I read an article on Mashable today named "10 Websites We Miss from 1996." That was the year I first joined the internet horde, and there are a lot of things I miss about those times. The websites listed were Alta Vista, Suck.com, Mr. Showbiz, Geocities, Hot Wired, Lycos, Angelfire, N64, GamePro, and Pathfinder.
Surprisingly, I have only ever heard of four of these, and only miss two of them: Alta Vista and GeoCities. Maybe it's because I wasn't interested in gaming or entertainment. I briefly had an Angelfire website, because I was playing around with creating my own pages and uploading them via FTP, but it had too many popups. No cool popup blockers back then. This would be my list of 10 sites or services I miss from back then, but I won't say 1996, because I only got online in 1996.
I wasn't on the early days of Geocities, when it had communities. I got on after Yahoo bought it, but it was a wonderful site. The Yahoo PageBuilder was state-of-the-art at the time, so easy to learn and feature-filled. Not until Weebly did I find anything as simple to use. Back then, webpages were simple bordered HTML pages, and we all freaked when CSS came into play, because it was (and still is) a bitch to learn and use. Geocities was easy and flexible and if we had gotten paid for views, we would have all been rich.
These were the most fun you could have without alcohol. The MSN community was made up largely of graphic hobbyists, who created signatures and webpage backgrounds and tiles. I had a gardening group on there, but I also had a couple of communities where I created and gave away siggies, backgrounds, and tiles. It was easy to use and easy to navigate. Unfortunately, it also took up a lot of bandwidth because of the graphics, and since it was so open and free, it had a lot of spammy sites, so MSN took it down. It was a sad day for everyone there when it closed, and we all scrambled to Yahoo groups and other places, but nothing was ever the same.
Not only did they have the most awesome browser, the Netscape Navigator, but it included a page builder second to none available at the time. I was just learning to build pages and upload them via FTP to free web space, so this was where I learned that. Firefox stole their thunder when they built on top of their open-source platform and literally put the browser into virtual mothballs. AOL bought it and tried to continue development, but finally stopped in 2008. You can still download the last version if you are just nostalgic, or have a super-old computer that won't support newer browsers.
Access to Usenet used to be free through your ISP. You could access every corner of it, although it was all pretty simple back then. Still, it was a fun place to hang out, and was the Facebook of its time, where you could chat with people from all over the world. Better yet, nobody had avatars or profiles, so it was -- and still is -- completely anonymous.
I started online with Freewwwebs.com. It was slow, of course, as most computers had 14.4K dialup modems, but it sure beat paying $30 a month for AOL. They went nearly bankrupt, sold out to Juno, who sold out to NetZero, and the days of free internet were over. Maybe Google will bring it back with their free fiber project. We can only hope. Now I pay $60 a month for cable internet, which is unreliable at best and never gives me what I pay for.
So this is all I really miss. There are sites that used to be awesome that are now much diminished and neglected by their owners, but that's another article.