In the 90’s free shared hosting accounts often used the format www.site.com/~username. This naming convention has largely been replaced by subdomains, but I recently found it still in use in small pockets of the web called tildes.
tilde.club, a server and social club inspired by tilde sites of old, was created in 2014 and has since inspired a number of similar clubs, sometimes referred to as tilde boxes. Paul Ford has written about how tilde.club came to be: an observation about a Stevie Nicks blog post followed by a Tweet spiraled into a community powered by a Unix computer in the cloud.
I stumbled across the tilde network while looking for small social networks, or social “islands” as I’ve come to think of them, and it’s been fun exploring the boxes and seeing how they’re connected. Though the tilde boxes are federated to some extent, each box is distinct. Some are simply random collections of sites that feel adrift and disconnected, others do a better job of providing a sense of community and connecting users through online status maps, web rings, and recent update lists. tilde.website will take you to a random tilde/box.
I don’t think you need have memories of a ~site back in the day to appreciate what these communities offer. It’s less about nostalgia and more about small communities and having a place to explore and connect and learn about unix and build things. I’m honestly not sure how I missed the tilde network when I was looking for a place to host the site. A blog like this one would be right at home at ctrl-c.club.
Compared to the firehose of social media the pace of tilde boxes is a sedate trickle, with a handful of user updates weekly at the more active tildes. As with any free hosting hub, empty and abandoned pages abound. As a visitor, I found the tilde.town ~ring useful for exploring.
A few rabbit holes for the curious: