11/05/2020

Why My Website Is So Simple (Optimization, Privacy, and a Decentralized Internet)

As you may have noticed if you have been following me for a while, my website has been through loads of changes, designs, and setups. Today, however, it's pretty minimal, and may even seem a little pointless at the moment. That's because I decided to go back to where I started, writing the HTML and CSS myself. Recently I've been really into the aesthetic of minimalism, but I thought, "Why not go all the way and go deeper than just an aesthetic?" This might just seem like unnecessary work when I could just grab a minimalist theme from wordpress, or something of the sort, and call it day. There's a few reasons why I took the route, but the two I'm gonna talk about today are optimization, and decentralization.

I want to make my website as small and as fast as possible, without trading usability. So, I sat down and looked at exactly what I wanted my website to do. I want it to list where people can find me online, I want a place for people to download things I make, and maybe a blog. So I made the simple layout of my website to accommodate those. Nothing more, nothing less. The goal is not only speed and size, but compatibility. With a website so simple, it should display correctly on nearly every browser/device with no problems. I have also made sure that the website doesn't use any trackers, cookies, background scripts, or anything of the sort, which not only optimizes loading times, but ties in to my next point, privacy and decentralization.

I've always had my eye on the Linux community for a while, but only recently have I been really diving into it, and one of it's bigger counterparts, the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) community. Until a few years ago, I was a Microsoft shill (and to be fair, I wasn't even a teenager yet) but I would blindly defend Windows and Google and other things of that sort without really doing any research or being open to anything else. I knew that data tracking was a thing, but I mostly just accepted it and didn't think much of it. However, after dabbling in other OSes like GNU/Linux, I've been much more aware of the FOSS community, and all of the shady practices big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others take part in.

With that in mind, I have done as much as possible to make sure my website can stand on its own, and doesn’t lean on any other services, let alone from the tech giants known for privacy invasion. My website doesn't use any data tracking, analytics, advertisements, etc. What you see on the surface is all there is to it. I want to respect people's wants and needs for privacy, and by making my website myself from the ground up, I can ensure that no one's privacy is being invaded by my website. The website is currently hosted on a Digital Ocean VPS, using all open source software, and with everything (even the fonts) being hosted directly on the server itself with no outside connections. The goal is to eventually run it off my own server at home, but my current resources won't allow me to do that, so Digital Ocean will do for now. Another thing I might do to commit to the privacy thing is to host a Tor mirror for it, opening more possibilities for compatibility and freedom. Doing this all not only ensures privacy and optimization, but it can also ensure compatibility and future-proofing. If it were to rely heavily on Google services, and say by some mysterious force Google goes bankrupt and shuts down their servers, then those components won't work on my website.

So yeah, that's why my website is so simple. Maybe this is all pointless, but either way it was a fun learning experience, and maybe you got a few ideas from this post, who knows. You, of course, don't have to go bare HTML/CSS, but I do encourage people with their own websites to at least give a bit of decentralization a try, even if it's just using an alternative to Google Fonts, it still helps. A good place to start is this project I found called ReverseEagle, which can be found here: https://reverseeagle.org/

~Ruby Casey


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