If you were online in the first few years of the new millennium, you’ll probably remember some frustrating things. It could take ages to connect to the internet and load up the websites. Videos took years to buffer (or that’s how it seemed). Sometimes there were boxes with red crosses in them instead of images. There wasn’t really a concept of safety awareness in using chatrooms and talking with strangers on the net. But there were also some good aspects too…
Variety of information sources. Before Wikipedia became popular and the first website on your search results, it was more interesting to see what would turn up in your preferred search engine (which wasn’t necessarily Google). It’s hard to imagine it now that Wikipedia is our go-to for initial research into pretty much any topic. There were a lot of reference sites maintained by dedicated individuals, often with expertise in their fields. These still exist now, of course, but are not as visible in search results.
Free music. Downloading MP3 files for free is not a cool thing to do because of copyright law and loss of royalties. However, back then, it wasn’t thought of in this way by a lot of internet users. Plus, most people still used CD Walkmans and not portable MP3 players, so the files were only useful if you played them on your computer or burned them to disc. The greatest benefit of free music was that you could get hold of b-sides and other rarities which would otherwise be very difficult and expensive to source.
Personal websites. There were millions of amateur-looking webpages hosted with companies such as GeoCities and Angelfire. Today they would seem very basic, with horrible colour schemes, frames and no real purpose other than the excitement of having one’s own little corner of the internet. In a way, they were a forerunner of social media with their life updates and holiday photos. Some of them were more sophisticated. You could find some gems by clicking through ‘web rings’ or by following random links.
Guest books. It sounds rather old-fashioned and polite now, but a lot of websites would have a ‘guest book’ for visitors to sign. Basically it was a comments section but usually not interactive. It was a nice way to let the owner know that you’d visited their site. Websites now tend not to have guest books, because there is either a comments facility or another way to give feedback on the content. Before the rise of social media, there were fewer methods of getting in touch with the writers or owners of websites.
The internet wasn’t everywhere. It’s only quite recently that technology has improved enough for us to access the internet instantly on various portable devices. This is often a good thing but it does have disadvantages such as smartphone addiction and less time spent on physical activities. You’d access the internet when time and technology allowed and it wasn’t necessarily something you’d be on all day, especially if the phone line was needed or you were sharing the computer with other people.
Was there anything you liked about early 2000s internet? Let me know in the comments!