The Future. Neal Agarwal, a 25-year-old coder who’s been going viral for his off-kilter websites since childhood, is using his site to archive and build on the kitschy insanity of the early internet — an internet that could’ve still existed if it weren’t for smartphones. But as hanging out online has become a tailspin of toxicity, doom, and minefields, an incoming generation of internet users may take social networking private and rebuild the web as a place of pure, weird creative expression.
Let chaos reign
Insider breaks down what makes Agarwal’s website, neal.fun, both the most fun place on the internet and a time capsule of the beautiful strangeness the world wide web once was.
- neal.fun is a repository of all of Agarwal’s pet projects, including a bevy of Flash-like games that recall the simple yet groundbreaking absurdity of Flash-based sites like Homestar Runner and the Helicopter Game.
- That includes viral game webpages like “Asteroid Launcher” (where you can hurl space rocks at your hometown) and “Spend Bill Gates’ Money” (exactly what it sounds like) — just a vault of fun, time-sucking distractions.
- It also contains a virtual museum called “Internet Artifacts” that lets users trace the origin of the internet, with recreations of Ask Jeeves, Myspace, and Napster.
- The archive takes users up to 2007 — the year Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and ushered in a new online era.
Why did the internet change so much? Insider’s Brian Barrett says it was two forces: Apple essentially de-platforming Flash on the iPhone because of its security bugs (taking away the tool of creativity) and the preference for platforms over websites (which gave everyone a fixed canvas for said creativity).
In other words, to boost access to online connectivity, we dimmed the internet’s feeling of limitlessness. neal.fun won’t revolutionize the internet, but it may at least remind people of the Wild West it used to be.