I opened a file where I had made some notes for a possible post. It had a link to something I might comment on. I clicked the link. Not only was the post gone, but the whole site; the whole Substack.
I created the file in March.
Own your stuff. Use your own site.
Robin Rendle raises a concern we should all (who write on the web) have:
But if my URL is dead, my website dies with it.
My work shouldn’t be presented in the Smithsonian behind glass or anything, I’m just pointing at this enormous flaw in the architecture of the web itself: you’re renting servers and renting URLs. Nothing is permanent because on the web we don’t really own any space, we’re just borrowing land temporarily.
– Robin Rendle, Inheritance
What happens to our websites after we’re gone? There needs to be a way to memorialise them, make sure they’re still around in some form. Archive.org is great, but it doesn’t keep the canonical URLs alive. Famously, Tim Berners-Lee wrote, ‘Cool URIs Don’t Change.’ Disappearance is the biggest change of all.
Although I see from there:
Pretty much the only good reason for a document to disappear from the Web is that the company which owned the domain name went out of business or can no longer afford to keep the server running.
– Tim Berners-Lee, Cool URIs Don’t Change
Hmm, is that a good reason? and it’s surprisingly slanted towards companies, considering the origin of the web, and TBL’s place of work.
(And speaking of cool URIs – or domains –
home.cern? That is fantastic!)
Dave Winer has ideas:
ideas for rethinking blogs and feeds. I found, as others have, that I need another kind of document to include in my personal CMS other than a story that’s part of the blog. Everything about blogs are set up to be written, then lightly edited, and never touched again. It’s temporal writing. But there are other things that I want to develop over time, keep coming back to, revising. A few years back I started this.how to hold those docs.
– Dave Winer, Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 16:05
He’s talking about what I like to call ‘web pages,’ surely? You don’t need any fancy CMS for those, as Dave of all people should know. And if you want to use such a thing, well, even WordPress has its Posts/Pages distinction.
A while ago, I read a piece called “Improving the URL Bar" (turns out it’s almost a year old, but never mind). I made both mental and Pinboard-based notes of it, because my response to it was, “That’s not improving the URL bar, it’s destroying it."
Reading it again now, I don’t feel quite so strongly; I partly agree with what the author was getting at. But I feel we lose something important as we make URLs less visible. They show something of the hierarchy of a site, its structure — or at least that’s the origin of the path part.
The argument against that of course is that the path part is an implentation detail that doesn’t need to be seen by users, and perhaps more importantly, the whole thing is meaningless at best, confusing at worst to most users.
Well, maybe so. But to those of us who do understand them, hiding them can be confusing, even annoying.Of course you can click in the URL bar, or press Cmd-L or Ctrl-L, to see the whole thing. More usefully, In Safari, which I’m currently using, there’s a preference called “Show full website address”, which overrides the behaviour. So you can have your choice.
But then there’s this whole thing that we have now, of browsers doing a search when you type something in URL bar; especially (though not exclusively) when it’s not obviously a URL that you’ve typed or pasted.
I don’t like it.
Or I didn’t. I’ve been using Safari since I wiped and reinstalled this Mac because it was getting really slow (successfully, I might add). I decided to keep things as stock as possible (within reason — I wasn’t going to switch back from Lightroom to iPhoto, for example, or from MailMate to Mail.app). And Firefox can sometimes be a bit of a resource hog.
But I spent quite some time trying to find out how to give Safari a separate search bar like FF has (or can have — it may be a plugin, but if so it’s one that I install without thinking). I had muscle memory that went Cmd-T, Cmd-K (or Ctrl-T, Ctrl-T when I’m on Windows) when I want a new tab I’m going to search in. Still have it, actually, because I still use FF on Windows on my work machine.
It turns out that you can’t have that on Safari. You just have to search from the URL bar. So I just got into the habit of doing that. And now I find I do it even on Firefox (you have both options there).
I don’t know; I still feel that the URL bar should be for URLs, and searching should be something else. but it doesn’t offend me like it used to.
Still, the effect is to further blur the distinction between searching for a site and going to a specific site. I see people — even experienced, technically knowledgable people — going to Google’s home page and typing “facebook.com” into the search box. I mean, what?
Oh, and of course if you search from Google’s home page in Chrome, your cursor jumps to the URL bar! Or it did the last time I used Chrome. Which blurs the distinction between site and browser, as well as between site and search.
In the end it doesn’t matter that much — people mostly get where they mean to go — but by making it less than clear what is going on when we navigate around the web, we make it harder for people to understand how it’s all put together, and I think we lose something important in doing so.