Enlarge /. Average performance you would expect to see and compete in on the Internet Temple. Co-creator Clayton Collins takes center stage and appears as his alter ego Long Distance Husband.
In early May, I needed a change from my usual YouTube rabbit holes after some of them sank during months of quarantine. My discovery of the Internet Temple almost felt like I had found a good bar or music venue. Instead of getting content from a video platform's algorithm, I had to know someone, get a tip, and put in an entire URL.
The temple made a blunt entrance on my browsing tab with little more than a cropped YouTube embed and a no scrolling chat box. And then it got weird.
I witnessed a surprising musical performance soaked in autotune (laughs between songs were also automatically tuned). The singer wore boxers with a snowman print, an oversized sweater with abstract humanoid images and a hat that said "WWW DOT COM MY ASS". He was dancing with three stuffed sheep in his hands while behind him a green screen was flooded with images chosen by the audience. They had chosen images of Shrek and Unicode shrimp emojis.
I would learn that none of this was as silly as it seemed. Rather, the owners of Internet Temple are investing in decimating the Web 2.0 concept and have started three separate, fascinating projects.
Strange on the cheap
Performer Clayton Collins and venue creator Toby Alden (she / she) are a fringe race who create idiosyncratic websites in the spirit of a bygone internet. Collins, who sometimes works with Clayton Online, has a day job maintaining software that manages bus schedules. Alden is a full-time game developer working on an indie video game. The Portland duo's out-of-school creations are essentially social media alternatives and are made for next to no money.
Enlarge /. Toby Alden (left) and Clayton Collins (right) in their hometown of Portland, OR.
The first of these, Internet Temple, is a packed background collage of Japanese game sprites from the late 1990s. The Temple performed live music, DJ sets (some of which were proudly streamed in poor quality via Google Hangouts), and poetry readings. The design with a single-tier front and center opposes Twitch.
"When you stream on Twitch, you are competing with everyone else there," says Alden. They indicate the constant nudging of this website to jump to other streams or to watch ads, partly due to an increasing reliance on the recommendation algorithm.
"They all make you bad"
Collins and Alden do not identify with any particular movement, but are aware that other projects like theirs thrive in the corners of the internet, both by small cliques and by lone wolves programmers. Though there has been a DIY internet culture since the days of BBSes, the modern versions stand in opposition to big social media companies accused of selling data, avoiding taxes, and allowing misinformation – most recently by Congress in a hearing on Jan. . July.
"You used to go online and put in the urls of your favorite sites to see if hardcoregaming101.net was updated," says Alden. "Now there are mostly five or six websites: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Insta, Amazon and so on."
"You don't even have to say, 'And so on,'" Collins interjects. "That's it. That's them."
"And they all make you feel bad."
The temple was written to Node.js over the course of three days in 2016. They recently started bypassing YouTube Live (a streaming and chat system you can expect from a website like this) by borrowing code from Collins' platform Saladbowl, where he hosts videos straight from his computer and streams to circumvent copyright infringement. According to Collins, this service is a struggle against the "corporate movement to make art private." He uses it to send his personal .MP4 video collection to friends, but the bigger goal is a DIY streaming tool for the masses.