Hello, brave netizen! If you’ve found your way onto this guide then you have embarked on the first exciting step into the Web Revival. This guide will give you the low down on all things web! By the end of it you’ll know what the Web Revival is, what it stands for, and how you can take part in it; grab your browser because surfs up on the net and we’re goi'n.. er.. surfi'n!
What is the Web Revival?? (2023 Edition)
The Web Revival is one name for a wider internet-based movement! The name itself is derived from the Folk Revival of the mid-20th century. The Folk Revival promoted a feeling of humanity, creativity and equality at a time of rapid mechanisation; whereas the Web Revival promotes these values in the face of the rapid digitisation that surrounds us today.
The Web Revival is about reclaiming the technology in our lives and asking what we really want from the tools we use, and the digital experiences we share. The Web Revival often references the early Internet, but it's not about recreating a bygone web; the Web Revival is about reviving the spirit of openness and fresh excitement that surrounded the Web in its earliest days.
The Web Revival is not one single movement, but a loose collection of ideas and groups that fall under many names, such as:
- Wild Web - Punky freeform, zine crafting, art homepages and chaotic sites - Such as MelonLand
- Net Positive - Sites focusing on whimsy, learning and encouragement such as 32bit Cafe
- Smol / Small Web - This name is often favoured by minimalist sites such as m15o’s Status.Cafe
- Indie / Open Web - Professional independently-run sites with a focus on free and open source code - Indie Web
- Old / Retro / Web 1.0 - Retro enthusiast sites focused on supporting and using old hardware - The Old Net
- Garden / Poetic Web - Sites focused on reflection, gathering thoughts and obscurity - Naive Weekly
- Neocities - A brand name for the web hosting company and community that houses many Web Revival sites - Neocities
- … and many others!
So what ties it all together?
Web Revival enthusiasts come from all walks of life, however, most share a few things in common and I will TRY to list them:
- Creativity is First- Most see the ability to design, decorate and graffiti digital spaces as essential and powerful
- The Internet is Fun - Most want the Web to be a playground that's free to explore and enjoy
- Corporations are Boring - Most are sick of the monetisation, data abuse and endless breaches of trust in corporate culture
- The Web is Friendly - All feel that the Web should be friendly and supportive; caring is a radical act
- Right to Repair - They value the freedom to make, break and repair their stuff - tinkering is a form of debate and protest
- One World Wide Web - They want free open knowledge and global connectivity, without paywalls, bubbles or borders
- Chaotic Effort - They believe that value comes from time and effort put into projects they love for no reason other than love
- No to Web3 - To most, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, unfairly trained AIs and buzzword tech are unwelcome and uncool
These ideals are expressed by creating websites, zines, online spaces, video games, artworks, journals and much more!
Web Revivalists will often choose to use alternative technology and software in their lives, or to modify and remix the technology they find around them. Reusing obsolete things (like older digital cameras, mp3 players, site builders etc.), can be a form of environmental, anti-corperate and aesthetic rebellion.
The goal is to find what was best about the early web and what is best about new technologies and merge the two into a model for tomorrow; while kicking all the Zuckerberg's and Musk's to the curb so we can get on with our lives. The citizens of the web deserve more respect than to be boxed into cubicles, limited to 280 characters, studied and rebranded.
The Web Revival is about building a sense of mystery, humour, humility and optimism in technology. The Web Revival above all else values action; we avoid perfectionism because it limits action - the Web Revival encourages creating and sharing things, even if they are small, broken, incomplete and Warning Under Construction.
It's important not to confuse the Web Revival with artistic styles such as Vaporwave; or other retro-core / aesthetic trends - the Web Revival is a set of creative values more than a visual style.
Aside: When we say “the early web”, we are talking about the Tim Burners Lee vision of the web that was focused on the open exchange of information among all humanity; mixed with the chaos of Geocities. Geocities was an early web hosting platform that became many people's first experience of “owning” their own space on the World Wide Web, it led to some crazy designs and free expression that was more or less forgotten after social media appeared in the 00s.
Aside: What is “free expression and freedom online”? Free expression is the ability to show your true self online, to share the things you love in a way you love; without having to conform to any platform or social pressure. Free expression in the Web Revival community does not mean hate speech or putting down others. To hate is to put yourself in a prison of your own making, and that will never fly with Web Revival people.
How to surf the web!
Surfing the web is about going on an adventure, it's about clicking links and seeing where they go. You won't find Web Revival sites on typical search engines, you won't find them on social media sites and no algorithm will pick them out for you. To surf the Web Revival, you start on one site, you find links and you follow the trail; be brave, explore, keep going, keep going!
I have a little challenge for you!
- Click here!
- Pick a site and see if you can find its links page.
- Pick a badge (The little rectangular images) you think looks cool and click it.
- A new site will open, then find that site's links, look for another badge and click it!
- Keep going, see how far you can go before you reach a dead end!
That is surfing, that's an adventure. Save the sites in your bookmarks, you’ll want to share them when you make your own site.
What's in it for me? Why make a site?
That's a fair question, why should you invest your time and energy in the Web Revival? Maybe you relate to some of the ideals listed above, or maybe you're not sure; ideals are nice, but life is not about ideals. I challenge you; don’t think about the Web Revival as a resource for you to exploit; instead, it's an offer; to play, to explore the unknown, to do something just for fun; not for money, status, or because it's trendy.
Maybe you’ll get nothing out of it, but I think you will! Like many others, I think you’ll find peace, freedom and relief from stress in creating your own digital world and owning your own space. Play is not about passing time, it's about inventing and becoming who you are and who you wish to become. You deserve to experience a web where you are free to be who you wanna be and do what you wanna do; one where you decide how to spend your time, not an algorithm that exploits you for profit. The Web Revival can't fix everything wrong in the world, but we can make it better, one little homepage at a time.
How do I take part?
If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, that's wonderful! There are lots of ways you can join in, but the best way is to make your own website! Mosey on over to the next guide to learn the basics of a Web Revival site ———>
External media worth reading to explore the Web Revival and its inspirations more:
- Manifestos of the Web Revival - A list of personal essays by Web Revivalists!
- In Defense of the Poor Image and Is the Internet Dead? essays by Hito Steyerl
- Hackers (1995) - “Hackers isn't a very good movie, but it's a darn sight more fun than The Net.” - Steven Rea
- From My to Me essay by Olia Lialina
- Bringing GeoCities Back with Kyle Drake (Podcast about Neocities)
- The Web Revival and the Folk Life of Virtual Worlds - talk by Daniel Murray (me!)
Note: This page has been revised to keep it relevant and updated you can see an archive of the first version here.