Lately I attended a PHP conference, where the talk "Defending the 'we' in 'Web'" by Jürgen Geuter gave me a lot of food for thought. In essence, it is about the fact that the evolution of web technologies has raised the entry level to publish content on your own to a point where it is harming the open and inclusive web. The talk itself was based on an article he published, "The Third Web".
If you have something to say, it is likely that you will do so on one of the big social platforms. This works fine, but you largely lose control over your content and how it is presented. Platforms can be really powerful tools for communication, but are standardized by design, and they decide how to distribute your content.
The idea of the web, at its core, is to be a place where anyone can contribute and do their thing. The current trend is to lead people to use existing platforms, instead of building up their own little corner of the web. Services like Myspace at the time gave you a lot of freedom to create, and incidentally, you learned to code HTML.
Platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to name a few, almost entirely control how your content is presented. Open source projects like Wordpress will in general try to protect you from manual HTML or CSS coding, and often use this as a selling point. This is all well and good, but does not foster any personal creativity. The point I am trying to make is that we should not be that dependent on platforms or applications to express ourselves.
Simple HTML pages in 2023? Ludicrous!
Making a simple HTML page in 2023 can sound like a ludicrous idea, but it allows you to publish your content just as well as ever. That's the essence of what Jürgen Geuter is saying: Okay, it's a shitty little website. But hey, it's yours. You can share it. Your friends can see it. They don't need to sign up for any services, and you decide what happens to it.
The beauty is that you don't have to stop using platforms, either. Make your website, and link to it from your platform posts, or embed contents from it. The key here is that you have total control over your content, from photos to articles to videos. Over time, as you get more adept at HTML, you can improve the website, and extend it.
Myself having taken most of my personal project websites offline over the past years, it was a bit of a revelation. Jürgen's talk made me realize that the hurdles that I saw in attempting to create any kind of personal website again nowadays were purely self-imposed. Hence, the creation of this website: One that uses plain HTML with a little PHP mixed in, without any CSS framework and only my own art as basis for the graphical layout.
Have a look at the About section to read some more on the website.
Create your own shitty little website
If this has inspired you a little, and you want to create your own shitty little website, let me sum up what you will need:
- A domain name and some webspace. I recommend a basic paid package from a webhoster that includes both. Expect this to cost about 6 EUR / $8 per month, +/- 2 EUR/$.
- An FTP program to upload files to your webspace. I recommend the open source and free FileZilla, available for multiple OSs.
- A text editor. I recommend the open source and free Notepad++, available for multiple OSs. It offers syntax highlighting for web languages like HTML, which makes it easier to read and write code.
That's all you need.
Of course from here there are a few things to learn. If you have never published anything on a webserver before, you will need to learn how to use the FTP program. However, it is far from being rocket science.
How to upload your website
Let me give you some more pointers. Once you have those things mentioned above, start here (if you're lost, there are tutorials for each of these steps online):
- Create a folder on your computer for your website files.
- Create a file called
index.htmlin that folder.
- Open the file in your text editor.
- Copy & paste the example code below into the file.
- Connect to your webhoster's control panel.
- Find or create the FTP connection details for your webspace.
- Find out into which folder to upload your website files.
- Connect to your webspace with the FTP software and your FTP credentials.
- The left pane of the FTP software shows your computer's files.
The right pane shows your webspace's files. Simply drag & drop the
index.htmlfile from your computer to the right pane.
Example HTML file content to copy & paste:
<title>My Shitty Website</title>
<h1>My Shitty Website</h1>
<p>It's a shitty little website. But hey, it's mine!</p>
That's it! If you access your domain name in a browser, you should see your shitty website page :D If not, do not despair. It is surely something simple that you can fix. When in doubt, ask the Internet. If that fails, ask me and I will try to guide you in the right direction.
Hint: Whenever you update the
index.htmlfile on your computer, you can simply repeat step 9) to upload the new version to your webspace. Reload the page in your browser to see the changes.
Is something unclear? Do you have suggestions? Feel free to drop me an email.