The slides from Calum’s presentation at Front-end London.
I invite you not just to follow along here as I expand into topics beyond design and technology, but to start your own personal blog up again if you’ve been neglecting it for a while. I’m really interested in the things you are passionate about. I want to learn from you.
I love this. I really love this. Remy absolutely nails what makes the web so great.
There’s the ubiquity:
If the viewer is using the latest technology beefy desktop computer that’s great. Equally they could view the website from a work computer, something old and locked in using a browser called IE8.
Then there’s the low barrier to entry—yes, even today:
It’s the web’s simplicity. Born out of a need to connect documents. As much as that might have changed with the latest generation of developers who might tell you that it’s hard and complex (and they’re right), at the same time it is not complicated. It’s still beautifully simple.
Anyone can do it. Anyone can publish content to the web, be it as plain text, or simple HTML formed only of <p> tags or something more elaborate and refined. The web is unabashed of it’s content. Everything and anything goes.
I might just print this out and nail it to the wall.
If you sit back for a moment, and think about just how many lives you can touch simply by publishing something, anything, to the web, it’s utterly mind blowing.
It’s okay to feel stress in response to this rapid development. It’s natural. I hate change, I hate it so so much. I like things to be consistent and for it to have it’s own place. If it doesn’t, I get stressed and my obsessive compulsive tendencies run riot in a desperate attempt to preserve order. This both benefits and hinders my work.
Chimes very nicely with the latest episode of Ctrl+Click Cast.
How the Web Works: A Primer for Newcomers to Web Development (or anyone, really) by Preethi Kasireddy
This is a great reminder of the fundamental nuts’n’bolts of the internet and the World Wide Web: clients, servers, URLs, DNS, HTTP, TCP/IP, packet switching, and all the other building blocks we sometimes take for granted.
This is part one of a four-part series:
- A Primer for Newcomers to Web Development (or anyone, really)
- Client-Server Model & the Structure of a Web Application
- HTTP & REST
- Stay tuned…
Jake describes the pivotal moment of his web awakening:
I explored the world wide web. I was amazed by the freedom of information, how anyone could publish, anyone could read. Then I found a little button labeled “View source”. That was the moment I fell in love with the web.
It all goes back to having a ZX Spectrum apparently. Pah! Luxury! I had a ZX81—one K of RAM …1K! Tell that to the young people today, and they wouldn’t believe you.
Anyway, this is a lovely little reminiscence by Jake, although I have no idea why he hasn’t published it on his own site.
I really, really want to like this article—it’s chock full of confirmation bias for me. But it’s so badly-written …I mean like, just the worst.
Here’s an actual sentence:
So with a capable, HTML-based platform and a well-designed program that makes good use of CSS, one site could support phones, tablets, PCs, and just about anything else with one site.
So, yeah, I’m still linking to it, but instead of it being for the content, it’s because I want to lament the dreadful state of technology writing.
This solution to the mobile tap delay by the WebKit team sounds like what I was hoping for:
touch-action: manipulation;on a clickable element makes WebKit consider touches that begin on the element only for the purposes of panning and pinching to zoom. This means WebKit does not consider double-tap gestures on the element, so single taps are dispatched immediately.
It would be nice to know whether this has been discussed with other browser makers or if it’s another proprietary addition.
A single page showing all the weights available from Google fonts at a glance.
The transcript of a great talk by Wilto, focusing on responsive images, inlining critical CSS, and webfont loading.
When we present users with a slow website, a loading spinner, laggy webfonts—or tell them outright that they‘re not using a website the right way—we’re breaking the fourth wall. We’ve gone so far as to invent an arbitary line between “webapp” and “website” so we could justify these decisions to ourselves: “well, but, this is a web app. It… it has… JSON. The people that can’t use the thing I built? They don’t get a say.”
We, as an industry, have nearly decided that we’re doing a great job as long as we don’t count the cases where we’re doing a terrible job.
Written in 2001, this history of the web takes in CERN, hypertext, the ARPANET, SGML, and lots more.
This is a wonderful, wonderful look back at the state of hypertext in the run-up to the creation of the World Wide Web.
My jaw may have dropped when I saw the GML markup.
Now I’m going to read part two.
Such a vividly nostalgic project. Choose an obsolete browser. Enter a URL. Select which slice of the past you want to see.
Digital archives in action. Access drives preservation.
Following on from that last link, here’s an in-depth run-down of what you can do in mobile browsers today. I think a lot of people internalised “what you can’t do on the web” a while back—it’s well worth periodically revisiting the feature landscape to revise that ever-shrinking list.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the web has over native apps is how quickly users are able to engage. All that’s between the user and your content is one click.
Visit this site using different browsers on different devices to get a feel for what you can do with web technologies.
Native will always be ahead, but the feature gap is closing impressively fast.
A really nice piece by Paul Ford on the history of databases and the dream of the Semantic Web.
Sometimes I get a little wistful. The vision of a world of connected facts, one big, living library, remains beautiful, and unfulfilled.
This seems like a decent endeavour:
A collaborative research project aimed at designing better tools and practices for learning web development.
A fascinating ten-year old essay looking at the early days of the web and how it conquered FTP and Gopher.
And though glitz, politics, hard work, and competitors’ mistakes all played a role in the success of the web, there are also aspects of the architecture that ensured the web would catch on. I think the web won because of the URI.
URIs are everywhere, and what’s vaguely funny now is the idea that they’re something special. But they’re very special: URI management is the fundamental consideration behind the design of web sites, web applications, and web services. Tim Berners-Lee originally intended URIs to be invisible, but they’re too useful for that.
I really enjoyed chatting with Jen on this episode of The Web Ahead—aimless rambling fun.
Web technology is no longer limiting us or scaring us into “staying safe” moreover it’s enabling us to get inspired by our surroundings and go and create some truly amazing, Web-Specific design.
A great walkthrough of setting up a Service Worker for a blog. The code is here but more importantly, as Brandon says:
I wouldn’t be able to implement this myself if it wasn’t for some of the awesome people I mentioned earlier sharing their experience. So share, share, share!
Ben and Erin are shipping experimental support for AMP in the latest version of Known, but Ben has some concerns about the balance of power tilting towards one major player, in this case Google:
But it’s Google’s whitelist of approved ad providers that’s most concerning:
We’ve shipped support for AMP because we see potential here, and recognize that something should be done to improve the experience of loading independently-published content on the web. But attempting to bake certain businesses into a web standard is a malformed idea that is doomed to fail. If this is not corrected in future versions of the specification, we will withdraw support.
Aaron has created a nice straightforward way to allow to POSSE posts from your Jekyll website to Medium.
I concur with this sentiment:
If you are starting a new blog, or have one already, the best thing you can do is turn off all analytics.
Especially true for your own personal site:
Just turn them off now. Then, write about whatever the fuck you want to write about.
Why Atavist is betting on the web. See also:
The promise of the web is that Alexandria’s library might be resurrected for the modern world. But today’s great library is being destroyed even as it is being built.
A fascinating account of one story’s linkrot that mirrors the woeful state of our attitude to cultural preservation on the web.
Historians and digital preservationists agree on this fact: The early web, today’s web, will be mostly lost to time.
Tom’s thoughts on what AMP means for developers and publishers. He was initially sceptical but now he’s cautiously optimistic. Like me, he’s hoping that AMP can force the hand of those third-party advertisers to get their act together.
Publisher’s development teams are very capable of creating fast experiences for mobile users, but they don’t have the clout to coordinate all the additional cruft that is added to the page. However, if all the different publishers dev team’s got together and put their weight behind a single implementation, then we can force third parties to change their habits.
A great little primer on the origins of the internet and the web, by Aleks.
Paul compares publishing on the web to publish on proprietary platforms, and concludes that things aren’t looking great right now.
Performance is the number one selling point for each of these new content platforms.
Websites should not come with minimum software requirements.
Sometimes it’s nice to step back and look at where all this came from. Here’s Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal from 1990.
The current incompatibilities of the platforms and tools make it impossible to access existing information through a common interface, leading to waste of time, frustration and obsolete answers to simple data lookup. There is a potential large benefit from the integration of a variety of systems in a way which allows a user to follow links pointing from one piece of information to another one.
This is a wonderful, wonderful description of what it feels like to publish on your own site.
When my writing is on my own server, it will always be there. I may forget about it for a while, but eventually I’ll run into it again. I can torch those posts or save them, rewrite them or repost them. But they’re mine to rediscover.
I refuse to believe that this cramped, stifling, stalkerish vision of the commercial Internet is the best we can do.
The title is hyperbolic, and while I certainly think that the criticisms of HTTP here are justified, I don’t think it will be swept aside by IPFS—I imagine more of a peaceful coexistence. Still, there’s some really good thinking in here and this is well worth paying attention to.
Here’s a classic. David Siegel—of Creating Killer Websites fame—outlines exactly why he turned his back on that 1×1 spacer .gif trick he invented.
We become obsessed with tools and methods, very rarely looking at how these relate to the fundamental basics of web standards, accessibility and progressive enhancement. We obsess about a right way to do things as if there was one right way rather than looking at the goal; how things fit into the broader philosophy of what we do on the web and how what we write contributes to us being better at what we do.
Will the Big Think piece you just posted to Medium be there in 2035? That may sound like it’s very far off in the future, and who could possibly care, but if there’s any value to your writing, you should care. Having good records is how knowledge builds.
A wonderful collection of treasures excavated from GeoCities. Explore, enjoy, and remember what a crime it is that Yahoo wiped out so much creativity and expression.
A wonderful, wonderful history of the web from Dave at this year’s Beyond Tellerrand conference. I didn’t get to see this at the time—I was already on the way back home—so I got Dave to give me the gist of it over lunch. He undersold it. This is a fascinating story, wonderfully told.
So gather round the computer, kids, and listen to Uncle Dave tell you about times gone by.
It’s really great to see the performance improvements being made by the Vox team. This is the one that I think will make the most difference:
Our Revenue Team is increasing focus on the impact our advertising has on user experience and overall performance. One of their biggest initiatives has been to change the way ads load from synchronous to asynchronous, which has been underway for several months and is nearing deployment.
Twenty-six letters of independent publishing building blocks.
Benjamin documents his experience at the first Brighton Homebrew Website Club: a most pleasant evening.
The web – by its very nature – foregrounds the connections between different clusters of knowledge. Links link. One article leads to another. As you make the journey from destination to destination, all inevitably connected by that trail of links, you begin to tease out understanding.
It’s this drawing together, this weaving together of knowledge, that is the important part. Your journey is unique. The chances of another pursuing the same path, link by link (or book by book), is – statistically – impossible. Your journey leads you to discovery and, through reflection, comprehension. You see the connections others haven’t, because your journey is your own.
The death of the web has been greatly exaggerated.
There’s nothing else like it. It’s constantly improving. It’s up to you what you do with it.
A long zoom and then a deep dive into web typography.
A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:
So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.
Unless we screw it up.
And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.
But if that sounds too upbeat for you…
Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.
We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.
And then there’s this gem:
It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.
Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
Tantek posts a belated round-up of indie web activity in 2014:
2014 was a year of incredible gains, and yet, a very sad loss for the community. In many ways I think a lot of us are still coping, reflecting. But we continue, day to day to grow and improve the indieweb, as I think Chloe would have wanted us to, as she herself did.
Google Fonts aren’t renowned for their quality but this is a beautiful demonstration of what you can accomplish with them.
The full text of Jason’s great talk at this year’s CSS Summit. It’s a great read, clearing up many of the misunderstandings around progressive enhancement and showing some practical examples of progressive enhancement working at each level of the web’s technology stack
A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.
Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.
But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.
This is the way to approach building for the web:
I want to make as few of those assumptions as possible. Because every assumption I make introduces fragility. Every assumption introduces another way that my site can break.
It’s progressive enhancement, but like Stuart, Tim is no longer planning to use that term.
Stuart writes up his thoughts on progressive enhancement following the great discussions at Edge Conf:
So I’m not going to be talking about progressive enhancement any more. I’m going to be talking about availability. About reach. About my web apps being for everyone even when the universe tries to stop it.
An in-depth look at where web components stand today, together with some very good questions about where they might be heading tomorrow.
I really like this impassioned love letter to the web. This resonates:
The web is a worthy monument for society. It cannot be taken away by apps in the app store or link bait on Facebook, but it can be lost if we don’t continue to steward this creation of ours. The web is a garden that needs constant tending to thrive. And in the true fashion of the world wide web, this is no task for one person or entity. It will require vigilance and work from us all.
If you’re not sure if Indie Web Camp is for you, have a read of Charlotte’s take on it:
The reason I didn’t attend last time is because I didn’t know if I had enough experience to spend a weekend working on something completely new. Turns out it doesn’t matter how much coding experience you have. I know I won’t be the only new person at Indie Web Camp. The idea is that we figure out solutions together.
Using Progressive Enhancement makes your site better for all users and enables the 275 million users of Opera Mini worldwide.
The system makes the website. Don’t blame the web developer, blame the organisation. A web developer embedded in a large system isn’t the one making the websites.
To make a progressively enhanced website that performs well and loads quickly even on slow connections, you need to first make an organisation that values those qualities over others.
It’s not about technology, performance and APIs – it’s about people.
Much of the web’s early cultural and design history is at risk, despite efforts by the Internet Archive and renegade archivists. One of our realizations after 20 years on the web is that our responsibility isn’t just to the new; we also need to preserve what’s been built in the past.
Grant, like Emma, has recently started blogging again. This makes me very, very happy. And he’s doing it for what I consider to be all the right reasons:
But this is mostly a place for me to capture my thoughts, and an excuse to consider them, and an opportunity to understand them more fully.
The Indieweb approach has a lot in common with Ev’s ideas for Medium, but the key difference is that we are doing it in a way that works across websites, not just within one.
Progressive Enhancement remains the best option for solving web development issues such as wide-ranging browser support, maintenance and future-proofing your application.
Bastian sums up his experience of attending Indie Web Camp:
But this weekend brought a new motivational high that I didn’t expect to go that far. I attended the Indie Web Camp in Düsseldorf, Germany and I’m simply blown away.
François is here at Indie Web Camp Germany helping out anyone who wants to get their site running on https. He wrote this great post to get people started.
Apps must run on specific platforms for specific devices. The app space, while large, isn’t universal.
Websites can be viewed by anyone with a web browser.
And that doesn’t mean foregoing modern features:
A web browser must only understand HTML. Further, newer HTML (like HTML 5) is still supported because the browser is built to ignore HTML it doesn’t understand. As a result, my site can run on the oldest browsers all the way to the newest ones. Got Lynx? No problem. You’ll still be able to find matches nearby. Got the latest smartphone and plentiful data? It’ll work there, too, and take advantage of its features.
This is why progressive enhancement is so powerful.
My site will take advantage of newer technologies like geolocation and local storage. However, the service will not be dependent on them.
I completely understand Peter’s fears here, and to a certain extent, I share them. But I think there’s a danger in only looking to what native platforms can do that the web doesn’t (yet). Perhaps instead we should be looking to strengthen what only the web can offer: ubiquity, access, and oh yeah, URLs.
This is a wonderful presentation by Kimberley at O’Reilly’s Fluent Conference, running through the history of the Line Mode Browser and the hack project we worked on at CERN to emulate it.
The key change in all of this, I think, is that Google has gone from a world of almost perfect clarity - a text search box, a web-link index, a middle-class family’s home - to one of perfect complexity - every possible kind of user, device, access and data type. It’s gone from a firehose to a rain storm. But on the other hand, no-one knows water like Google. No-one else has the same lead in building understanding of how to deal with this. Hence, I think, one should think of every app, service, drive and platform from Google not so much as channels that might conflict but as varying end-points to a unified underlying strategy, which one might characterize as ‘know a lot about how to know a lot’.
A really great piece by Scott Rosenberg that uses the myopic thinking behind “deep linking” in native apps as a jumping-off point to delve into the history of hypertext and the web.
It’s kind of weird that he didn’t (also) publish this on his own site though.
On the fifteenth anniversary of A Dao Of Web Design people who make websites share their thoughts.
Paul Ford’s is a zinger:
I don’t know if the issues raised in “A Dao of Web Design” can ever be resolved, which is why the article seems so prescient. After all, the Tao Te Ching is 2500 years old and we’re still working out what it all means. What I do believe is that the web will remain the fastest path to experimenting with culture for people of any stripe. It will still be here, alive and kicking and deployed across billions of computing machines, in 2030, and people will still be using it to do weird, wholly unexpected things.
This is a fascinating bit of web archeology: John has annotated the code from one of the earliest versions of jQuery.
Mike runs through the history of Flash. Those who forget the history of the web are doomed to repeat it:
The struggle now seems to be turning to native apps versus non-native apps on the mobile platform. It is similar to Flash’s original battle ground: the argument that the Web technology stack is not suitable for building applications with a polished user-experience.
Jeffrey muses on progressive enhancement and future-friendliness.
Because in 10 years nothing you built today that depends on JS for the content will be available, visible, or archived anywhere on the web.
Sorting out hosting is a big stumbling block for people who want to go down the Indie Web route. Frankly it’s much easier to just use a third-party silo like Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’d really like to see “concierge” services for hosting—”here, you take care of all this hassle!”
Well, this initiative looks like exactly that.
Superb. Absolutely superb.
A magnificent tour-de-force by Frank on the web’s edgelessness.
Read. Absorb. Read again. This is the essence of responsive web design, distilled.
A quick drag’n’drop way to base 64 encode your web fonts so you can stick ‘em in local storage.
When I look around, I see our community spending a lot of time coming up with new tools and techniques to make our jobs easier. To ship faster. And it’s not that I’m against efficiency, but I think we need to consider the implications of our decisions. And if one of those implications is making our users suffer—or potentially suffer—in order to make our lives easier, I think we need to consider their needs above our own.
Paul Kinlan writes an honest post-mortem of his push for Web Intents.
There are some valuable lessons here, particularly for the indie web’s web actions.
Brewster Kahle’s short presentation at NetGain.
The Web is the printing press of our times; an amazing piece of technology facilitating a free and wide-scale dissipation of our thoughts and ideas. And all of it is based on this near 20-year old, yet timeless idea of the Hyper Text Markup Language.
Sensible words from Christian.
Web applications don’t follow new rules.
And frameworks will not help:
A lot of them are not really fixing fundamental problems of the web. What they do is add developer convenience. … This would be totally OK, if we were honest about it.
- Know Your History
- Know Your Medium
- Respect Those Who Came Before You
- Respect Your Audience
- Get Involved
Simon St. Laurent on uncertainty as a feature, not a bug.
I’ve said it before: if your client-side MVC framework does not support server-side rendering, that is a bug. It cripples performance.
Smart thinking on optimising the perceived performance of loading web fonts: if you prioritise the most widely-used weight and style (usually the regular roman), and load other weights and styles subsequently, then it appears as though the font is ready sooner.
Everyone who calls for WebKit in Internet Explorer is exactly the same kind of developer who would have coded to Internet Explorer 15 years ago (and probably happily displayed the best viewed in badge).
It’s happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.
First, the browsers competed on having proprietary crap. Then, the browsers competed on standards support. Now, finally, the browsers are competing on what they can offer their users.
Rob Larsen was published a book with O’Reilly called “The Uncertain Web: Web Development in a Changing Landscape”. I like it:
A refreshingly honest look at the chaotic, wonderful world of web development, with handy, practical advice for making future-friendly, backward-compatible websites.
There’s more than a whiff of Indie Web thinking in this sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto from Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger.
The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It’s quite lawn-off-getty …but I also happen to agree with pretty much all of it.
Although it’s kind of weird that it’s published on somebody else’s website.
This cat believes in owning its own data.
Chloe would’ve loved this.
This is a nifty little service: if your site has a webmention endpoint, people can comment on your articles by sending an email.
That means you can comment on any post on my site by sending an email to email@example.com (in the email, include the URL of the post you’re commenting on).