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Welcome to RetroNET

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a series of blog posts talking about the background of RetroNET, why it’s doing what it’s doing, and where I hope we’re heading. I’d like to start by giving a little bit of background about the genesis of RetroNET.

The web of 2021 is very different from the web of the 1990s. Our modern experience is defined by social media, shopping, streaming, comments, likes, and subscriptions. More than anything, the modern web is an application development platform, a set of APIs and frameworks designed to augment or, increasingly frequently, to replace tradtional desktop applications. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. The modern web is useful, and it’s hard to imagine life without it.

But the World Wide Web, as we once called it, came into being with different intentions. It was originally a document-focused system. It was envisioned to be a way of sharing written content with a focus on hypertext and hyperlinks. This sounds almost quaint to us in 2021, but in 1991 it was a revalation. It was of course not the first hypertext system, not by a long shot, but it was the first to really democratize hypertext in a widely accepted and open way on the Internet.

I think if we turn our back on that original vision of the web, we’ve lost something valuable. The good news is that the web is big, and there’s plenty of room for both the old and the new to exist side by side.

RetroNET as it exists in November of 2021 is an empty sheet of paper, it could grow into anything. But, to get the ball rolling, I’ve envisioned as a starting point a directory of websites that are browsable by vintage computers. Why? Partly because it’s actually useful to me, as a vintage computer enthusiast. But also, partly because it’s just plain fun to be nostalgic about simpler times.

In order to promote this goal, I’ve laid out a few rules and guidelines for inclusion in the RetroNET directory. If you have a site that’s easily browsable by vintage web browsers, I encourage you to drop me a line and let me know about it.

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