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 rather romantic 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 promoted creativity. 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.
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 improve workflow, so I’ll refrain from recommending anything like that. I like writing articles in Markdown and using Hugo for static site generation and templating.