Digital Garden

Small Web

The "Small Web" is a term coined by Aral Balkan in his essay What is the Small Web. It encompasses several behaviors that lay in contrast the existing "Big" Web.

The Big Web is:

The small web in contrast is:

  • Decentralized (single tenant servers)
  • For and built by people

Furthermore, Aral posits, but doesn't fully explore the architectural implications that Big Web trusts servers and distrusts clients; but small web distrusts servers and trusts clients.

Ben Hoyt in The Small Web is Beautiful further explores the concept of the Small Web by categorizing it as both the efforts of small teams and companies, but also small websites and architectural decisions. This gives you less moving parts and a faster application with reduced processing resources

A small architecture he argues rejects microservices for monoliths. Monolingual development, transactional requests (since there is only one database or even just a filesystem or SQLite), and limits orchestrational and networking problems.

A small architecture limits external dependencies in favor of standard libraries. Cares about the size of the application and resource requirements (CPU, memory, etc.), reduces the overall feature set, uses progressive enhancement on the front end and compiled languages on the back-end (Rust, Go).

The rise of the Big Web had more than economic factors in play. Jarred Sumner in his exploration of why the web turned out so serious and dour posits that creativity on the web has become somewhat of a privilige afforded to an elect few willing to put the efforts into mastering modern web development. Web 1.0 invited everyone to express their creativity. Allowing custom CSS for profile pages (MySpace), and free webhosts (Geocities, Tripod etc.). This door has closed largely due to security limitations. Allowing embedding of arbitrary HTML, CSS, and Javascript as inputs are difficult to properly sanitize. Stripping all of this out, and the creativity that it allowed, is a much more secure solution.

As creativity on the web declines, we see the rise of the bureaucrat under the heavy-handed tooling of Web 2.0 Social Media. The best internet is a community engaged in communication. In particular, a community of artists, David Schmudde says in On the Internet, We are Either Artists or Bureaucrats, who invites others to respond in kind. A bureaucrat, however, is a slave to the machine. They opine because it is required -- favorite, retweet, boost and register their engagement in the most formal and banal of processes. Shouting into the void is not the basis for a community.

A wbpage is structured documents of HTML, styled with CSS and then endowed with behavior through Javascript. In his essay HTML is the Web, Pete Lambert lays out that it is fundamental to understand HTML in order to create well structured documents instead of a semantic soup of div and span elements.

Tinius Hugo, in On Being a Front-end Engineer, further expands by pointing out that good front-end engineering, born from an attention to detail, requires sound HTML, CSS, accessiblity, UX, and semantic correctness. In 2020, we overalue the skills associated with Javascript development. Native front-end engineering, he points out, has always worked with turing complete languages when developing UI. His thesis, is that it is not too much to expect the front-end web engineer to embrace both development with modern language tooling while attending to semantic document structure and accessiblity.

External References

  1. Balkan, Aral. What is the Small Web?. Aral Balkan. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  2. Hoyt, Ben. The small web is beautiful. Ben Hoyt Technical Writing. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  3. Sumner, Jarred. Why isn't the internet more fun and wird?. Jarred. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
  4. Schmudde, David. On the Internet, We Are Either Arists or Bureaucrats. Beyond the Frame. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
  5. Lambert, Pete. HTML is the Web. Pete Lambert. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
  6. Tunius, Hugo. On Being a Front-End Engineer. Hugo Tunius. Retrieved 2021-03-09.

Linked References