In honor of Codecademy’s 11th anniversary, we’re looking back at the 2000s websites and software that influenced our founders to build Codecademy — and inspired a generation to learn to code.
Here, Codecademy Co-Founder & CEO Zach Sims reminisces on the formative years he spent building websites in the 2000s that ultimately led to the idea for Codecademy. Explore other fun deep dives into early aughts internet topics here.
When I was 13, I started a review site and e-commerce store for iPod cases. It has since been scrubbed from the internet, but at one point it was bringing in thousands of visitors and north of four figures in revenue. I was even approached by a major brand in the category to consult — though they rightfully lost confidence in me after my voice cracked on one of our phone calls, revealing my inexperience.
But it was 2003, and it didn’t matter if I was 13, 33, or 93. It seemed as if anyone could build something on the web and make an impact.
While my iPod website never went on to change the world, I realized then that the future of tech could be built by those who took the initiative to learn how to speak the language of the internet — both literally and figuratively. In the past couple of decades, those who spent their formative years on the internet of the 2000s have gone on to co-architect the digital world we live in today — as engineers, product managers, UX designers, and founders, just to name a few. Our world is far more global and digital than the one we were born into; and for us millennials who cut our teeth on the 2000s-era internet and have gone onto work in tech, our careers have been shaped by it.
Like many people, my earliest memories of the internet can be traced back to AOL and AIM. The ability to instantly write and communicate with my friends — let alone anyone in the world — felt invigorating. But this tech also influenced social norms; with these platforms came new modes of communication. Fortunately for many millennials, interacting with the internet became second nature; and soon enough, we were customizing Myspace and Xanga pages, creating mixed CDs with Napster and Limewire, and connecting with strangers over shared interests on Reddit forums.
My personal outlet was building websites, which included a few blogs and personal pages. As teens of the 2000s, the internet was a playground for building, connecting with others, and expressing ourselves creatively.
Of course, there were really two modes of communication that we were learning during this time: how to communicate with each other on the internet and how to communicate with the technology itself to make that end user experience possible. The empowerment I found was in the latter.
Learning the actual programming languages could unlock a level of interaction with the internet that felt almost magical. Suddenly, you had the power to design a website that was 100% unique to you; you could create a better version of an existing application; or you could even bring to life a totally new idea. What was clear to me then — and still rings true now — is that learning programming languages grants you entry into a whole new world of opportunities, both personally and professionally.
Many of us who grew up playing with the internet are the same people who make up the digital workforce today. Our generation paved the way for a new economy, with tens of millions of us becoming developers, data scientists, and other roles that may not have been so prevalent (or even existed) a couple decades ago. The internet of our youth prepared and inspired many of us to build these careers and use the power of technology to make a positive impact on our world.
Even those who weren’t around to witness the internet taking shape in the 2000s have benefitted from the learnings of these early days and can still feel the reverberations of this time. Take one look at TikTok, or any Gen Z space on the internet, and you’ll see plenty of nods to the early aughts. Nostalgia for the 2000s is alive and well, and continues to inform the perspectives of those who will shape our future.
That’s why, in honor of Codecademy’s 11th anniversary, we’re exploring the lessons of the 2000s internet: to pay homage to the breeding ground for a generation of technologists. Be sure to follow along on our blog, as well as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, for fascinating stories and deep dives from an era that still has so many lessons for aspiring developers today.
Looking back, it’s easy to trivialize what those AIM conversations or MySpace layouts or even my teenage experiment with e-commerce contributed to society. But the lessons from this time continue to influence what we’re building here at Codecademy, and what many of you are building in your own lives and careers. So join us this week in taking a digital walk down memory lane.