Websites aren't really a thing anymore. The only people who talk about "websites" these days are idiots on Twitter, who refer to it as a "Yuckin' heckin' hellsite for goobers!" or some other interminable baby-babble bullshit.
Websites have ceased to be because all the bad ones have died and all the good ones have become nouns. When was the last time you said the word "supermarket" out loud? You don't, do you; you say "Sainsbury's". Or I do, at least. You probably say "Sainers" or "Sainos", because you're a nothing and no one loves you.
The web today is like a big British Museum, an often entertaining but ultimately quite depressing edifice, chock-a-block with things that used to mean something special to someone, but are now just graveyards for a stranger's memories.
So let us take a wander through that graveyard, bending down to tend to the dying flowers, and go through the Top Ten Best Websites… Ever! Requiescat in pace.
10. JOE CARTOON
It was difficult to pick which flash animation OG should claim a spot on this list. My brain said Homestar Runner, but sadly for the under-bitten bilateral amputee, my heart said Joe Cartoon.
According to Wikipedia, JoeCartoon.com was making $25,000 (£20,000) a month from banner ads at one point, which will have the sales team over at VICE.com/en_uk/badcontent (this website) salivating into their poké bowls. In fact, any online media outlet would kill for a slice of that net boom cake, but frankly they don't deserve it, because they didn't painstakingly animate, code, voice act and upload a rude frog getting pulped in a blender.
Of the many things online that have contributed to the proliferation of global psychopathy, Rotten is certainly up there. Rather than a vehicle for solemnly showing the grim realities of death, perhaps to act as a warning sign or a reminder of life's inherent fragility, it imbued a generation with insatiable bloodlust. We regressed to the baying mobs of the Flavian Amphitheatre, but instead of two titans hacking and slashing for our amusement, it was crime scene photos of grisly car accidents and videos of Taliban beheadings. It would be inappropriate and upsetting, if it weren't so fucking RAD!
8. PLENTY OF FISH
The thrust of all the dating apps now is that they're for sexy, sexy, young, sexy people who have sexy Instagrams and glitter on their faces, who do weights and fast for eight hours a day. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble: these are places for the beautiful people. Plenty of Fish was, and I presume still is, a fuckfest for freaks, a dungeon for uglies looking to bump uglies. With its web 1.0 interface and perversely sparse design, Plenty of Fish is more akin to some darkweb Onion service than a place to meet your one true love. It represents better what the internet really is: not a place for aspiration or persona control, but a forum to let your disgusting flab flow free, on the off-chance that someone, anyone, might kiss it.
The place to go when you're desperately scrambling to prove a forgettable point, Wikipedia has, in my view, infected the English language more than we'd like to think. The strange, authoritarian tone it adopts when talking about things like films, TV, books and other bits of art has penetrated common parlance, with people rushing to call things "widely regarded as the best X of all time", or emphasise how something received "widespread critical acclaim". It's a flat, robotic way of speaking about things, and could only have been coined by legions of nerds desperate to compartmentalise things into iMDB scores and Rotten Tomatoes ratings. It's also good for when you want to know who built Angkor Wat before the melatonin kicks in.
6. MADDOX XMISSION
A lot of people seem to think that South Park and Christopher Hitchens are responsible for today's onslaught of LogicBros, to whom "feelings" are just things that happen to women and homosexuals. But the self-proclaimed "Best Page in the Universe" is surely the real catalyst for where we find ourselves now. Cranky blogging by angry men now occurs in micro and macro forms all across the internet, all of it carrying the seed of Maddox's ripe contrarianism, which was basically legions of young men going "Yeah!" to articles about how everyone's too pussy to beat their kids nowadays. And strangely, like South Park and Hitchens, the people who grew up on this gunk have wildly different politics to their progenitors. I guess that's what we get for putting chlorine in the water.
5. THE PIRATE BAY
It was a toss up between this and the Silk Road, but all the noncing and murder on the darkweb makes me a sad panda, and so we welcome the Pirate Bay in at number five. While it gets harder and harder to access this treasure trove of illegally uploaded materials, it still sits there, battered and bruised, leaking seeders and leechers onto the sand, hugging tightly a chest full of Avengers Blu-Ray rips, watching the sun set over the aquamarine horizon. O' captain, my captain.
4. RATE MY 'X'
Before rank exhibitionism became par for the course online, and was still exciting and titillating, Rate My Cock and Rate My Tits provided a conveyor belt of extremities that you could judge on a scale of 1 to 10. Unlike the later, live-streamed parade of forced penii courtesy of your Omegles and ChatRoulettes, Rate My Cock (or was it dick? I can't remember) allowed budding knob adjudicators total agency and control. In many ways, it's the wokest website that ever existed. Rate My Poo maybe less so.
3. RYAN PARRY MUSIC
A leftfield shout for third position, but Ryan Parry Music is perhaps a greater distillation of what makes the internet great than anything else on this list. In the early-2000s, teenager Ryan Parry had a guitar, a friend who was bad at drums and a dream: to be a musician. He wrote songs like "My Life", "The World Is Terribly Infested" and "The Techno Song", beautiful hymns about love, loss and life. He also made music videos for them. Once the forums got ahold of them, though, it was only a matter of time before Ryan Parry and his Music got systematically bullied out of existence. People pretending to be Ryan's mother on threads claiming he'd died, endless parodies, early image macros, all because this proud young man had the temerity to release his work into the world. It's what the internet – and, by extension, existence – is all about: furiously and relentlessly poking fun at people sharing their intimate moments, their art. The roasting of this 15-year-old boy remains my favourite online event of all time.
I can hear all the porn hipsters whining from here, with their Mubi-esque dedication to various Hamsters and Tubes, but let's be real, motherfuckers: PornHub isn't just a hub for porn, it's a community. It has community-created content and a team of dedicated commenters gagging to let you know about the new noise it makes when you "like" something. Watching a porn star grow on PornHub, improve the lighting, getting a 4K camera, even deigning to do a face reveal, is a thing of beauty. It's like you're in your own version of Boogie Nights. It also has one of the most supportive comments sections of anywhere online; you'll never see "that pussy looks like shit" or anything of that ilk. Although, if you have a weird dick, people will pick up on it – but that's your fault for having a weird dick, brah!
It could only ever have turned out like this. Even at its worst, YouTube is still the best, because it's so fucking vast. It's like freezing to death in Siberia when sunny St Petersburg is only a torturous train ride away: you simply can't complain. A billion hours of everything you ever wanted. Every funny, cool, sad, impressive thing you've ever seen is there, all your favourite songs, all your favourite film clips, everyone you hate, everyone you love, people you want to kill, the dead, the living, they're all there in this expansive digital paradise. Take your clothes off, bow down and cry at its majesty, you insignificant mite.