In case you were trying to think of even more ways that Charlie Hills is One Awesome Person, consider the following. I’m part of the first generation in human history who:
- Grew up without any internet whatsoever.
- Made it to my twenties.
- And then, quite suddenly, INTERNET.
Given how the internet has permeated every aspect of our lives, it’s hard to imagine what life was like without it. Granted, the previous generation couldn’t imagine life without television. A generation before that, a life without radio. And a generation before that, well they probably couldn’t imagine life without water.
My guess (because I can’t know this for sure) is that my experience is quite different from those on either side of my generation. Kids today never knew a life without it. Older folks had it drop out of the sky as some “new fangled” thing. (By the way, does anyone know exactly what a “fangle” is?)
But for me: for my formative, early adult years to coincide exactly with the formative, early years of the commercial internet? Well, this bestows on me a very special title: Grumpy Old Internet Man. That’s right. By no virtue other than being born at a time completely outside of my control, then subsequently doing nothing for decades as the world whirled about me, I have earned the right to yell at the kids to get off my virtual lawn.
I’ll save a full “History of the Internet” for a later blog post, essay, or epic-length non-fiction work. For now, we’ll just look at the good old days. Then quickly begin ranting about how everything has gone to the dogs.
The Good Old Days
The internet (meaning, the underlying interconnected network) as we know it began in the early 1980s. However, The Internet as we now know it wasn’t a thing until The World Wide Web sprang into existence a decade later. Because the two technologies are tightly coupled, the terms quickly became synonymous. But only people from my generation (you know, the correct generation) know the difference and keep them properly straight.
Anyway, the early Internet (which, as everyone knows, is the same thing as the World Wide Web) was used as a way for scientists and academics to publish papers and hyperlink them together. (A hyperlink is the same thing as a regular link, but one that has eaten too much sugar.) This is essentially the origin of what we consider the free and open internet. Had the internet been designed by and built for commercial purposes from the get-go, it would be a very different place now.
These Good Old Days were Good because everything was so much simpler, as Good Old Days are wont to be. Pages were made up of text. Hyperlinked text could take you to other pages. You didn’t have to wait for five, ten, or six hundred seconds as three thousand advertisements, analytics trackers, and spyware loaded along side your content. Instead you waited for five, ten, or six hundred seconds as the carrier pigeons delivered sparse content from the web server directly to your home computer.
These Good Old Days were also Good because everything was new. We were exploring the unexplored and millions of us were all doing it together. This wasn’t an Age of Exploration where we’d send a solitary ship across the ocean and then wait two years for the chocolate to return. No, in this Age, every single day brought us some new form of chocolate and we gorged ourselves on it.
Why I’ll tell you what happened! All these crazies started using the internet too! And then the corporations got their greedy hands on it and ruined everything. (Charlie takes a swig from his hip flask.) And don’t get me started on all the crimmnuls, thieves and hucksters using it! (Swig.) And then there’s these hippies who decided that every ten words of text must be accompanied by ten megabytes of “graphics.” Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket!?
Welcome, at last, to the first installment of Grumpy Old Internet Man, in the form of an open letter.
I get it. Content costs money to produce and your readers don’t pay a dime (to you) to consume said content. Hence, advertising is in all likelihood here to stay. However, I think you can do a better job of seamlessly integrating the advertising with the content. Otherwise I won’t bother with your ads or your content. I’ve got real life kids to shoo off my real life lawn and don’t have time to waste on your shenanigans! It’s time to lay down the law!
- If I’ve never been to your web site before, and I’ve only just arrived here because of a Google search, please do NOT prompt me to sign up for your damned newsletter immediately upon my arrival. Our relationship has lasted all of two seconds: what makes you think I want you in my inbox seventeen times a day for the rest of my existence!? Geez. At least give me a minute to see how crappy your writing is first.
- I do not care about Twenty Things Women Do That Men Don’t Know and I seriously doubt that #17 will shock me. I will not fall for your article on Twelve Former Disney Stars Who Ended up in Russian Prisons. (Though, to be fair, I am curious about #3.)
- If for whatever reason I do click on Fifteen Recipes That Will Make You Rethink Tofu, then you had better put all fifteen of them on one page. If I have to click a single button to get to the second one, I’m gone.
- This seventy-two year old grandmother does NOT look twenty-five. Seriously, those are two different people.
- I seriously doubt my faith in humanity will be restored at one minute and twelve seconds into your video. My faith in humanity will be restored when clickbait comes to an welcome, but hardly untimely, end.
- If the advertisement to content ratio is greater than 100:1, then congratulations: you have a normal, modern web site. And I’m not going to visit it.
- Once the content loads, just leave it there. Quit making it jump around eight or nine times as the Boxes o’ Spam slowly load one by one, changing the page layout with each new arrival.
- If someone Rick-rolls me with a Justin Bieber video and I stay on the page for ONE SECOND before closing it, believe me, I don’t want to see 47 more “recommended for you” Justin Bieber videos on my next visit.
If you think that’s all I have, you’re quite mistaken. There will be more in the future. I’d keep on going now, but I really need to watch the Top Twenty Banned Commercials (#12 made me throw my computer off the roof).