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 firstname.lastname@example.org (in the email, include the URL of the post you’re commenting on).
Like caniuse.com, but for typography features. Find out what’s supported in browsers today.
If your site is written in Ruby (even if it’s made with a static site generator like Jekyll), you can add webmention support with Jason’s newly-open-sourced code.
I had the great honour of being invited to speak on the 200th edition of the Working Draft podcast (there are a few sentences in German at the start, and then it switches into English).
I had a lot of fun talking about indie web building blocks (rel=me, indieauth, webmention, h-entry, etc.). Best of all, while I was describing these building blocks, one of the hosts started implementing them!
With all my talk about extending existing elements instead of making new ones, I was reminded of one of my favourite examples of custom elements in action: Github’s extensions of the
My contribution to this year’s edition of the web’s best advent calendar.
I completely share Bruce’s concern about the year-zero thinking that’s accompanying a lot of the web components marketing:
Snarking aside, why do so few people talk about extending existing HTML elements with web components? Why’s all the talk about brand new custom elements? I don’t know.
I’m a fan of web components. But I’m increasingly worried about the messaging surrounding them.
A history lesson and a love letter to the early web, taking in HTML, Photoshop, and the web standards movement.
Those were long years, the years of drop-shadows. Everything was jumping just slightly off the screen. For a stretch it seemed that drop-shadows and thin vertical columns of text would define the web. That was before we learned that the web is really a medium to display slideshows, as many slideshows as possible, with banner ads.
Stuart has implemented webmentions on his site, which is great. It’s also fitting, as he is the inventor of pingback (of which webmention is a simpler reformulation).
Many of the free fonts available from Google are pretty bad, but this site showcases how some of them can be used to great effect.
This strikes me as an eminently sensible idea by Emil: using the picture element to begin providing WebP alternatives to JPG.
Of course, picture-supporting browsers will have to adjust their decision-making algorithm to support this pattern.
A great presentation on web components by Marcy, with an emphasis on keeping them accessible.
Paul Ford’s potted history of web standards, delivered in his own inimitable style.
Reading through the standards, which are dry as can be, you might imagine that standardization is a polite, almost academic process, where wonks calmly debate topics like semicolon placement. This is not the case.
Aaron documents the process of adding webmention support to a static site. He came with an ingenious three-tiered approach:
It’s been a pretty fun mini-project. In the end, I created a useful bit of kit that provides three distinct experiences:
- Static webmentions collected when the site was generated form the baseline experience;
Some good practical advice from Tim on setting a performance budget.
Use rule-based metrics to make sure you haven’t overlooked simple optimizations.
Use quantity-based metrics as guides to help designers and developers make better decisions about what goes onto a page.
I’m an advocate for progressive enhancement. Tom Dale is not. But even though we may disagree on that, there’s a lot to like in his sensible, balanced answers to some sensationalist linkbaity questions.
It’s not that the pace of innovation on the Web is slower, it’s just solving a problem that is an order of magnitude more challenging than how to build and distribute trusted apps for a single platform. As we saw on the desktop, it may take a few years to catch up to all of the capabilities of a native, proprietary platform, but in terms of the impact it will have on humanity, forgive me for not losing sleep if we have to wait a few years for it to arrive.
Aaron raises a point that I’ve discussed before in regards to the indie web (and indeed, the web in general): we don’t buy domain names; we rent them.
It strikes me that all the good things about the web are decentralised (one-way linking, no central authority required to add a node), but all the sticking points are centralised: ICANN, DNS.
Aaron also points out that we are beholden to our hosting companies, although—having moved hosts a number of times myself—that’s an issue that DNS (and URLs in general) helps alleviate. And there’s now some interesting work going on in literally owning your own website: a web server in the home.
The transcript of Owen’s talk at The Web Is. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful meditation on writing, web design, and long-term thinking.
One of the promises of the web is to act as a record, a repository for everything we put there. Yet the web forgets constantly, despite that somewhat empty promise of digital preservation: articles and data are sacrificed to expediency, profit and apathy; online attention, acknowledgement and interest wax and wane in days, hours even.
A cute videolette on web standards.
A great primer on using
picture. I think I’ll be referring back to this a lot.
Looks like Phil’s talk at The Web Is in Cardiff was terrific.
A modest proposal: respect.
Angry, but true.
Don’t lock yourself into a comprehensive technology that may just die within the next few months and leave you stranded. With progressive enhancement you’ll never go wrong. Progressive enhancement means your code will always work, because you’ll always focus on providing a minimal experience first, and then adding features, functionality, and behavior on top of the content.
Tantek shares a fascinating history lesson from Tim Berners-Lee on how the IETF had him change his original nomenclature of UDI—Universal Document Identifier—to what we now use today: URL—Uniform Resource Locator.
This was a fun podcast—myself and Cyd from Code For America talk to Karen and Ethan about how we worked together. Good times.
The audio is available for your huffduffing pleasure.
My name is Jeremy and I am a boring front-end developer.
I hope that many of you will watch me on this journey, and follow in my wagon tracks as I leave the walled cities and strike out for the wilderness ahead.
The Android vs. iOS debate is one hinges around whether you think it makes more sense to target a (perceived) larger market, or target one that the technorati favor. But why choose? Building a good responsive web app has a series of benefits, the primary one being that you target users on every platform with one app. Every user. Every platform. All the time. Release whenever you want. A/B test with ease. Go, go go.
A look back at how Twitter evolved over time, with examples of seemingly-trivial changes altering the nature of the discourse.
Kevin finishes with a timely warning for those of us building alternatives:
Some thoughts on progressive enhancement, although I disagree with the characterisation of progressive enhancement as being the opposite choice to making “something flashy that pushes the web to it’s limits”—it’s entirely possible to make the flashiest, limit-pushing sites using progressive enhancement. After all…
it’s much more a mindset than a particular development technique.
Companies go out of business, get bought and change policies, so what if you had one place to originate all of your content then publish it out to those great social services? And hey, why not pull comments from those services back to your original post?
That’s the idea behind Indie Web Camp: have your own website be the canonical source of what your publish. But right now, getting all of the moving parts up and running requires a fair dollop of tech-savviness. That’s where Known comes in:
It’s similar to the WordPress model: you can create a blog on their servers, or you can download the software and host it on your own.
This post is a good run-down of what’s working well with Known, and what needs more work.
This is what Scott Jenson has been working on—a first stab at just-in-time interactions by having physical devices broadcasting URLs.
Walk up and use anything
I’d go along with pretty much everything Anil says here. Wise words from someone who’s been writing on their own website for fifteen years (congratulations!).
Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.
I really like this comparison:
As a zinester and zine librarian, I see the Indie Web as a pretty direct correlation to 1980’s and 1990’s zine culture. The method of production may be completely different (photocopiers and direct mail vs web posts and servers) but the goals are almost identical – controlling the way in which your message and identity are displayed, crafted, and stored while avoiding censorship that corporate media might impose. The end goal of both zine and indieweb technologies is ownership of your own identity without a filter.
But there also challenges:
The key issue right now for diverse populations utilizing the Indie Web is accessibility. As long as the tools for creating & controlling your own identity online are still relatively obtuse & technical to implement, we won’t have great diversity within the Indie Web.
A really handy bit of code from Aaron for building a robust file uploader. A way to make your web-based photo sharing more Instagrammy-clever.
Soledad Penadés also went to the Extensible Web Summit in Berlin, where she gave a lightning talk. Sounds like it was really good.
This also includes some good advice that, again, Alex might want to consider before denouncing any disagreement on Web Components as “piffle and tosh”:
If the W3C, or any other standardisation organisation wants to attract “normal” developers to get more diverse inputs, they/we should start by being respectful to everyone. Don’t try to show everyone how superclever you are. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t scare people away, because then only the loud ones stay, and the quieter shy people, or people who have more urgent matters to attend (such as, you know, having a working business website even if it’s not using the latest and greatest API) will just leave.
Bruce went to the Extensible Web Summit in Berlin and wrote up his notes.
Sounds like he shares my excitement, but also my nervousness.
There’s also this important point, that Alex would do well to remember before crying “Piffle and tosh!”:
We need to ensure that all devs who want to can participate by allowing ease of collaboration, courteous discourse.
Steve shares my concerns …but he still refers to my post as “piffle”.
I can’t win.
Alex’s response to my post about Web Components, in which he ignores my excitement and dismisses my concerns as “piffle and tosh.”
I gotta say: I think cautious optimism and nervous excitement are healthy attitudes to have about any technology. For Alex to dismiss them so summarily makes me even more worried. Apparently you’re either with Web Components or you’re against them. Heaven forbid that you might voice any doubts or suggest any grey areas.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
In the days before comments on blogs, you could generally have a thoughtful conversation online without everything degenerating into madness and chaos simply because responding to a post required that you wrote a post on your own blog and linked back. This created a certain level of default accountability because if someone wanted to flame you, they had to do it on their own real estate, and couldn’t just crap all over yours anonymously.
A really nice little documentary about my friend Jeffrey.
Glenn eloquently gives his reasons for building Transmat:
When I was a child, my brothers and I all had a shoebox each. In these we kept our mementoes. A seashell from a summer holiday where I played for hours in the rock pools, the marble from the schoolyard victory against a bully and a lot of other objects that told a story.
Tantek’s great talk on the Indie Web from Web Directions Code in Melbourne earlier this year.
Here’s the very brief talk I gave about Indie Web Camp at Aral’s Indie Tech Summit here in Brighton a little while back (I was in the slightly-demeaningly-titled “stop gaps” section).
If you like what you hear, come along to the next Indie Web Camp—also in Brighton—in just over three weeks.
When Rock’n’roll and Web 2.0 collide, the result is not pretty.
Dan Donald gets to the heart of progressive enhancement:
Assumptions in themselves don’t have to be inherently bad but let’s recognise them for what they are. We know very little but that can hopefully enable us to be far more flexible and understanding in what we create.
The Web Manifest spec is still very much in draft, but it’s worth reading through Bruce’s explanation of it now. Basically, it will provide a way for us to specify in one external file what we currently have to specify in umpteen meta tags and link elements.
An astute comparison of the early years of the web with the early years of the app store. If there’s anything to this, then the most interesting native apps are yet to come. App Store 2.0?
One more reason why you should never sniff user-agent strings: Internet Explorer is going to lie some more. Can’t really blame them though—if developers didn’t insist on making spurious conclusions based on information in the user-agent string, then browsers wouldn’t have to lie.
Oh, and Internet Explorer is going to parse -webkit prefixed styles. Again, if developers hadn’t abused vendor prefixes, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Ten facets of web development that you can choose to focus on. One of them is from me …but other nine are worth paying attention to.
A nice profile of BERG’s Little Printer. That Matt Webb is a smart cookie. He is also a very thoughtful cookie.
An alternative history from a parallel timeline.
He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.
The Internet forgets every single day.
I’m with Jason.
I encourage you all to take a moment and consider the importance of preserving your online creations for yourself, your family, and for future generations.
Almost six minutes of me squinting in the sun and sharing my reckons while seagulls squawk in the background.