Nostalgia for the Early Web


Although it was a bit before my time I still have nostalgia for the early web. You know, that time when everyone still used rainbow marquees and site-visit counters. Sure, the early web was ugly compared to our modern minimalist leanings, but it was also fresh and original and full of useless curios.

My fondest memories of the early web are probably those spent browsing StumbleUpon, the website slot machine. I'd click aimlessly and travel the world for hours, reading high school drama or learning sailing knots or sending zombocom vibes to my friends.

So many people used personal websites to air their emotions to the world and broadcast their cool hobbies. It might've been twice the words that can fit in a tweet but it was also twice the personality. The web at this era wasn't the place for your office suite, and it hadn't yet attained the status of "useful".

I think the modern web lost something in the transition away from these self-hosted blogs. Projects like can emulate that sort of creative energy, but the web as a whole is lacking in it.

Things look particularly dire when you come across unfriendly patterns so often: subscription pop-up modals with microscopic dismissal buttons, SEO spam cluttering up the first page of Google results, invasive advertisements and autoplaying videos (thanks Fandom). Browsing websites randomly is a recipe for disaster. Instead, we rely on centralized platforms like Twitter, Medium, or Substack, all complete with their own set of issues and worried foremost about monetization.

Recently I discovered the Gemini Protocol, the origin of my recent wave of early web nostalgia. It's an alternative to the web, built around a protocol that is inherently limiting. Gemini restricts content to just text and links, no JavaScript, CSS, or HTML5.

Exploring Gemini servers has been a delightful experience. For example, the Midnight Pub is a tiny message board themed around its namesake, full of interesting posts. Some are in character, most are just regular blogs.

The city is buzzing, the streets are like arteries. You see an intriguing place in the alley, with a moon on its door. It reads "The Midnight Pub".

There's something raw and emotional and even voyeuristic about the types of blog posts that you find on Gemini. A lot of them channel the feelings I have towards my early experience with the web, or the modern re-telling of something like Hypnospace Outlaw.

Although I don't have any faith that Gemini will replace the web, nor would I particularly want it to, I welcome it as an interesting alternative. If you're interested in checking it out, read the guide over at

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