A new website for an old web

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I have spent the last couple of weeks reading about the indie web, the small web and the slow web. All related concepts that I personally boil down to "what the internet used to be like, until the corporations took over". That transition was probably somewhere around 2006? I'm not sure. Before the Big Web took over the majority of user attention, people made websites for themselves or for people with similar interests, and people who wanted to read things that interested them followed links from small time website owners or used explorative services like StumbleUpon to find new content. Of course, nowadays there are way more people on the 'net, but the majority of people spend more of their time on way fewer platforms like facebook, instagram, tiktok, etc. I miss the old days of small quirky websites built for fun. For some reason, having a reliance on WYSIWYG editors and bulky CMS solutions takes the fun out of it all. For me anyway.

Anyway, a couple years ago I came across shellsharks.com. I read something interesting on there, bookmarked it, then moved on. Then I came across the site again. And again. And then finally, a few weeks ago I decided to really explore it, click around the menu and read some of the other content. What I found outside of the blogpost or list I had been reading prior was a technical/infosec site with a whole host of cool features. It made me think about my own place on the web and what I wanted it to be for me, and for anyone who found it. I dove down the rabbit holes each of the features the shellsharks.com site had, only to find that they weren't unique nor were they overly new in many cases, from the idea behind a /now page, to having a public website changelog and integrating federation services. The key was doing it all yourself, for yourself. This appeals to me.

But what really got me thinking was the idea that the internet doesn't have to be Big. It can be Small. We don't have to have huge dependancy chains, host our sites on top of a gargantuan codebase that tries to do everything (and is slow as a result) or abide by any kind of user interface design principles in a conformist "everyone-else-does-it-this-way" way. We can play. We can experiment. We can break things.

This, as well as the recent xz supply chain attack, in turn got me thinking about my site from an infrastructure perspective. What did I want from it? The answer was simple. I wanted it to be something fun (for me), something useful (for you) and something mine. I wanted to know it inside out, to tinker with it like we used to back in the good ol' days. To break things, to make things.

So that's what this is. I've ditched Wordpress - I don't have anything negative to say about it, but many of the decisions I would make about web design, primarily on the backend, were made by someone else. That's fine. But I want to make them. So I built this. This very basic site. The only dependencies it has are PHP for some very basic logic stuff and some kind of web hosting software. In fact, I develop it on PHP's built in web server so whilst that's not suitable for production it is in theory optional to have web hosting software like nginx or whatever.

What's different?

There are plenty of features I haven't added yet (like an RSS feed) but the point of this rebuild is to plug away at my leisure, adding things as I see fit. It's mostly content right now; Here's what this new version of the site is launching with:

I aim to add an RSS feed, themes, plus a bunch of other stuff (check the aforementioned /ideas page) and eventually port over more of the content from the old site.

As for content, what happens happens. I hope that adding features and documenting them introduces a certain momentum which results in more blog posts and /tools. I'm also hoping that I can start to integrate more into the indieweb community and the fediverse, there's some great people and content out there and it all feels like the web used to.

It's kinda exciting.