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"90's web design" is clearly distinct from web design, as it is its polar opposite. Sure, there were some decently designed pages back then, but it meant they made great use of frames, or the ASP backend was barely buggy at all. Those were commercial sites, and they were boring. Cascading Style sheets were not invented until 1996, and still largely unapplied at the turn of the millennium. Web design back then meant finding royalty-free animated GIFs, superior MIDI compositions, and most of all, just relying on great content.

This is the advantage they had. If you did find a webpage with a slick design, it meant they were an excellent artist, instead of just using a hackneyed template or stealing a layout. There would be original pictures, expertly cut into a nav and usually designed to break out of the boxy shape a lot of data tends to be arranged in. And the vast majority of the time, the author was just a great writer, with a lot of interesting things to say. They poured out their souls. Personal sites were considered very personal, because they were on the Internet, and no one expected them to ever be found by a stranger. Many of these early websites looked like a unicorn vomited on them. They would be full of unimaginable glee at every turn, because no one was mocked for being too excited back then. Instead, your few wayward visitors would fill the guestbook with long strings of emoticon.

(Side note: The Internet was a bit more mysterious back then, and online dating made you the biggest weirdo in the state. It was obvious that you'd either meet an overweight forty-year-old male covered in acne with severe social flaws, or you'd be shipped someone from a human trafficking ring, of which the police would be convinced that you were the leader.)

I tell you of these days not merely to protect history. When Web 2.0 came, at first it was quite exciting. Instead of just a bunch of antisocial shut-ins and laughable nerds, normal people were using the Internet to share videos of cats and occasionally get laid. The average person could contribute content without understanding the fine art of web mastering, and that was neat for say Newgrounds or DeviantArt, but it also gave us YouTube comments and a lot of samey-looking Wordpress weblogs. Yeah, Angelfire was an eyesore. But it was innocent! Viral videos ruined everything. Here's a kid getting harassed for liking Pokemon a little too much. If he just made a ridiculously in-depth fansite on Angelfire or Geocities, then he would get accolades for his usefulness, and maybe at worst a feature on Something Awful's Weekend Web or Awful Link of the Day. And nothing beat the joy of discovering a hidden gem like that, just crawling through the eighth or ninth results page on a search engine, finally finding something awesome that would occupy you for weeks, and having it all to yourself. Nothing beat the pain of seeing it left behind after a few years, when they were too old for such nonsense, or could no longer afford to pay domain and server fees. Or, in a lot of cases, they left college.

I'm not just remembering this all fondly with one-sided nostalgia, and ripping at the modern world. It's great having Amazon, which always has the lowest prices and does a great job of keeping credit card information safe. All of those old 90's websites were incredibly easy to hack. And you had to actually pay for porn, rather than just googling it, and then someone would steal your credit card number and put your login up somewhere for someone to freeload off of. And some hackers would run a scam claiming to provide you with a backdoor into the porn sites, but then they'd just install a dialer.

(Side note: If this survives long enough into the future, know that once computers connected to the Internet over phone lines. Modems made a distinct series of beeps and whistles.)

Nowadays, that only happens if you try to buy drugs from an online pharmacy, and even then they'll probably just keep your money and leave it at that. Google would be a great and welcomed innovation if the top result wasn't always Wikipedia, followed by Google Shopping, with some Google Ads above the results. And Wikipedia would be great if it read more like Encyclopedia Dramatica. Generally, the surface of the web seems like a much safer and user-friendly place, but it's also much more boring.

BONUS: These are all the traits I've grown to miss.

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