The internet has reached the point where almost everything has been concertrated in just a few platforms. This is both opposed to the original idea of a decentralized and free internet, and is also used as a tool for control, since the flow of information is “managed” only by a handful of companies.
My proposal is that we should make an attempt return to the old ways of the internet (1990s-2000s) — when personal websites and small communities were thriving — not because of nostalgia, but because it espoused better values, and was more fun and interesting. The old web had its problems too; there were massive amounts of spam, malware, bad security practices and all traffic was unencrypted! Hence, the goal is not to blindly go back to a previous state, but to go forward with a different mindset. This might very well be a pipe dream at this point, but I think it would be great to at least see this movement attracting more people than it already does.
I had initially written a full article explaining my viewpoint but the following articles express all the important points better than I could ever have:
- Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web
- Rediscovering the Small Web
- The small web is beautiful
- The Website Obesity Crisis
So, how can you be part of the small web? To start off, you need:
- A domain name. I use Epik.
- Somewhere to host your website/service. I rent a Vultr VPS with the cheapest plan available, which is more than enough for my needs, but you can even do self-hosting at home if you want. If you do rent from Vultr, you can follow this guide.
- To connect the domain name with the server, so that your website can be reached.
- A stable and secure operating system for servers, such as OpenBSD.
Landchad.net is a community-driven website that offers several guides on setting up various web services.
A list of guides I’ve written:
- Set up an OpenBSD web server.
- Create an RSS feed for your website.
- Edit files locally and upload them to the server.
- Set up an OpenBSD Git server with a mimimal web frontend.
To make finding other websites easier, have a links page, and consider being part of a webring.
The tools you choose to manage your website depend on personal preference and needs, but I firmly believe that because building a website is not rocket science, you don’t need anything more than a few command line utilities, a text editor, and perhaps a static site generator. Fancy modern web tools tend to cause more headaches than actually improving workflow, so I’ll refrain from recommending anything like that. I like writing articles in Markdown and using Hugo to do the static site generation and templating for me. Others prefer to handwrite HTML directly. You could also write your own scripts/programs if no existing solution satisfies your needs.