Out with the old, in with the new

After more than 1,500 days since my last blog entry, from a now long-deleted part of the internet, here I am again.

For those who don’t know me, I used to be really into making websites, back when I was in high school and right through my Uni days.  We’re talking about from late 90s right through to about 2009. I had websites that offered layouts and graphics for downloads, fanlistings, a fanfiction archive, fansites, a forum, an online magazine and blogs. But real life got in the way and my websites became of less and less priority until one day I decided to close everything.

4 years later, at a much more stable period of my life, I think it’s about time to revive this old hobby of mine.

I thought I’d start the ball rolling by remembering how much blogging has since changed from when I last had a crack at it back in the 00’s.

1. Blogging for Profit

In the early days of blogging, mainly only bored teens, young adults or writers tended to blog.  People gathered in little communities on self-hosted blogs, livejournals, myspace (ick), blogger etc and discussed and shared their lives and hobbies.

At some point, people started blogging for money. I think that at first, more popular bloggers reviewed and commented on products/services that were paid for, then some blogs started having advertising on their sites. Then came blogs that were dedicated to posting about and sellng products/services.  From there grew there are massive communities, books, forums etc dedicated to maximising SEOs, keywords etc.

Companies have now joined the mix, with many professional services not only having a website, but also a blog with news and information about their particular industry.

Meanwhile, many of the personal blogs and LJs I used to know have now closed. I think with the  rise of facebook, twitter, tumblr and the likes, people have moved away from journal-style format of blogs and to more bite-sized updates on social media.

2. Guestbooks

In case you didn’t know, guestbooks were an early relic of the internet. Back when sites were mostly static webpages, a “guestbook” is a page to allow visitors to leave a comment to you about your site, as if your site is a virtual hotel or something.  Blogs quickly acquired the ability to allow comments and overtime, guestbooks fell to the wayside.

3. Cliques

During a big chunk of time when I had actively blogged, “cliques” were somewhat of a big deal.  A “clique” was kind of a glorified webring (remember those?), a site that listed a bunch of similar sites, usually picked by the owner of the “clique”. “Elite cliques” usually had an extensive criteria relating to the quality of the layout and content of applicant sites and allowed people to apply to join said clique if their website was deemed “good enough”. Such esteemed folks had the privilege of posting a small text link or button on their site that signified their eliteness, and their site would be added to the list of sites that made it in.

4. Fanlistings

A “fanlisting” is usually a small website about a a thing (person, character, song, movie, book, TV show etc) of which the owner is a fan. They generally would contain a form allowing people who like said thing to sign up and a list of said people. The Fanlistings Network is the official administrator of fanlistings, and they have (had?) a vast number of volunteers that checked fanlisting sites for how active they are.

Typically, only one “official” fanlisting site is recognised for each thing. I used to own the fanlisting for Neverwinter Nights 2, Pucca and the movie, My Fair Lady but they were all eventually taken down due to disinterest.

Fanlistings used to be everywhere, with people creating listings of all sorts of things, including people.  I’m a bit chuffed to say that at one point there was a fanlisting someone made of me, and people actually signed up to be a fan! With the advent of facebook and “liking” official pages of things, Fanlistings became less popular, I’m actually surprised to see that The Fanlisting Network is still up and running.

5. Linking and buttons

When making sites and blogs in the 00’s, in the links page, you would often describe your site as “link free”. Because bandwidth was precious and expensive back in the day, there were, honest to god, personal sites that were popular but which were not “link free”. That is, they request that you ask them permission before you link to them so that they can control the number of people accessing their site and the amount of bandwidth used up.

Of course, site owners can’t control this, but I do remember at one time someone being very cross that a third party had the audacity to link to their site without their permission. Ha, good times.

But anyway, most people back in the day do want visitors and so would say that their sites were “link free”, aka, feel free to link!  People would “exchange” links with each other, aka, agree to link to each other’s sites either by text or by use of a button.

When I started making websites, I would create little banners and link buttons that people can use to link to you site rather than using a text link. People used to have very pretty “link boards” or pages that were a collage of link buttons and banners. After some time, banners fell out of use but small link buttons stayed in vogue for a long time. Their size was always 88 by 31 pixels in size and to this day I never quite understood why those particular dimensions were the norm.

6. Being code compliant

This wasn’t that big a thing I suppose, but it was important to me. Since I started making sites, I turned my nose up at “WSIWIG” programs, i.e. software that people use to make websites without needing to code themselves (to be fair, early WSIWIG programs were really awful). I had always made my websites coded by hand, in notepad, with the except of javascripts and later, blogging platforms like wordpress.

I remember being such a pro with making complex layouts just right using really complex tables (we’re talking about cutting a layout into 20-40 pieces and putting them together using coding, not difficult conceptually, just tedious). Then came CSS and different browsers and everything got increasing more complicated.

At some point, it became a point of pride to be compliant with coding standards.  Even though your site might be viewed okay in browsers, your code might not technically be written in a way that complies with the standards issued by the W3C.  At the height of my interest in web-design, it meant a lot to me to comb through my coding to make sure that the coding met the standards. It was… pretty pedantic.

7. Changing layouts all the time

Many people I know who had blogs in the 00’s, myself included, changed their blog layouts all the time.  In my spare time, I used to design and make different layouts for my blog and sites every few months. Each layout would have a “version” number and was made from scratch.  Usually it was themed around an anime image, or song lyric or something cheesy like that.

I don’t see blogs changing their layouts as much these days, and layouts in general tend to be more subdued, mature, glossy and modern. What is surprising is that many tumblrs I’ve come across actually have a lot more similar design elements to the layouts I used to see and make back in the day.  I guess that style has just found another niche.

8. Omake

“Omake” is a Japanese word for “extra”.  Back in the day, many sites and blogs would have a little section called “omake” (or something along those lines) containing things for visitors. They included downloads, such as wallpapers, winamp skins, scans, and quizzes, tutorials etc. I don’t see things like this on blogs anymore, which tend to be really focused on the blogging aspect itself.

9. Fansites/Shrines

Not directly related to blogging, but back in the 00’s around the internet circles I hung out in, people had networks of sites.  Many of the sites were small fansites of things they liked. Most of the time, they were fansites, or “shrines” to anime, gaming, TV shows or associated characters.

A fansite typically had a general “info” section about the topic/character, some kind of analysis/opinion or in-depth consideration of the topic including why the creator is such a fan (English classes do have an application!), some kind of media section (e.g. wallpapers, scans, music associated with the topic) and then a general about/link section.

Fansites normally also showcased the web-design skills of the creator.  Often times, layouts of fansites were beautiful, complex and colourful (albeit at times impractical) creations, with the main visual theme centred around the topic of the site.  There were networks of shrines run by very creative individuals who create and manage upwards of 10 fansites at a time.

Fansites have died out these days, mainly I think due to the advent of wikis.  Most anime, games, books etc have wiki pages created and maintained by fans who all add to the wiki about the subject. They are nice wells of knowledge, but I do miss the analysis and in-depth opinions about characters or texts that you rarely see on wiki pages. Oh, and the beautiful layouts.

I’m sure I’ve left out lots of other idiosyncrasies of 00’s era blogging and the circle of young site creators who were into nerdy fandoms of which I was a part.  For more nostalgia feels, check out this page, which lists other features of hte itme. A good 90% of the domains and sites I used to know and admire are all gone now, which is a shame.  Ah well, at least we get to reminisce!

Having said all that, it’s time to move onwards! I’m not sure what I intend to do with this blog. Like my old blog, I guess my intention is just to write when I feel like it, about things that come to mind. It’s going to be cheesy, not that well thought out and rambly but at least for me, it’s something fun to look back upon one day, much like how I’ve done today.