There is no such thing as a static website

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Style Pass
2022-01-14 18:00:04

A common distinction in technology for building websites is a separation between "static" and "dynamic" websites. The idea is that a "static" website always returns the same HTML/CSS/etc, whereas a "dynamic" website changes the content that the server returns depending on the request.

This seems, at first glance, to be a pretty sharp and useful distinction, letting us easily distinguish between static and dynamic. However, I don't think it holds up to real scrutiny, and I believe that this distinction is holding us back from building better types of software that exist in the blurry space between static and dynamic.

First off, we should look at why people care about this distinction in the first place. When looking at any sort of taxonomy, a good first question to ask is "who is this useful to, and why?"

In this case, the answer is pretty simple — static websites are seen as easy to deploy, essentially not requiring any maintenance once they are deployed. People have the impression that if they install Wordpress, it's likely to need ongoing maintenance, whereas if they use Jekyll or Hugo or another static site generator, it won't. This impression doesn't exist without reason (Wordpress certainly has a tendency to break more frequently than nginx), but it's not completely correct — static websites do require maintenance1, it's just maintenance that's very easy to outsource these days — GitHub Pages, S3/CloudFront, and many other providers will take your static files, and maintain a web server to serve them either for a extremely small fee, or for free as a loss leader for their other services.

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