Let’s Hear It For Web 0.1!

It’s November 2006. So far the Web 2.0 bubble hasn’t burst. Here’s my attempt to put a pin-prick in it.

Don’t know what Web 2.0 is? It’s the notion that the next phase of web development is based on user-generated content. _You_ don’t have to write it, your visitors will.

– You get a CMS (a Content Management System, like PHPNuke).

– Users write reviews, blogs, forum posts (Webmasterworld.com).

– Search engines index this stuff (Google.com).

– Users tell their pals about it (MySpace.Com).

– You spend a few thousand bucks, or a few million, depending on how good your chief coder is.

– The thing sells itself (Digg.Com).

– You add contextual ads (Google Adsense).

– Fire off a couple of emails a day, and bank your cheques.

For the small-to-medium webmaster, this can be the route to disaster. Here’s my experience.

See, I was in favour of user contribution. Gives people something to _do_ on a site. If it’s any good, they’ll tell their pals. More traffic.

So I have chat rooms, a forum, a MySpace clone, a dating service, contact forms, ebooks, free software, the whole shebang. All humming away, all bringing in links, all keeping my visitors amused and informed.

Only problem is, the set-up time. The maintenance. The customisation. The search engine optimisation. The hacking attempts. The anti-hacking. The bug fixes. The security updates. The swearing filters. The troll kicking. The screeching. The spamming.

More bandwidth, more databases, more time, more money, more worry.

YouTube.com is a good example. Their business model is using pirated content. They have to police users. Bandwidth costs must be huge. Where’s the money going to come from: ads in pirated videos? Gimme a break.

For any web business, the basic questions are:

– What makes the money?

– What helps make the money?

– Where is the net profit coming from?

Could your site be better served by static HTML pages which you update once every six months? If your site is purely informational, it’s worth considering.

My epiphany came when first some Bahraini hackers clobbered a site of mine. I fixed it. Then some Turkish ones had a go. So I changed to a different CMS. So far, so good, until I realised I would have to constantly update this thing.

It then dawned on me that using a text-to-HTML converter (Text2html) and an index generator (dirhtml) meant simple text files could be turned into a basic site quickly.

You write it, format it, tart it up in Dreamweaver, index it, FTP it and voila!; a mini site without the upgrade headaches.

A CMS has some handy features, but pure HTML lets you sleep easier. Easier to move when the poop hits the air-conditioning, too.

Put it this way: which would you rather own when the Nazis are closing in? Damien Hirst’s ‘Shark In A Tank’ or the Mona Lisa?

I’m starting to think before I put stuff up now. Would simple HTML do just as well? Suppose I have to move web hosts? Will I be able to find one that’ll give me ten MySQL databases at the same price as my current host? And all the other features I need? (Answer: No, I’ve looked).

The first rule of computing is KISS; Keep It Simple, Stupid. With all the brouhaha about Web 2.0, I say, let’s hear it for Web 0.1!