The year was 1996 and 43-year-old documentary filmmaker Doug Block couldn’t escape the buzz surrounding the World Wide Web. Intrigued, Block dropped his original plan to film a documentary about his 7 year old daughter and instead chose to explore the many tell all, open diary style home pages on the web.
Block eventually moves from online surfing in his apartment to actually meeting some of these cyber celebrities. Most notable, and the primary subject in the film, is 21 year old web celeb and super freak Justin Hall. Hall’s bare all web site, “Justin’s Links from the Underground,” earned him thousands of readers, making him an instant star during the toddler years of the web. It is through Justin that we meet a variety of writers, editors, and designers, all working and living in these online communities. These were heady days when the “Information Super Highway” was going to provide a forum to exchange ideas and experiences for the advancement of all. Just before the big corporations got hip to what was happening, before turning mankind’s newest communications medium into yet another marketing tool.
“Home Page” isn’t about cyber-geek jargon or talking heads in front of monitors. Doug Block’s real subject is how the online age has changed human expression and communication. How this new medium has affected peoples lives and why they are drawn to it. All the subjects in the film feel the need to pour themselves out online, whether it is through their personal fanzine style home pages or in chat rooms. They hope that by putting their unfiltered thoughts and feelings up for all to see they will meet that perfect someone or reach some Zen like state of self-realization.
It would be interesting if Block followed up “Home Page” with an examination of the web today. Has the idea of the personal home page and open diary, which brought many to the web in its early years, faded in the face of e-commerce? One thing’s for sure, though the World Wide Web has grown in unprecedented leaps and bounds in a very short time, its future is still very much up for grabs.