I & CO
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I & CO

Digital Creation: Now, Then, & Again

Sometimes we need to look to the past to help us meet the challenge of building for the future.

Source: Apple

Digital Retro-Modernism

Two projects landed in my browser tabs recently that capture the spirit of the early internet while simultaneously pointing towards a hopeful future. They use pre-web internet tools to build modern experiments in a form of digital retro-modernism. These tools are intentionally free of everything that’s familiar about the modern web. They focus on the core of digital communication for its own sake.

Pictured: Ben Brown’s profile on Happy Net Box
Pictured: A New Session
  • The growth of the privacy-first search engine DuckDuckGo
  • Google recently announced a new experiment to use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to give people a simple way to connect directly with publishers
  • A re-emergence of email newsletters (ex. Morning Brew) and a re-discovery of the simplicity of writing for the inbox

When in doubt, subtract.

Sometimes you have to look backward to go forward. In both the projects mentioned above, they started with the essential idea and stopped there, as if the web didn’t exist.

Where do we go from here?

I don’t know if I’d call these projects a trend, a forecast, or a lesson. Maybe they’re a mix of the three. I think they collectively point to a growing hunger in many people to reorient their relationship with technology and rethink how they exist online.

I believe there’s a bigger market for digital simplicity than ever before.

More people than ever want the tools they use, to be honest, and forthright about the data they collect. They want these tools to be accessible, respect their privacy, and deliver their services equitably. As new product builders, this is our responsibility. Sometimes sacrifices are made to create the products that our customers want and need. However, the success stories of the internet’s next decade will consist of builders, brands, and companies who can meet this challenge.

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