Monday, 10 June 2013

Media Monday - When coding became more cool, but less popular

What the NYT site would look like as a Geocities page, according to the Geocitiesizer.
I wanted to do my blog, but it didn't actually look too different, which is, er, worrying?

1996. My family had just gotten dial-up.

I was amazed that I could download pictures from the Lion King to put on my wall. Sure, I had to wait for hours as each picture appeared line by line, but I was 11 years old and couldn't think of anything else I'd ever need the internet for.

But in no time at all I was creating my own Geocities page, learning basic HTML and making my own 1990s web atrocities. I asked a friend what I should name my first website. She said Dynamite Pants… so I did. Oh dear.

To my dismay though, this was not considered a cool thing for a kid to be doing. When our class was asked what we did at the weekend, and my 11 or 12 year old self proudly announced that I'd created a website, kids laughed. Even the teacher said "Oookay" and changed the conversation.

But I loved it. I began to make complex websites with multiple frames and tables, and designs based on my favorite CD covers (notably Savage Garden, ahem). I wrote all my pages in notepad and uploaded them using FTP in DOS. Eventually I left my Geocities page to die a sad, Comic Sans encrusted death, and moved onto bigger and better platforms: xoom,,,, and probably a whole bunch more I can't remember.

Eventually I hit the big time and got a 'hosted' website. I felt like I'd struck internet gold.

If you remember, and way2kewl, you were probably a part of this teen domain scene. There's a whole thread on the GOMI forums devoted to these teen domains (you have to register to see it). 

You see, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, blogging wasn't what it is now. Buying a web domain was prohibitively expensive for a lot of young teenage girls. But those who had convinced their daddies to shell out for a dotcom were often more than happy to 'host' other teen sites. Hosts would give their friends a subdomain where they could create their own beautiful, deep and meaningful pages.

Being hosted meant you were part of your own special web clique. If your website had a one word name, tiny font sizes, clean design and a page of poetry, you might have been considered special enough to get hosted. And being hosted meant you were kinda cool, and you had rockstar HTML skills.

When I left high school I finally got my own domain. I set up a site and a message board so all my school friends could keep in touch as we went off to different universities. Then Myspace and Facebook happened.

My parents actually wondered why I never studied computing or web design. But I was stubborn and didn't want to have to go back to the beginning and learn the basics of setting up a website or using PaintShop Pro/PhotoShop when of course, I already knew it all, duh.

The sad thing is I didn't really do much more web design until I left university, and now I'm playing catch-up, learning HTML5 and CSS, and trying to pick up PHP and XML. I've been using a lot of cool tools to pick up skills that didn't exist when I was teenage girl, such as Codecademy and Lynda.

Coding is cool these days and there are loads of groups, meetups and hackathons to help you get started. I thought that with all of these cool sites to encourage people to pick up coding, there would be a huge rise in the popularity of learning to code. So I was really surprised to learn that's not the case:

Google Trends since 2004, showing searches for "HTML" has declined.
Since 2004, learning to code has become much more cool, yet far less popular.

I found this really interesting, and wonder if MySpace and Facebook are partly responsible. There are so many tools to help people create websites (hello Blogger/Blogspot) that even knowing the basics isn't really necessary.

So maybe once again I'm going against the grain, but that's okay! Over the next several weeks I'm going to show you what I've been doing and learning in web design and social media. If you're just learning too, or if you used to code your teen angst back in the 1990s, let me know, I'd love to see what you're doing.

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