This is an Actual Website.

A less profane and non-Oedipal manifesto for a better World Wide Web

Everything You Need

You may have forgotten, or never learned in the first place, but this is how a website should work.

We Have The Technology

All that stuff that a website should be and do? We already have it. [2] Perhaps we always have.

Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at CERN got this mostly right about 30 years ago, building on concepts from Project Xanadu to create a practical implementation of hypertext documents.

The first website was built in 1989. It’s still available, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s nothing but a collection of hypertext documents. Never mind IE6; you could probably render it on a Tamagotchi or a toaster running NetBSD if you had to. Don’t forget that the very first web browser was built on and for a NeXT workstation, and the second was designed to run on dumb terminals.

You could probably render this site in such old browsers, or at least NCSA Mosaic. However, such old browsers would mangle the text because they don’t support Unicode. In fairness, the first version of the Unicode standard wasn’t published until 1991.

Self-Inflicted Problems

This site would work just fine in pre-Unicode browsers from the 1990s if I had stuck to the 127-character ASCII character set and specified that encoding instead of UTF-8. But I’m used to Unicode text and being able to use typographic quotes. [3]

As far as self-inflicted problems go, this is pretty mild. We do much worse to ourselves and each other, just to earn a living.

This Isn’t Entirely Our Fault

I’ll admit it. Building websites is hard. A lot of what makes this a miserable experience arose out of the browser wars.

It was bad enough that JavaScript was incredibly slow and janky at first [4], especially if you were used to strongly typed languages like C. It really didn’t help that the major browser vendors couldn’t agree on how to implement standards like HTML, CSS, or ECMAScript. Netscape did things in a particular way, and Microsoft insisted on doing things a different way. The W3C didn’t have enough authority to sit either party down and tell them to cool it with the proprietary extensions.

Web developers got caught in the middle. They had to decide whether to support one browser or try to support both. Now it might be happening again, if Google decides they can afford to add proprietary functionality to Chrome. [5]

Nevertheless, we can do better. Especially if we’re professional web developers.

Does your blog really need all the JavaScript you’re using? Does it need to be built with React? Do you really need a build step that depends on Node and over 9,000 npm packages? Who are you trying to impress?

Likewise to the people who slavishly imitate oedipal websites and brag about only needing 7 CSS declarations or think that using HTTPS and gzip matter. What good is asceticism for its own sake?

You say it’s satire. You know full well that some people are going to take it literally.

You Might Never Have Seen a Website Before

Like the person who has always shaved has no notion of their natural state, you have no notion of what a website is or could be. All you have ever seen are pale imitations of newspapers, magazines, and television. The web should be hypertext communicating messages that were at least meaningful to their authors.

This is a real, sensibly dressed website. Look at it. If a college dropout like me can manage this, then so can you.

This Is Not Satire

I won’t claim that this is 100% objective fact. It is my opinion alone, but free to a good home. While this had originally been a parody and response to more profane and oedipal sites, it’s become more than that to me. I wouldn’t have spent the weekend after my wife and I had been sick with influenza writing all of this text otherwise.

The World Wide Web:
a communications medium barely alive.
We can fix it.
We have the technology.
We can make it better than it was.
Better, stronger, faster...

a parody of The Six Million Dollar Man’s opening monologue

This popped into my head as my fever broke. I thought it was too good not to use even if it dates me. We have always had the technology. It’s time we learned to use it.

Suggestions for Better Websites

The following are my preferences, which should not be mistaken for prescriptions.

Having expressed these opinions, it doesn’t actually matter what tools you use, as long as they help you build the website you want to build. All I ask is that you think about what you’re doing, and refrain from using trendy tech just because somebody else told you should use it.

Further Reading

Feedback Welcome

If you have any questions about this website, or would like to suggest additions or corrections, please reach out to the author by .


  1. Unfortunately, this isn’t guaranteed, especially on the commercial Web. A lot of corporate websites talk too much and say too little. (Not in plain text, either.)
  2. Web applications are another story, and outside the scope of this website. I personally think that web applications were a mistake. It’s a mistake that pays my bills, though.
  3. Nöt tö mentiön heavy metal ümlauts. Classic 7-bit ASCII just isn’t metalhead-friendly.
  4. It had gotten bad enough that Douglas Crockford wrote a slim little book called JavaScript: The Good Parts in 2008. I think it’s the best work of satirical fantasy ever written, because JavaScript has no good parts.
  5. I’m using the word “competing” a bit loosely here. Google Chrome has become the new Internet Explorer, the browser most people use. Microsoft is still pushing their Edge browser, but it’s based on Chromium, the parts of Chrome that Google released as open source software. Apple is still pushing Safari, but that’s for Macs and iOS devices. Firefox is still hanging in there, but Mozilla gets a fair amount of funding from Google in exchange for making Google the default search engine in Firefox. The situation is just a bit bleak.
  6. Unfortunately, refusal to provide metadata for parasocial media negatively impacts people using Federated social platforms like Mastodon because these platforms also use proprietary meta tags like Open Graph and Twitter Cards instead of using standard meta tags to generate link previews. I have found what appears to be a minimal solution social markup courtesy of Jens Oliver Meiert. If this works well enough, it might prove a reasonable compromise.