slashbinbash.de / Alternative World Wide Web

In the past few years, I've grown tired of the mainstream World Wide Web experience. I miss the days when people built their own personal websites, where they presented their hobbies, projects, funny pictures, etc. It was much more personal and fun to browse.

Nowadays, the Web is mostly advertisements, top 10 lists, social media, and search engine optimized content that reads like a robot has written it. Sites with valuable content are few and far between. Personal websites are almost impossible to find with major search engines.

So I set out to find communities who share the same views as I do, when it comes to creating websites. I was surprised to find small but active communities that were doing their own thing and creating simple websites to share their interests, and connect.

Wiby Search Engine

wiby.me is a search engine built specifically to search for simple, static websites, without intrusive ads.

Their submit form states:

"What kind of pages get indexed?

Pages must be simple in design.
Simple HTML, non-commerical sites are preferred.
Pages should not use much scripts/css for cosmetic effect.
Don't use ads that are intrusive.
Don't submit a page which serves primarily as a portal to other bloated websites."

The search results are great. Of course you will find a lot of websites about old technologies and topics that are outdated. But it's fun to explore and learn more about the people who created these sites. That's what it's all about!

Neocities

Neocities is the successor to GeoCities. GeoCities was one of the biggest free web hosting services in the 90s and early 2000s.

The websites you find on Neocities convey very well how it was to browse the Web back then. Bright colors, lots of images and GIF animations, crazy backgrounds, tons of banners and buttons, and loud annoying music. It's a great display of creativity and freedom.

This is probably the easiest point of entry for people who want to create their personal website. They even provide an HTML course for beginners.

Tilde

tildeverse.org is one entry point to the tilde community.

The tilde community is comprised of individuals who host their own publicly accessible Linux and Unix systems. They provide different services to the community, including website hosting.

The server is often shared by multiple users. Each user has their own web space that can be reached via URLs like tilde.club/~benharri. The tilde character '~', followed directly by a name, signifies that the name belongs to a user on that server. ~benharri refers to the home directory of the user with the login name benharri.[1]

If you want to join a tilde community, you should probably be interest in learning how to work on a Linux or Unix based server. On most tilde sites, you will find a list of users, what types of services are provided, and important updates.

Geminispace

Gemini is a protocol that offers a very different web experience, due to its limitations.

The content is not represented as HTML but as a markup language called Gemtext, which is very easy to write and parse. Gemtext only supports the following elements: text, links, headings, lists, and blockquotes.
This means that the websites are small in size and free of any visual clutter.

Gemini boils down the Web to its most basic function: writing and linking content. This makes the websites on Geminispace very genuine. It's all about the content.

To visit Geminispace you require a browser that can understand the Gemini protocol. Hosting your website in Geminispace is also not that simple. However, the simplicity of the protocol enables people to write their own servers and clients, which is absolutely unthinkable with the modern Web.

If you are interested, check out the Gemini Quickstart! for ideas.

Self-Hosted

There is also a growing community of people who run their own virtual servers on which they host their content. I think that this can be a very liberating experience. You are in control of the content and what is presented to the visitors of your website. There are no community guidelines that you have to follow. There are no ads that are added to your content without your consent. There are no scripts running in the background, or cookies that track visitors.

Setting up a virtual Linux server is not as difficult as it may seem. If you are willing to read some tutorials, you can set up a web server in about an hour or so.

One of the more prominent advocates of hosting your own site is Luke Smith, who is very outspoken about the topic of technological independence, and has amassed a small following despite his strong non-mainstream opinions and brutal honesty.

If you want to go this route, one place to start is LandChad. The site will give you ideas about how to set up different services on your virtual server.

RSS Feeds

I think RSS feeds deserve a special mention when talking about a simpler World Wide Web.

RSS feeds allow you, as a content creator, to set up your own delivery system for content updates. Users can then use RSS readers and RSS aggregators to download feeds from different websites, and display them as a single news feed. No registration required.

You will find that many sites still use RSS feeds because it is a simple technology. It just works!™

Further Reading

Check out my article on Static Website Generation if you want to know how I prefer to create the content for this website.


  1. The tilde '~' and the tilde expansion are described in more detail in the POSIX standard:
    Shell Command Language, 2.6.1 Tilde Expansion