Charles Harries

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90s web

Max Bock on the Return of the 90s Web points out a great trend in web development, but I can't help but think that there's a bit more to it.

Max Bock wrote The Return of the 90s Web almost 2 years ago now, but I just came across it recently when he tweeted about it. In it, he points to a return to server-side rendering, no-code tools like Webflow, the growth of niche communities centred around personal spaces (as opposed to social media spaces hosted on centralised platforms), and a return to self-curated feeds like RSS (as opposed to algorithmically-curated ones).

I like that these things are growing: they align well with the vision that I have for the Internet. They're sustainable practices that put the most equitable division of power in the hands of the most people. They're trends that I want to see continue.

But. It's no secret that the web development community (& especially the JavaScript community) is a fan of shiny new things, and for a lot of developers out there, a "return to the 90s web" isn't so much a return to form but a new thing entirely. Stack Overflow's 2021 developer survey shows that ~50% of software developers have less than 10 years of experience; the latest State of JS roughly agrees. That's a lot of folks who weren't around for the web development of the 90s—a lot of folks keen to write tutorials for or create videos or tweet about what is, with a decade's worth of JS framework chaos behind us, an entirely new trend. There's a massive education/thought-leadership sub-industry that thrives on the high technological churn rate in web development, so macro trends like these are absolutely fantastic for drumming up hype and generating content. Hell, I'm doing it right now!

Building long-lasting, accessible, fast websites that work well for as many users as possible is the name of the game here. It's not a trend—it's just a good design pattern. Let's not let this be another wave for think-piece authors to ride & discard when the next big thing evolves.

The Return of the 90s Web, Max Böck

Web