What even is a website anyway?

A few days ago my, my friend Carl wrote an interesting blog post about Brutalist Web Design that you should read if you're into websites and web design.

The whole brutalist concept is intriguing and worth discussing but that's not really what I want to write about today. What I do want to write is an attempt answer to the question "What even is a site?"

We can start in a familiar place: Wikipedia. They define a websites as

A website is a collection of web pages and related content that is identified by a common domain name and published on at least one web server

As my mate Rob pointed out, this is a particularly fun definition because it implies that a one page site is not a website since it's not a collection of web pages.

Also interesting, is the link between the pages and the content. Does a website with no content count as a website? And what even is content in today's web?

The more I think about it, the more I find myself coming back to the Ship of Theseus. If I keep the content but I redesign the container is it still the same site? If I keep the content, I redesign the container, I change hosting provider and move everything to a different domain is it still the same site? Also, if I send these blog posts via email, the collection of them all inside your inbox, can that be considered the same site? What about this site's RSS feed? If you're reading this inside your RSS app, are you "visiting" my site? Can that be considered the same site? And what about the Wayback Machine?


Craig Mod wrote years ago about his love for the physicality of books as well defined objects. A website, in a sense, couldn't be more different from a physical object. And yet it very much is a physical object. It's a Schrodinger object in a way. It is and isn't a physical object at the same time. And that's what makes them special. And also infuriating. Because you sometimes want to smash a site to pieces but you simply can't...


Personally, the more I think about websites, the more I'm convinced that the container is not really that important in the grand scheme of things. As 5G Bill once said, content is king.