In the grand scheme of things, the world wide web is a young technology — less than quarter of a century old — but it’s had an enormous impact on the way the we live our lives and communicate with each other. Yet very few of us really understand the technology that forms the world’s dominant platform for cultural expression, business, and communication. Most are vaguely aware of what HTML and CSS are, but very few would be able to knock together even the simplest web page. Even fewer understand what it takes to manage the Linux servers on which the Internet largely runs. I think that’s a shame for three reasons.
Firstly, although I’m not of the view that everyone needs to be a developer, I do think some practical knowledge of coding and web development is useful in any number of ways for almost everyone. Our world is built on software and our communities are built on the web. Building a web site is an excellent way to develop skills that turn internet users into full online citizens who can contribute. Without the ability to understand what lies beneath the surface of the sites they interact with, web users have limited control over their online experience.
Which brings me to reason number two: control. It might be argued that almost everyone already has their own space on the web; in fact, it’s social media networks like Facebook and publishing platforms like Tumblr that have made the web the phenomenon it is. But in reality, users of those platforms are renting space on someone else’s web. They’re convenient, they’re powerful, and they bring people together. But they are also entirely under the control of organizations that have a set of incentives that often don’t perfectly align with the interests of their users. By creating and owning their own site, whether it’s a blog, a portfolio, or a simple “This is me” site, users stake out a place on the web that they own and control.
It’s never been easier create your own website. A complete web design and development program can be built from free online resources, and if you prefer a more structured learning experience, it can easily be had from services like Code Academy, Code School, and Lynda.com.
And, of course, hosting your site is easy too. For most people who want to learn the ins and outs of creating a website from scratch, a managed virtual private server is an excellent option.
So what are you waiting for?