Number Nine

« August 2007 »

I'm on vacation, and while I'm gone, with computers and Net connections in short supply, I'm counting down the Ten Greatest Crimes Against Humanity Committed By The Internet. The series begins here.

The statute of limitations is a horrible thing. And on the Internet, where everything moves faster, the statute of limitations is breathtakingly short. Still, before Web 2.0 and its crimes against humanity, there was Web 1.0. And before Web 1.0, there was the proto-web - a time when nobody knew what they were doing, but everyone thought what they were doing was AWESOME.

And like fashions from the 70's, we can look back on them now and see just what kind of epic crimes against humanity they were. At least we don't have to worry about them ever coming back... well, except for on MySpace.

Case in point: HIT COUNTERS. The tiger-print leggings of the early Internet. Everybody had one, because individual pageviews, measured in the thousands, were the only way you could tell if you had an audience. Now there's Alexa and stats packages and Google page ranks to obsess over in the privacy of your own home, instead of six-digit displays that looked like odometers, or if you were REALLY cool, LED odometers, that told everyone who visited your website that eight hundred seventy three people had stopped by since the last time you accidentally reset the counter. GOOD FUCKING RIDDANCE.

Of course, if you wanted to make sure the best way none of those eight hundred and seventy three people ever visited your site again, the best way to do that was the EMBEDDED MIDI FILE. Yes, folks, there was a time, a time before MP3's, when five or six megabytes of data would choke the living shit out of any tiny, tiny pipe that tried to connect to it. So instead, there were MIDI files and little players, that would play wonderful bleepy synth versions of songs in the background as soon as the page loaded.

They weren't just anathema to anyone surfing from work. They were anathema to anybody with ears. Hell, since it was MIDI, it didn't matter if your computer had SPEAKERS. Half the time, the sound would come out of your CPU box, sounding like the world's heaviest musical greeting card. I would just like to say to everyone who had one of these on your website, I still hate you all.

And we all know, if there was a MIDI file on the web page, there was a litany of other design horrors that inevitably went along with it. Like blink tags. If there are any fifteen-year-olds reading this site, "blink tags" were HTML tags that made the text between them blink. Even when it was the only special effect at our disposal, we all hated it. It's so despised, even in retrospect, that the software that runs YAD won't even allow me to use it IRONICALLY. Otherwise, that word "blink" would be blinking like crazy, just to prove how awful it was.

Let's not forget tiled background pictures that the text would sit right on top of so that nobody could read it, which ended up being for the best, since the text was all centered, underlined, and usually about the dog the background picture was a picture of. Oh, god, and webrings, where every single ugly-ass web page about a particular topic could be grouped together in a giant monkeypile of awfulness.

And then they started America Online, and things got REALLY bad.

Looking back, it's really amazing that society didn't take one look at the Internet, throw it into a paper bag, and toss it behind the dumpster at the high school. And knowing about the other eight things I've got in store for you, that might have been better for us all.