How visual tools can power a revolution in publishing
Google, Facebook, and Amazon provide platforms for both content creators and content consumers. They’ve managed to attain this role because, let’s face it, publishing content to the web without the aid of these platforms is difficult.
This is something that often gets left out of the discussion about decentralizing the web. It’s not just about democratizing access to the information published on the web. It’s about democratizing access to the tools of publication themselves.
Funding developers directly to create a diverse ecosystem of publishing platforms and curation websites is another place to make a difference.
–from the decentralized web, a report by the MIT Digital Currency Initiative and the Center for Civic Media
And that’s where Webflow comes in. Because to democratize access to web publishing, you need to lower the barrier to entry.
Granted, there are numerous ways of publishing content to the web without having to code. But the vast majority enable publishing in order to monetize said publishing. And that just gets us back to the same issues with the big platforms.
To democratize web publishing, you need a way to produce code without needing to know every detail of coding — much the same way tools like Word democratized desktop publishing. Because web content consists of HTML and is styled with CSS, you need to give people the power to work with HTML and CSS — without having to overcome the rather formidable barrier to entry these unfamiliar languages represent.
These aren’t particularly difficult languages to learn — but that doesn’t make people want to learn them. And even people who do know them inside and out often complain about the difficulty of using them! If CSS is so “easy,” why are there so many 3,000+ word articles — followed by another 3,000 words of debate — about topics so fundamental and ostensibly “basic,” as the units of measurement the web uses.
Besides: don’t technological platforms exist to remove barriers to entry? Has anyone ever yelled at Lyft: why don’t you just teach people to drive?!
Popular publishing platforms like WordPress (the .com version), Medium, and Blogger democratize the publishing of HTML, but they do so within fairly constrained presentations — i.e., CSS templates.
These all represent a great step. But we don’t think that takes publishing far enough.
Because publishing isn’t just about combining words and images and unleashing them on the world. Publishing is the art of presenting the right content in the right way. While separating design and content make sense for the design process and the maintenance of sites, the reality is that design and content, when done right, are inseparable.
So the next step toward decentralization the web is to give people a way to control the presentation of that HTML. Because content (HTML) works best when presented effectively (via CSS). The latter has always been the big stumbling block, for CSS is notoriously finicky, and even more difficult to translate into a visual interface.
This is exactly how the GUI computer — you know, the one you’re reading this on right now — democratized non-HTML publishing: by taking a code-heavy format and making it visual, and thereby, usable for (pretty much) anyone. And then it added presentational controls sufficient to allow people to not only publish what they had to say, but to publish it beautifully.
But we’re not stopping there.
We’re also building tools that enable you to model and structure your content in future-friendly ways, without learning a new coding language. And enabling you to serve responsive images without writing line upon line of code. And giving you hosting that doesn’t require endless battles with cPanel, FTP, and other painful acronyms. And giving you free access to HTTPS, so you can run your sites with a sense of security for yourselves and your visitors, without having to manage security for yourself.
All because we believe not just in the power of the web, but in the power of the web + you. And that the barriers between you and that power should be as low and easy to scale as possible.
We haven’t solved all the problems, obviously. But with your help, we’re getting there.
We believe the web should be yours
That’s what we’re building here at Webflow: a platform to help you overcome the barriers to publishing on the web that a whole slew of technologies represent.
Because we believe the web should be yours — a platform for the people. Not a walled garden presided over by the unassailable, titanically wealthy technocrats that be. Not a method of controlling information and how it’s disseminated. Or of selling your attention to the highest bidder.
Yours. To do with as you will.