Surfing a Tedious Web

Surfing a Tedious Web

The internet was better when it wasn’t trying to sell us every chance it gets

Mike Eden's photo
Mike Eden
·Sep 10, 2021·

2 min read

It was the late 90s when I was called downstairs to my brother's room to witness the internet for the first time. It wasn't pretty—there was no CSS, but it was new and exciting. From Hamster Dance to Newgrounds flash animations, the world wide web was ridiculous yet innovative. It's not that I'm no longer amazed—how could I not be by a video editor in your browser? It's that the World Wide Web does not feel wide and vast, but small and homogeneous.

The internet is a digital strip mall of neon signs and advertisements: privacy and cookie policy banners, enable notification popups, mailing list popups, popup ads, and popups that beg you to deactivate the thing you use to block popups. It's a terrible experience.

This website is a perfect example of almost everything that's wrong with the user experience today. It's impossible to enjoy browsing websites without an ad blocker. Why have a beautiful design but clutter it with garbage? I realize this is likely marketing's fault and not the designer or developer. Maybe I’m looking through rose-tinted glasses, but the internet was better when it wasn’t trying to sell us every chance it gets.

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User becomes the used

Facebook was pretty good back in the day when it was nothing more than angsty lyrical status updates. Youtube was enjoyable before the onslaught of advertisements. Instagram was a great way to share photos with friends until every few posts became sponsored content. Algorithms do not encourage uniqueness or creativity. What happened to the user experience? How far will big tech go to constantly have our undivided attention?

Where do we go from here?

Because of the pandemic and the lockdowns, more people are taking the time to learn new skills like coding and web development. I think we're going to see more hobbyists wanting to do it all. More full stack developers means thinking about marketing from a developer point of view. And when users are also developers, the UX won't be an afterthought.

Cover photo by Thomas Schanz

 
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