I read that Noah Grey, the creator of the blogging software Greymatter, recently resurfaced on the internet because he was losing his home to foreclosure and had set up a GoFundMe.
I went into a little bit of a rabbit hole reading about Noah and what he had been up to, and it made me quite nostalgic. My first blog, circa 2001, was built with Greymatter. The internet was different back then (she says, rocking gently in her rocking chair on the porch, occasionally pausing to yell at children to get off her lawn). Blogs were very pure and people-centric. They were organic, artisanal, handmade. Nobody was trying to make money off of them. (Dooce.com was the first personal blog I was aware of that got big enough to monetize.)
You had to be able to design and build a basic website more or less from scratch, but anyone could learn how to do that if they had an internet connection and were willing to roll up their sleeves and try. The people who did, myself included, tended to be… well… indoor kids. Most of us had a guestbook that visitors could sign. It was so exciting whenever a new person signed your guestbook or left a comment on your blog. We joined webrings to find each other, or put links to our “friends” on our sites. Many of our blogs were designed for Internet Explorer at 800x600.
So many of the graphics we created in pirated copies of Photoshop obtained through Kazaa, or, later, BitTorrent, used the Silkscreen font. There was very little awareness of accessibility (or at least in my abled mind back then). In general, the fonts we used were too small.
According to Noah Grey’s current website, he is “In order of discovery: autodidact, geek, gay, bipolar, autistic, asexual, humanist, homoromantic, nonbinary.” It sounds like he is also living with past trauma and some serious psychiatric disorders. I never knew any of this when I was a teenager discovering the web; I just knew he was kind of an internet celebrity because he wrote the software that enabled me and so many other new internet denizens to find our place online.
Now, reflecting on all of that, I see Noah as way more of an internet pioneer than the Mark Zuckerbergs or Jack Dorseys of the world, who I’m not sure have made it a better place and have been irresponsible with their power in many ways, and it makes me sad that he seems to be struggling. Objectively I don’t think as many people know about Noah Grey but in my mind he’s a true internet hero.