welcome to a (smol) museum in memoriam of pixel paradises , these personal sites were carefully crafted with love and care and meticulously drawn pixel layouts.
my personal web story: i can actually trace back my oldest online presence to June 1, 2005 3:52PM (via my deviantart account), although i’ve been online since before then. I was a baby netizen surfing the www on AOL with the familiar chime of “you got mail!” every time i logged on, but not before sitting through that infamous dial up tone…
I was active on gaiaonline, deviantart, myspace, xanga, livejournal, to name a few, but just as i frequented those sites, i spent most of my time on the cute pixel infused personal sites, in more modern times referred to as
2006 felt like a magical time. The internet felt much smaller and more intimate, and i found myself in a rabbit hole of dolling, dollz makers, room makers, pixel adoptions, pixel trading* (like the q-bee, pill pallz, tiny towers, gardens, etc), and the treasure trove of personal customization of your web self. 100x100 avatars for your live journal or 50x50 icons for your AIM profile, custom pointers for your myspace, or emoticon sets for your blog.
There is something so satisfying about customizing your online appearance. I spent so many hours looking at these cute pixel sites, that i used to draw my dream website layout with pencil and paper and cut out separate paper “pages” (websites are akin to books, afterall) for different links on the site.
i would draw my own pixel art and dream of joining pixel trading clubs like the quilting bee or pill pals. One of my favorite pastimes was surfing through other people’s toybox and adoption pages. What i miss the most about the old web is the sense of community and creativity. You would put other people’s pixel creations on your site and link to them, and in turn your pixel art would be shared among other similar sites. when they're all put together, they look like kawaii eye candy! (✧ω✧)
-> they are typically small pixel graphics of any kind that you would put on your site, commonly in a "toybox", a term that meant a collection of adoptions, which would link back to the original creator.
pixel trading clubs were a fun way to be part of an online community. you would make pixel art set around a specific theme, often with their own standards and templates, i.e. pixel jars, trains, etc!. when displayed all together, the different personalities shine through in a visually pleasing way! :->
affiliates, sometimes refered to as affies, were another way to directly show your connection with other websites! being an affiliate meant that you would mutally link each other's buttons on your site. common button sizes were 32x32 and 88x31 pixels big.
also popular were sites known as link exchanges or link directories, which were directories of cute pixel sites, sometimes divided up into more specific groups (like personal blogs, pixel adoptions, or web goodies known as "sozai"). some examples of these sites include kao ani's cute links, or the sugar-frosted exchange.
personal websites waned in popularity in the last few years, giving way to the rise of social media and a corporate, stale internet. the web in the early 00’s was still a wild west of creativity, expression, and experimentation. this is what i remember dearly about the older web, and am happy to see a current push towards making the web feel personal again. i hope with the current wave of nostalgia we can take what we miss from the web and turn it into something new and exciting to look forward to. dream on!