Ever since the computer and internet entered my life, it has been a rollicking journey of discovering and delighting in one techno-treat after the other. I remember that when I started using internet, it almost felt like embarking on an adventure, exploring new worlds and new wonders. And I did not shy away from exploring any new wonder I came across. I remember that before I had completed a year of being an internet user, I had already built up a website for myself on Yahoo! GeoCities (closed in 2009).
What I mean to say is that I have always loved trying out new technologies. Maybe that is why when I wanted to try blogging, it was a technology blog that I started first of all. Over the years, I’ve found several favorites on the web. As years went by, while I saw the rise of new favorites, I also saw the fall of some old delights. Websites and services that were all a rage once, and then went out of public favor because new innovations emerged to take their place. Although I fully enjoy these new services, I do miss some of the older ones and wish they still existed.
Here’s my list of 5 internet delights that I miss:
Wave was a very unique chat service announced at the Google I/O conference of 2009. As it was shut down in 2012, it had a very short lifespan. Actually, it never gained much popularity. Maybe because most people never felt the need for another chat service when there were simpler and more popular chat messengers available.
The unique thing about Google Wave chats was that they enabled real-time collaboration and editing. Many chat messenger today let you see when the other person is typing. But Wave showed what was being typed, letter by letter. Not just that, one user could edit the message of the other user, even while it was being written. Multiple people could join a Wave and edit each other’s messages. In professional scenario, that could have worked like meeting where ideas are discussed, edited, and a final draft is readied. But, Google Wave never really flourished because, I think, most people could never understand its use.
I started using Wave when it was still invite-only. I invited several of my friends to it. Only one tried it. And when the two of us Waved, editing each other’s words in weird ways, it was so much fun. Sadly, the Wave drifted off, and so did that friend. Life took over, our hours became busier and busier, and chatting became a waste of time.
Honestly speaking, I’m not quite sure whether it is the Wave that I miss now, or just that freer time.
Also by Google, Orkut was once the most popular social network. I think, it was Orkut that familiarized people with the idea of online social networking. Orkut was launched in 2004 and closed in 2014. During those ten years, it enjoyed tremendous popularity among the young netizens. In fact, as per Wikipedia, Orkut was one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil in 2008. But then, Facebook took over.
Orkut allowed users to customize their profiles in themes. Users became ‘fans’ of others or added other users to their ‘Crush List.’ If I remember correctly, users could post public status messages that were visible to all. But the social network was more focused on posting messages called ‘Scraps’ to other people’s Scrapbooks. Many websites rose up at that time offering funny, motivational, picture scraps. Images formed out of words and special characters were very popular. It also had Communities centering around various interests. These communities were an excellent way to interact with strangers and hold a discussion about different things.
When I look back at Orkut, I think we enjoyed it so much at that time because it was more social and friendly, unlike Facebook and Twitter today that have become a playground of propagandists. In its later years, Orkut too became a tool of such propaganda. I think that was one of the reasons why the youngsters gave it up in favour of the new Facebook.
Yahoo! Groups are not dead, yet. But they are certainly not as popular as they once were. I used to love Yahoo! Groups and was a member of several that centered around humour and motivation. All of those groups are now inactive. One of these was my particular favorite. Its newsletter shared quotations. But what made it special was the discussion that its members carried out through it. Those were deep and meaningful discussions, not idle banter. I used to love participating in them and share my views and opinions with people from other countries.
As I mentioned earlier, I loved trying new technotreats. So, of course, I tried my hand at moderating a Yahoo! Group too. My group is called Golden-STEP (Golden-Smiles-n-Tears-of-Eternal-Poetry. As I had studied English Literature for my Graduation and Post Graduation, I was in love with poetry. Well, I still am. I just don’t have any time to indulge in it now.
Anyway, I started Golden-STEP it in 2002. I had many subscribers and I used to send regular newsletters or eZines to them. My eZine had poems, Shakepeare’s gems, jokes, quotations and messages from readers. Till 2009, I got an excellent response from my readers. But then, the responses dropped, spam and mail delivery failures increased. In 2011, I finally accepted that very few people were actually opening my newsletters now. It seemed to me that many weren’t even using their old email addresses any more. So, finally, I stopped posting in 2011. The group still exists and you can check it out HERE, but it is no longer active. I can tell you that I still miss it a lot. I tried transferring the poems I had shared on Golden-STEP to a blog, That blog also still exists and has many beautiful poems (check it out at https://goldenstp.wordpress.com/). But, with a full-time job and an unrelenting ambition to become a famous novelist, I no longer have the time to keep Golden-STEP blog active either.
Yahoo Chat Rooms:
We now have many social networking sites and apps. Yahoo’s chat rooms may not sound anything special now. But at that time, they were quite a new experience, and a lot of fun. They allowed users to chat under an assumed name, and that gave everybody a sense of freedom to chat frankly. Of course, there was a lot of mischief going on in those rooms too. And it was kind of tough keeping up if different sets of people carried on different threads of conversation within a same room. That sometimes lead to hilarious situations. I remember I once posted a congratulatory message to one person, only to realize that my message had appeared just under the message of a different person who was bemoaning a great loss!
Over time, those chat rooms became rather too naughty. Conversations gave way to dirty talks. The anonymity they allowed the users gave many a license to be rude and insulting and spammy in public groups. Finally, as users dwindled and controversies and competition increased, the chat rooms were closed in 2012. By then, many other services had risen up to take their place. But none of them had the feeling of ‘new experience’ that Yahoo’s chat rooms had.
Feed140 was an excellent social media automation service. It allowed people to build up message lists. The service then auto-posted the messages on this list to Twitter and Facebook. The best thing about this was that once it had run through the entire list, it started again from the first message. That is, once you built a list, it was shared on Facebook and Twitter in a recurring cycle. I used this service to share my novels’ excerpts and reviews on FB and Twitter. It worked well and proved to be a great time saver.
But, seems like it did not work so well for its developer. As the developer stopped working on it, the service started having problems that were never resolved. Feed140 was finally pulled down last month.
Although Feed140 was not a fun tool, it was a great utility for someone needing to share recurring images and messages on FB and Twitter. I haven’t yet found any other service that works as well as Feed140 did. No wonder, therefore, that I miss it already and wish for it to come back.
Looking back at these old favourites makes me wonder when my current favorites will come to their end. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix etc. are huge now. But for how long? What will come next? The world of technology is changing so fast. Today’s favourite may not even exist tomorrow.
P.S. is there any website or online service you loved and lost? Tell me about it!
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