This Page is Designed to Last

Programming - Mar 31, 2024

Jeff Huang, while going through his collection of bookmarks, sadly finds a lot of old pages gone from the internet. Bit rot. It’s pretty bad. Most of what gets published on the web disappears. Thankfully, the Internet Archive gets a lot of it. Jeff has seven things that he thinks will help make a page last.

1) Return to vanilla HTML/CSS
2) Don’t minimize that HTML
3) Prefer one page over several
4) End all forms of hotlinking
5) Stick with the 13 web safe fonts +2
6) Obsessively compress your images
7) Eliminate the broken URL risk

I don’t take issue with any of that advice in general, but to me, they don’t all feel like things that have much to do with whether a site will last or not. Of them, #4 seems like the biggest deal, and #5 is… strange. (Fonts fall back on the web; what fonts you use should have no bearing on a site’s ability to last.)

I sort of agree with #1 and #2, but not on the surface. Both of them imply a build process. Build processes get old, they stop working, and they become a brick of technical debt. I still love them and can’t imagine day-to-day work without them, but they are things that stands in the way of people wanting to deal with an old site. Highly relevant: Simplicity, from Bastian Allgeier.

Everything listed is technological. If we’re talking technological advice to keeping a site online for the long haul, I’d say jamstack is the obvious answer. Prerender everything into static files. Rely on no third-party stuff anything, except a host. (Disclosure: Netlify is a current sponsor of this site, but I’m tellin’ ya, toss a simple static site without a complex build process up on Netlify, which has a generous free tier, and that site will absolutely be there for the long haul. )

Don’t diddle with your URLs either. Gosh darn it if I don’t see a lot of 404s because someone up and changed up all their URLs.

But I feel there is something beyond the technological that is the real trick to a site that lasts: you need to have some stake in the game. You don’t let your URLs die because you don’t want them to. They matter to you. You’ll tend to them if you have to. They benefit you in some way, so you’re incentivized to keep them around. That’s what makes a page last.

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