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Nearly four decades ago, on January 1, 1983, the internet was born. Out of those clunky boxes with very little function outside of running numbers and a few chat rooms, the internet has exploded into what we know it to be today.

We created the changing landscapes of social media, blogs, YouTube, and Google. But what have we lost in the process?

The early days of AOL were simpler and had a very specific aesthetic for its time. There was always something new to discover when searching the World Wide Web. Actually, it was the first time we had connections that were instantaneously world wide.

Now, that marvel is lost on youth who grew up with tiny computers in their pockets. For those of us who remember the 90s internet era, let's take a trip down memory lane.


Redditor scatter82 asked:

"What do you miss about the internet of the past?"

The internet was a wild experience back in the day as everyone was still figuring out what the possibilities really were.

The early YouTube.

"When YouTube was a much smaller community and the popular channels were normal people rather than the influencer types we have today."

- Awkward-Equivalent11

"Remember the time when yt had the 5 star rating system? Also there weren't a lot of youtubers that brought content on a regular base. Instead there were a handful of videos everyone knew about."

- Nimetski

"Do you remember ad free YouTube? it depresses me like absolute nothing else to learn some of the young'uns here actually don't remember a time where that was the case."

- HeatmiserElliott

"Miss the days when things weren't scripted and people didn't keep asking for likes and subscribers."

- VotingChangesNothing

"It's not that they're scripted, most videos have always been scripted, it's that they're too formulaic now. Which is what I think you were getting at."

"Everyone follows the same blueprint to try to get as much ad revenue as possible. Smash like… don't forget to hit subscribe… 2 minutes of content stretched into 10 minutes… And then when they run out of original ideas or get sick of making new content, they start making reaction videos."

- Mr_Stirfry

youtube girl GIF Giphy

Lost sense of mystery.

"The fact that it still felt like some kind of mystery we had to figure out, there was always another website or something that you didn't know about, you could just kind of find new stuff every day and it felt like you were discovering something, it felt like a process of exploration!"

"Now everything's kind of focused on the same couple of platforms."

- KokoTheBanana

"I really miss that feeling of discovery too. Now I just cycle through the same 3-4 apps."

- BMWwithMissiles007

"Mhm, I feel your struggle there, we all do. It's just so strange. But I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing."

"It used to be something to look forward to, you know? Come home from school or wherever like 'what are we going to find today'? Your friends would have found new sh*t too, so you'd all talk about it over the landline phone and you'd have to sit near the phone so you could talk while writing down websites and sh*t."

"I remember one time my friend told me about purple.com which is now a website for some mattress company but back in the day it was... you guessed it, purple. That was it. And I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, someone really bought a whole domain (which felt like a much bigger deal than it does now) just to make a website called purple.com and it was just a page that was purple."

"And just finding so much weird sh*t on the internet that didn't make sense was amazing, especially when it was something small, because it felt like you were a part of a little secret society, or maybe even like you were the sole occupant of this neat little corner of the internet that you found and have now made your own. Like camping points on a trip or something, I don't know, maybe that analogy doesn't make sense in anyone else's mind but it does to me, because it always felt like you were just going around finding new places, cuz that's what websites were, they were places, in a way."

"And that's just not the case in the same way anymore. I still think platforms could count as 'places', especially one like reddit (though it's not as social media as the others). It's just not the same, but also I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's not like the internet is over, it's just that period of it, right? And it makes sense to be nostalgic about that time, but that doesn't have to mean that today's internet is anything bad. It's constantly evolving, and it's still exciting to see, even if a lot of it is just egregiously commercialized. Because not all of it is. I still find neat little forums and stuff every now and then that feel self-contained, like they're not on the same wide 'internet' as other things are, because even though it feels like the internet might be dominated by certain platforms and websites, the best thing about the internet is that anyone can be on it, and anyone can put whatever they want on it. (It's also simultaneously the worst part of the internet, but that's a discussion for another place and another time.)"

"But my POINT IS that just because the internet isn't what it used to be doesn't mean all of it is objectively bad. Some parts aren't parts that everyone agrees with, that's just how things go when something gets so big and accessible, it's unavoidable, but the internet itself still contains what it used to, and there's always the possibility of people putting up new stuff. We know it's a possibility because it's constantly happening, even right now. And that's encouraging, right? I don't know, I think it's nice."

- KokoTheBanana

It feels too corporate.

"The simplicity and fun of it all. Now it feels very corporate, and people are out just to make a buck."

- Oxygen95

"Perhaps the biggest difference so far. Websites today has ads or something about cookies/subscribing to newsletter 95% of the time."

- y_th0ugh

"I don't even bother reading the news online. It's click bait buried lead filler to get you to scroll past the midroll ad, then one paragraph of actual information, followed by a summary and a pile of ads."

"I read the headlines then look for a primary source like a video or published paper. Cuts out most of the spin and speculation."

- MadnessAsMuse

"It isn't just the blocking of ads though."

"Old internet was authentic user-generated content. New internet is stuffed with corporate-created search-engine-optimized content."

- ZanyDelaney

Giphy

The advertisements are incessant.

"No one was tracking you, and everything wasn't monetized."

- wiffleplop

"Hey, you posted that on another forum too! Buy this cream for $38.22!"

- userdeleted

"I was researching an M.2 drive today, found what I wanted and pulled the trigger on Amazon. My wife comes down to me later saying, 'What's an M.2 drive? I'm getting nothing but ads for this.'"

"Apart from the data mining, I don't know why they'd advertise an M.2 drive to a family who had just bought one anyway."

- nabiolc

"Because amazon's statistics say that people who just bought something are likely to buy another one. They wouldn't advertise it to you if they didn't think it would work."

- Watchful1

The aesthetic.

"The absolutely tacky color schemes people's sites had. Black background with yellow text with green links? You betcha. A line of animated GIFs for a page break? No problem."

"And FRAMES, lol. List of links on one side loading stuff into a frame on the other."

"Hit counters and guestbooks."

- satisfiction_phobos

"It really was the digital equivalent to glitter glue, macaroni, & construction paper in the beginning."

- Booji-Boy

"And it was BEAUTIFUL!"

- YetiBurgerNoMayo

Pixel 90S GIF Giphy

Chatrooms in the 90s.

"AOL Chatrooms."

- I988iarrived

"Same. Except I was on them waaay too young, in retrospect."

- BubblegumBxh

"I couldn't wait to get home or for my parents to go to sleep so I could go to the teen chatrooms smh."

- I988iarrived

"AOL AIM username directory so you could IM anyone in the world who was currently logged on and available at that moment. That's how I found a pen pal in 2004 I'm still in low contact with on Facebook now in 2021."

- bebespeaks

in trouble lol GIF by Nicky Rojo Giphy

The internet is a strange place, and it's evolved incredibly quickly over time. What we miss might not be around anymore, but we can still hold onto those nostalgic memories.

Initializing Start Up GIF by Alex Bobeda Giphy

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