Title: On Home Pages
Author: Adam Moore (LÆMEUR) <adam@laemeur.com>
Date: January 3, 2014

On Home Pages

A Reminiscence and Rationale

It's funny to think back five or six years, when the question really started getting asked a lot: "do you have a Facebook?" It wasn't an entirely new phenomenon, as five years before that people were similarly asking if you have "a MySpace" (tho' it was an order of magnitude fewer people). And still, that wasn't an entirely new phenomenon, either. Back in the dim, dark days of the late 1990s, people were asking (again, an order of magnitude fewer still), "do you have a homepage?"

That's what the in-the-know people were saying. "You gotta get on the web, man. You gotta make a homepage."

"Homepage" and "webpage" were sort-of interchangeable, but the gist was the same: a document (HTML file), somewhere on the newfangled "web", with all your vital information, either for your person (or persona) or your business, and probably some links to other webpages, maybe some photos of the family or your favourite TV character, and – particularly if you were a Geocities user – some animated GIFs, blinking text, and an eye-searing colour scheme which made the whole thing impossible to read.

Your homepage was your presence upon the world wide web. It proved that not only did you exist, but that you were with it, you were in the now – and it did that in whatever mind-bending aesthetic you could eke out of HTML 2 & 3(1).

Facebook (or Google+ or Diaspora* or what-have-you) profiles serve largely the same purpose today; they're your presence on not just the web, but the wider inter-networked world. They show who you are, who you know, and what you like. And, while the lustre has worn off and this is no longer true of Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, it will be true of every "next big app": you'll sign-up, and that will show that you're with it, you're in the now.

The benefit of these new ways, of the "social web", over plain, old-fashioned web pages is that your profile, your online presence, gets hooked-in to crude little proprietary messaging systems that let us all give each other public pats on the back in the form of "likes" and "plus-ones", and informative or thoughtfully-composed comments like "lol ur so funny!". It also lets us look less boring by allowing us a means to re-post interesting things that other people are doing; you might be a complete potato, but look at all the interesting stuff you find on the web!

The detriment, or one of the detriments, is that all of this social interaction takes place in a dull, uniform, and expressionless application interface. When you create a Facebook profile, you're filling fields in a database that someone else maintains. Your online presence is indexed data that Facebook or Google or whomever collates into a dossier. On the other hand, when you make a web page, a dumb little HTML document, you're writing a letter to the world. Even if your homepage is nothing more than a spartan exposition of your curriculum vitae and little else, the document you create is itself an expression of character. The data you choose to present, the order in which you present it, the style, the wording – it's all an expression of you. A homepage is a hand-crafted resumé; a social-networking profile is a Walmart job application.

So, what am I expressing by this plain, white page(2) of boring-looking text? I mean, it might look to some the zenith of hypocrisy that I'd criticize the "dull uniformity" of social media sites from a single column of bare-bones HTML. Worse yet, it might also look like some kind of douchey hipster anachronism – some I'm-too-cool-for-Facebook wank to score points with an elitist crowd that I'm not even sure of the name for.

You will, of course, make your own judgement on that. Without going into the matter at length, I can tell you that what I hope this site's bare-bones approach to design expresses is an appreciation for simplicity, purposefulness, and the visual consonance of text. Sure, there's a bit of defiant anachronism at work, too. I'm lucky enough to remember the experience of the early web, when it was more authored and less generated, and I have to confess to at least some degree of unseemly nostalgia for those "good old days"(3).



1. Nobody did shit with HTML 1. It looked too boring and academic for anyone to care, and it didn't have forms, so you couldn't take people's credit-card numbers.

2. It might not be white! Cool dudes who read web pages with Lynx or Links or w3m or what-have-you are probably reading this white-on-black. 'Cause they're cool dudes.

3. I must also confess that I abhor this bad old phrase.

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