTML. We just feel clever by calling it a web application.

…The World Wide Web didn’t leave us

The World Wide Web is still here, we’re just not using it like we were. It’s not a matter of making the web simple. It doesn’t need to be complicated to allow us a free and open expression of creativity.

This isn’t a new movement by any means, maybe I’m only just now being pulled into the zeitgeist.

I am tired of living in an online world where people are isolated from each other in boring, spied-on gated communities, and are given generic templates which define what people are supposed to know about each other. It’s time we took back our personalities from these sterilized, lifeless, monetized, monitored entities and let our creativity flourish again.

About Neocities, in 2013

Even now, the World Wide Web is finding more champions…

What these rebellious programmers are building goes by many names — indieweb, yesterweb, folk internet — and relies on simple design choices, often borrowing elements from the 1980s and 1990s. For some in their 30s and 40s, it’s a recreation of an Internet experience they encountered as teenagers traversing bulletin boards and peeking into small, tightly knit online communities.

Eli Motycka, The Debrief, in September of 2021

You were able to land on this website and just start reading… how refreshing was that? No layout shifts caused by loading ads. No begging for you to allow web notifications. No pop-up appeals to sign up for our newsletter. Just simple, relatively unadulterated H T M L.

I think that Tim Berners-Lee sums it up best, about the promise of the World Wide Web, and gives us a clear picture of its intent:

The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. Its universality is essential: the fact that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished. There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we work and play and socialize. That was that once the state of our interactions was on line, we could then use computers to help us analyze it, make sense of what we are doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together.

Tim Berners-Lee, FAQs

We’re not building the next mega-global-cyber-conglomerate — we’re building a simple hobby site and sharing it with the World Wide Web.