If you were black and you had the Internet in the ‘90s and ‘00s, you were on Black Planet. It was a third MySpace, a third OKCupid and a third Yahoo! Groups, but all for black kids. It was an online turn-up function, a space to flirt with cuties, share celebrity gossip and hear about local parties and new music.  It wasn’t perfect by any means—Black Planet had an atrocious user interface—the color of the text used to leave comments on people’s pages was a hideous, throbbing crimson shade of red and it was atrociously spammy—but that’s what made it good. Its functionality made no difference to the efficiency of the software, which makes it an artifact of a time when that could still be true.  It was a slice of the World Wide Web when it could still have imperfections, when tackiness and messiness were acceptable because its purpose—to help black kids connect with other black kids—was so singular and unique. Social media like Black Planet quickly got subsumed by Friendster, MySpace and Facebook, in that order, but it’s a relic of an era before the Internet became a homogenized, gentrified cul-de-sac, all boring and manicured feeds. Nothing like it exists now and I miss it to this day.
Jenna Wortham is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.