Described as “a literary/graphic project…built by three artists with strong interests in screens”, websafe2k16 seeks to provide a platform for memories of a pre-broadband Internet. Using the Web Safe color palette, and its 216 colors, as a point of reference, the project consists of 216 authors who write 216 words each, inspired by a specific color in the web safe range. Beginning 2/16/16, one piece is published daily. The swatches and text of the site provide a homogeneous backdrop for the varied experiences of the authors.
Old internet pages are a powerful source for nostalgia, interest, and hilarity, as we can see from listicles from the last few years from the likes of Mental Floss and Gizmodo (Space Jam’s original website is legitimately amazing). You can also experience the screeching death rattle of Dial-Up internet. Sites like 404pagefound seek specifically to undercut the cynicism towards old internet pages, saying “no one benefits by insulting historic websites”. However, even for those who experienced this era, there is a mix of love, for the new doors of information and communities, and hate, for the inconvenience and trouble shooting. Websafe2k16 provides a space for these complexities, which are often far from clear cut, on the line between poetry and prose.
There are many beautiful nuggets to be found on the site, from Kevin Nguyen’s (the editorial director of Google Play Books) story of building his first website and being woefully misunderstood, to Pitta Snakes’s use of chat speak and text art which touches on boredom and loneliness. Others explore wishful creative projects, ideas of self image, and quite a few mentions of Neopets. The site is a sparse visual landscape with many a story to keep you reading, and clicking. A desert filled with odd and unexpected artefacts. This experience, in a way, emulates the loneliness, strangeness, and excitement of the early internet.
In the sea of colors and names the idea of incredible technology far beyond its peak, and the humans who experienced it, is laid bare. I could say that no matter the technology, our experiences of coming of age, of loneliness, of our own humanity, will remain largely the same. But rather it leaves me wondering how our current internet will be rendered ridiculous and outdated to those in the future (including our future selves).
Feature image via Robert Deere