On webpages


The opinions on this page are, of course, mine, but the some of the 'facts' are probably mine as well, unless I've consulted other sources for them. So if you're going to use this information somewhere important, get a second opinion.

The Internet

The Internet is old*. It started as a US department of defence sponsored research network in 1969 and email has been around since 1972. The year I was born mailing lists were invented to facilitate online discussions on topics such as sci-fi as well as actual work, and in 1979, over 20 years ago, the wildly popular USENET discussion forum network (separate from the internet) was born; the first MUD** was created; and emoticons were invented. In the eighties and early nineties the internet grew in popularity as its use spread beyond computer professionals and CompSci majors. The first commercial provider of dial-up Internet access came in 1990, and, although they didn't offer Internet access until 1995(3*), the original big names in US ISPs were offering services on their own private networks from the mid 1980s. But it was the release of the graphical web browser Mosaic in 1993 that led to the Internet explosion, and to the common misconception that the World Wide Web = Internet. (You probably haven't even heard about archie and gopher have you?4*)

In the fall of 1994 I started at uni and before the end of the year I made my own homepage.

Source of facts on Internet history:
Hobbes' Internet Timeline v5.4 (HIT)

and my imagination

Homepages and Websites

I choose to call my presence on the web a homepage, even though it now comprises around 60 linked documents. According to the dictionary it's a website, and only the first or main page is the homepage, but, in this text at least, I use homepage to mean someone's personal presence on the web, whether or not it consists of several pages, and website to mean a collection of pages trying to offer something useful.

I use this distinction because while I set out to make a homepage, and have later added more or less usefull material, many people set out to make websites, and tossed in an "About me" link from the 'homepage' almost as an afterthought. Often though, the real purpose of the 'website' part was to draw attention to the 'about me' part. This latter type of website make up a large part of the web-graveyard.

When you set out on an exploration of the web you'll eventually encounter dead or broken web links (5*), and dead or dormant webpages (6*). An awful lot of these are homepages or personal websites, and many of them are sporting "Under Construction" banners. When webspace was free and forever these dead homepages were even more abundant, now that the webspace providers are enforcing time limits on unattended websites, while doing anything to attract new blood, they have been replaced by the providers default "This is Xs homepage" of a subscribtion aquired and promptly abandoned.

How make a good homepage

There are several reasons for creating a homepage or website. Providing information about yourself, your work and your interests, and providing a resource on one or more special topics. Focus on the first, and you have what I call a homepage, focus on the second and I define it as a website.(7*) The first kind tend to die because the owner looses interest, the other also falls prey to ambition. When creating a website about something you find interesting you want it to be hugely popular and the best on the net. (And maybe you want the fame of the site to rub off on you personally.) When it isn't hugely popular, and you realise how much work it is, you stop working on it, and it's left out there as an annoyance to anyone searching for information on its topic.(8*) Then again, if you put in enough work, it could become wildly popular. After all, the wildly popular sites out that were started by someone, right?

My homepage does not have what it takes to become wildly popular, and is unlikely to ever get it, but it is starting to aquire some of the trimmings of a website. My short stories might actually be enjoyable to someone who isn't reading them because they know me, and, hopefully, the addition of a section on my favourite authors and books to my raw list of books I've read, might expand my reputation as a decent guide to literature beyond my friend Raindawn. But I'm not counting on it, which is why this page is alive and "well" after 7 years. Enjoy!

*i.e. from before 1975... that's how I define old ;)
** Multi User Dungeon, a networked text based role playing game that spawned thousands of versions, some of which were no longer games, just meeting places.
3* The release of a horde of AOL-subscribers on an Internet community used to a certain netiquette is well remembered by those online at the time. AOL-subscribers were infamous for, amongst other things, following up usenet posts with 'me too', and nothing else. This wasteful practice is so well known that 'aol' is an accepted "abbreviation" of, you guessed it, 'me too'. 4* They were tools for finding information on the Internet before WWW rose to fame.
5* Links that give the 404 page not found reply due to the target being missing. A dead link is one that leads to a page that no longer exists.(x) A broken link is one where the address is wrong due to either a typo or the target changing its address.(x)
6* A dead or dormant web page(x) is one that presents old information as new since the owner is no longer updating it. (A website that no longer exists, isn't dead. You have to have a corpse to be dead, otherwise you're just missing.) You can't really tell whether a page is dead or just dormant without some knowledge of the owner. If s/he has forgotten his password or lost access to the webserver the page is dead, if s/he's just busy or has plain forgotten that this page exists on the site, it could be dormant. Lots of pages are more or less zombies, the information they contain do not require updating, but they are no longer, or never were, connected to the rest of the web, and their owners might have forgotten about them. An example is this site. It has pictures from my first trip to the US, that, due to their somewhat embarassing nature, were never linked to from my homepage. The server belongs to a computer club at my uni. I only paid the membership fee once, and I can't remember the password. If the link is dead, tell me about it.
7* If information about you, your work and your interests is a resource (e.g. you're a writer), I'd call it a homepage if it has a personal touch, otherwise, a website.
8* You'd think that maintaining a list of links to good sources of information on your topic of choice would be the way to go to avoid work and become popular, but due to the mentioned nature of a website creator, this is lots of work too. Without constant vigilance any list of links experiences what is known as link-rot, the constant "influx" of dead and broken links.

(x) These are my personal definitions, a dictionary might tell you the same, or otherwise, or nothing at all.
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