I have been a webmaster since I started my professional career. I was lucky to work at the biggest Belgian ISP in the nineties.
I was responsible for all web properties, from the “users” server, the corporate web site, The marketing website, to the Belcast portal (later merged into Skynet.be).
Those where the days, the early days. We used a lot of open source, got stuff working with Apache, added dynamic content using cgi. Went a bit further and generated every page using Perl (yay). This made it possible to personalise the page for the user.
We knew the IP address that called the web server, we were able to connect to the Radius connection table of the dial-ups (yup, modems), and as such could recover the username. With the username we could query the mail server if there are mails waiting to be fetched (yup, POP was the main mode people consumed mail). With the Radius info, we also knew the POP that was used. At the time, local zone calls, more or less per Belgian province. Using that info we could then provide the local weather report…
Later when the servers exploded under load, we switched from CGI/Perl to PHP. The early PHP3 days… We also explored different kinds of CMS, using XML (just released) and started to look into WAP.
But those were the days…
I have been dabbing with Drupal, Joomla, and the likes to basically come to the conclusion that Wordpress was the best way to manage a website and have ‘normal’ users to handle the day to day and even crucial upgrades. That was 10 years later, that the Skynet days.
Today, we have what people call the ‘cloud’, a bunch of services that offer infrastructure elements to run “applications” on the Internet.
Back in the Skynet days, we had something starting that was called ASP, short for Application Service Provider. We had people installing hardware in the datacenter to offer business applications like accounting, HR, etc…
This seems awful close to what most end users experience as ‘cloud’ solutions, and likened towards SaaS.
So, me being old school, I was considering registering a domain, renting a server or webspace and putting a Wordpress up.
But hey, the goal was to learn and break stuff right? Ok, so I started looking in what was really hot in terms of web technology, having more distance to in the last five years of my professional career because of a takeover of the startup I worked in, I was asked to do more Management.
I can tell you, 5 years is a huge amount of time on the Internet. Things changed fast in the nineties, and it seems they are changing as fast nearly twenty years later. I think there is about a same rhythm of ‘new’ things starting, but all these things pile up, and existing things (like the ASP), start to take off, improve, change, transform, etc… Back in the days, you were fluid in Internet when you understood NNTP, FTP, HTTP, DNS, and some coding skills. These days, some of them don’t matter any more for mainstream (NNTP), others still matter, but are like pushed towards the background, abstracted in frameworks and libraries. But most of all, a couple of new stuff is added ‘on top’ of the basics like HTTP. The action happens on the new stuff, and then there is feedback towards the old stuff and HTTP2 is born. Pressure about using the tools and technology for stuff they were never intended for.
This is cool !!
Now back to the website. Today, in 2018, there is a movement that is near and dear to my hart. Back to “static websites”, because you can’t beat the speed.
A marketing guy at the company referred to the JAMstack. This all made perfect sense for the old-school web guy I am. Static fast website. I used to have 100ms as a benchmark for pages that were generated by my own code. Rest assured this was well before the Zend frameworks and the 857 DB queries before a single page byte was generated. The main thing is that if a page takes longer than 500ms to load and visualise ‘something’, the end user disconnects mentally and you will have a challenging time to keep engagement.
So Static was the way to go. Now I have some ‘skills’ in there, I have been building websites well before they were dynamic… But, I gather, we can’t be going back to that, we would be building websites like animals.
So enter static website ‘generators’. Makes sense, and was already a movement back in the day, but fast forward to today, these programs are extremely capable and feature full . I’m talking about the likes of Jekyll, Hugo, VuePress, …
Next, how to start…