Net Nostalgia 2009January 6th, 2010 by Liesl received No Comments »
One of the only good things about being stuck in two airports and a plane this holiday season, was that I got to read the current issue of Wired cover to cover in one sitting (in addition to completing many crosswords, notes on my content plan for this blog, listening to music, and staring intently at the boarding gate and every agent daring to man it). In particular, I enjoyed a lovely nostalgia piece by Scott Brown on Homestar Runner.
As I twiddled my thumbs in a seat by the gate and slowly dozed off into my bundled-up down jacket, it occurred to me that the end of 2009 has brought about more cumulative net nostalgia than I’ve ever experienced.
The World Wide Wonder Years
Holding hands and skipping down memory lane with the collective web unconscious started for me in October, with Yahoo shutting Geocities down, and the fitting xkcd tribute to the free site building and hosting service that so very many of my generation (myself included) used to launch a maiden voyage on the ol’ Information Superhighway.
Happy Birthday, Dear Internet!
Just three days later the last of a seemingly endless string of 40th anniversary landmarks for the internet was celebrated, with the microblogosphere all humming “Happy Birthday” and a lovely interview with Leonard Kleinrock on CNN. In it, Kleinrock perpetuates a sweet bit of mythopoeia that magically transforms the first word sent via network from the rather mundane “log” to “lo” (of “…and behold” fame.) He gets away with it because, as this hilarious classic CBC clip of the 80s/90s reminds us, “Internet” is pretty amazing.
Blasts from the UI Past
On the same day as Uranium Interactive posted this adorable flashback Christmas card (note to unilingual readers: it’s in French, but you will get it, and it’s well worth the click), The Onion releases the following video, a glorious piece of web jetsam that hyperlinked its way across the series of tubes at an astonishing rate (if my feeds are anything to go by…)
Rest In Peace
Along with losing Geocities, a whole slew of sites became fodder for the Wayback machine in 2009. As sites have competed for online survival of the fittest, it’s amazing how much people get attached to a certain UI or look & feel. There’s something so visceral about interactive media that takes nostalgia and resistance to change to a new level (just look at the complaints in your feed the next time Facebook tweaks its UI or rolls out a new feature).
Put on The Neverending Story and I’ll get misty eyed, but load up Super Mario 3 on a DS and there’s nothing like finding that first warp whistle… With online experiences, the stickiest sites of yesteryear hold such fond memories because the joys of using, frequenting and interacting with them are part of a slowly fragmenting and shifting experience: navigating a site in its native environment.
Boulevard of Broken Memes
Content is now broken down and cast adrift as digital flotsam on the high seas of blogs, social media, apps, aggregators, etc. The sites we interact with for hours on end are reducing to a core (Facebook, Twitter, Readers, News sites, Google, etc.), many of which are becoming “too big to fail” (but like AIG, it doesn’t guarantee they won’t be the next MySpace). And as they homogenize, the UI differences, quirks and design elements that distinguished older sites from one another are no longer as disparate. While the semantic web is still a while a way, I think the 3.0 shift will eventually have us remembering Web 2.0 more holistically than we recall individual 1.0 sites now.
Pining for the Adored
So what makes me nostalgic? Well, there are so many sites and software, and so little time to write. So I’ll save some of them for a new day. But for now, I’d have to say that hearing the ICQ foghorn or uh-oh! message alert takes me right back to the days when a shrill squeal from your modem was the happy sound of successfully launching a new mission in cyberspace…Blogging, Computers, Memetastic, Social Media, User Interface, Web Development, World Wide Wonder