We are the generation of the internet age! The landscape of the “information superhighway” has changed drastically over the last 20 years, though. Thankfully we no longer have to listen to the beeps and crackles of connecting via dial up. We also don’t have to end our instant messaging just so our mother can make a phone call. Sometimes, though, don’t we all miss the days of jumping into chat rooms filled with people asking each other “A/S/L?” and having either completely fictitious or oddly deep conversations with complete strangers?
As I slid my fingers around on the keyboard of my smartphone, chattering away with some of my favorite people on Facebook messenger the other night, though, I found the conversation reminiscing over our favorite daily haunts of the world wide web. They say the only constant in life is change, so let’s take a moment to reflect over those lovely websites that are either dead or no longer relevant in our lives as they were in our tweens or teens.
Online Diaries (LiveJournal, Open Diary, Xanga)
Known as the predecessors to modern blogs, online diaries started gaining momentum in the mid-1990s. Sites like these brought the everyday lives of youthful voices out of private paper journals and placed them on a public stage. For many of us, writing out our feelings and allowing eyes around the world to read and respond to us helped validate our emotions and experiences. It also gave many of us who felt alone a new way to feel connected to others in the world. Personally, I kept my Open Diary going strong for over a decade until the site was closed in 2014. Most of these sites have now given way to newer weblog providers such as Blogger, WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Tumblr. Vloggers have also become popular thanks to sites like YouTube.
Music Downloading (Kazaa, Limewire, Napster)
Long gone were the days of having to buy CDs once the internet made music downloading so easy. Most of us were too young to care about the legality of free downloads and burning mixes for our besties; we just wanted to listen to the music we loved without having to mow the yard for our parents. Unfortunately, many music producers and artists started filing lawsuits in the mid-2000s and we lost these sites forever. Of course, now we just all use Spotify to stream what we want when we want.
Communication (AOL, MSN, Yahoo!)
Many of us remember the delightful chimes of our favorite instant messaging services once our dial up finally connected and we could vent to our friends about how much we hated our parents. We’d also send each other delightfully hilarious little emoticons (yes, that’s right, I said ‘emoticon,’ not ‘emoji,’ kids) or use our email to sign up for Neopets or the newest Harry Potter themed chat room that seemed to be all the rage. Of course, eventually you had accounts with all of these places. So, you’d download Trillian or Pidgin and have the best of all worlds, talking on MSN while also on AIM.
Entertainment (Club Penguin, Neopets, Runescape, Webkinz, WoW)
As internet speeds increased (unless you lived in Tennessee like me), it became easier to do things like play multiplayer games or care for your own digital pets through the power of the web. What ended up being your time suck probably depends on your exact age and how nerdy you really were. Nearly all of us had at least one site that we had to be sure to get on daily to collect our loot or prizes, though. If you happen to still be a part of these delightful parts of the world wide web, that’s totally okay! Sadly, though, some of us simply can’t find the time or pry the tech from the claws of our toddlers.
Social Media (Friendster, Google+, MySpace)
Social media is still a huge part of why we engage in the internet, but before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, things looked a little different. We all can look back and remember the days of trying to decide if we wanted to really be friends with Tom or not, and spending time to sit at the computer to check all our dang messages because, after all, MySpace was “a place for friends.” Most of us have long abandoned MySpace, giving up on keeping our “Top 8” constantly updated, and now spend more time snapping selfies or updating our LinkedIn profiles.
So, why did all of these fads fade away like dust in the wind? Was it that we outgrew them? Was it just that the “information superhighway” is a constantly changing landscape and a digital form of survival of the fittest? Honestly, I don’t miss all the beeps, cranks, and shouts of “You’ve got mail!” Okay, maybe I do miss Neopets just a little bit? Someday we will get to tell our children about the days of chat rooms as they stare in disbelief, much like we did when our parents first dug out their old record collection. For now, though, hopefully this list took you back in time for a moment and gave you at least a few giggles.