Thoughts On The Indie Web

Although it wouldn’t show it it, my personal website has just undergone a pretty large change. Last year, I switched my personal portfolio away from a custom Drupal 9 website to a no-frills Jekyll website using a pre-built theme hosted on GitHub pages. I did this largely so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time fiddling and fretting over the source code. The theme was locked down and didn’t offer a ton of customization options, and for a time, I was at peace.

Of course, that was not destined to last because I started reading the fantastic Own Your Web newsletter released by Matthias Ott. Over the course of reading a few months worth of releases I once again got the itch to take a little bit more control over my website. Whoops.

The main topic covered in Ott’s newsletter is the idea of the Indie Web– a name that I am still new to, but the idea itself was immediately familiar.

As anyone who has been on the internet for a while can attest, the internet used to pretty much be total chaos. There were websites, sure, but most of them were personal websites, message boards, and random little experiments. It was a safe space to play around with self expression, meet new people, and build communities. At the core of what we now think of as “Web 1.0” was the notion of having personal web pages– spaces for individuals to write, post, share, and create to their heart’s content.

Historically, a lot of these pages were self hosted by tech savvy folks who know how to throw together and maintain a webserver. However, over time websites like MySpace and GeoCities made it easy for regular people to have a similar experience of making and maintaining their own personal pages and sharing them with other people.

In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in trying to revive this slower, more community focused style of internet using a mix of old and new tools like RSS, Web Mentions, and fancy protocols like Federation.

All of this goes to say that I think we’re seeing something new and interesting happening with the web where, once again, the focus is being shifted (perhaps only in part) back to weird, personal spaces like this blog where the owner has the ability to build, create, and connect with people over an independent website. That said, just today I shifted my locked-down little Jekyll website into a full-fledged fork of the upstream Jekyll theme.

I now have a much broader control over the way everything works, all the way from the layout, and the tech stack in my website down to the way I (in theory) could implement comments or content synchronization. Of course, this is the exact opposite direction I wanted to take this website in when I first migrated away from Drupal, but I really do feel more empowered knowing that, if I want to or need to make a change, or I wanted to experiment with a new layout, feature, or color scheme that that reality is only a few keystrokes away.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.