Oliver Roick

Simple Websites

Simple web publishing and simple websites are making a comeback.

I notice a trend in some corners of the Internet. There’s a return to boring technology, simple design, and a focus on content. This trend especially applies to independent content publishing (some might call it blogging).

Basecamp have released a blogging service built into their email service HEY. You send an email to a specific address, and its content gets published on a website. Type in the box and click submit. The purpose is to simplify the process of publishing content to the web. It also simplifies what is published. Authors have no control over the appearance of their site and how it is built. Every blog, every post looks the same. Readers get content delivered on a fast website, without the cruft.

Gemini, in a way, aims at a similar experience. Gemini is an internet protocol focussed on transferring content but without styling, scripting or images. It only allows text and links. Technically more complex than sending an email — you need a Gemini browser to access sites using the protocol — but the result is similar: A relentless focus on words instead of colours, images, and animations.

Such projects respond to many things that have gone wrong with Web publishing over the last couple of years. They don’t support excessive tracking, advertisements, auto-playing multimedia content; there are no followers, comments, or retweets. The projects are also a response to how we build websites today. JavaScript frameworks and excessive tooling aren’t required to generate and transfer hypertext.

It is a reemergence of how we have built for and published on the web in its earlier days. Some blogs from that time are still going strong. Daring Fireball is one example, a blog about Apple and general Web nerdery. The site’s design has not changed much since it started in 2002. The Wayback Machine proves it. The site still runs on Movable Type, a blogging software written in Perl that predates WordPress. Seth’s Blog is another example; the website did receive a few facelifts over the years but has not fundamentally changed.

Simple design, boring technology alongside good content prevail.

The web’s fundamentals haven’t changed in all these years. Plain old HTML and email still work. What worked then works now and will in the future. What has changed are our opinions about how websites should be built and what a good website needs. These opinions are going to change again. The fabric of the web won’t.