But for now, the Web is what you make it. For people who don't have the ready-made templates provided by AOL, Compuserve or Prodigy -- or aren't satisfied with what they're getting from the Big Three commercial services -- there are several resources on the Net that will help you get started and will support you once you're well on your way.
First, you have to determine whether your Internet service provider will allot you space on their server for your homepage and if you have to pay a premium. After that's all straightened out, you're ready to proceed. A great way to learn about Web page authoring, and about the Web itself, is to take Thomas P. Copley's Make the Link Workshop, a six week distance-learning workshop conducted entirely by email. The next course begins on September 25 and is well worth the $20 it will cost you. Along with weekly tutorials and technical notes, Copley answers questions from workshop participants and distributes them to the whole group. To sign up for the Make the Link Workshop, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org and in the body of the message, type: SUBSCRIBE LINKS2.
Of course, the Web is full of free resources that you can use to learn about homepage publishing. One of the best is Web 66, a comprehensive homepage with easy-to-understand explanations of various aspects of HTML editing and a lot of great links to shareware applications that will help you display graphics and get your page wired for sound. The World Wide Web Consortium, run by MIT in collaboration with CERN labs in Switzerland, the original developers of the Web, has scads of information about the latest Web developments as well as a huge library of reference materials for Web page publishers of all levels.
A Beginner's Guide to HTML, from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (the people who brought you Mosaic), gives a thorough explanation of many of the details of HTML editing. This is the beginner's guide, but if you access NCSA's main homepage, there are several resources for more advanced users, including libraries, primers, and other reference materials. William A. Luddy's excellent LUDWEB/Web Design has all the links you will need to access specifications, manuals, guides, tutorials, and references designed to assist in your production of an HTML document. Finally, if you get sick of checking stuff out using the Web, you can retreat to the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html newsgroup, where the discussions range from the incredibly specific to the wildly general.
Just because people have the means to communicate doesn't mean they are spewing brilliance. Mirsky's Worst of the Web take you to some of the most banal and disturbing sites out there.
Ultimately, your site will only be as good as your content. Think of it this way: If the Eyes of the World were upon you, what would you show them? If you want to throw up pictures of your dog and talk about your favorite vegetable, great. But if you want to connect to people at a different level, to further public discourse about a particular issue or put up some poems, essays, stories, photographs or paintings, better. The tools are in your hands.