Posted elsewhere, long enough to reference here.
I wish I had more time to articulate this, but I don’t. So, I am gonna put this out there and not gripe about tangents.
There is a spectrum of technology users. Any piece of tech is likely created by someone more advanced on the spectrum that the target demographic of users. That demographic can be really wide, and may encompass a higher level than the creator, but for web software, due to its ubiquitous nature and the huge usage rate, most of the demographic is less advanced.
That means that for any web software, the developers are among the most privileged users. While it certainly doesn’t feel like it, they have the most time and effort to dedicate to the project, given their circumstances. It is important that tools be created in their toolbox to help them, but those tools will likely also be part of their privilege.
The folks that can go from server provision to a document served in a web browser is relatively few. And the way we talk about our tools, it leaves the people I care about out, because they can’t manage anymore effort, time or money than what is offered in one-click installs and proprietary web panels. But if as a society we have chosen to move our information online (and I think that is a good idea), then everyone also deserves to have an equal voice.
I was homeless. When I was homeless, I learned how to make websites, because I had a public library with computers in the first years web mail became available; I am perhaps part of the first generation that was allowed that luxury, the decoupling of wealth and expression. We all (in this forum) agree that we don’t want corporations to own our digital culture. But I think we really need to aim lower in the spectrum if we want to build the tools of expression for the web today. If the so-called “hacker ethic” says we build software in a way that leaves people behind, it is useless and should be abandoned.
I would love for every person to have their own secure, decentralized and portable server, but I build websites for people who need to find food, housing and work, and I obviously think those are more important than personal servers. PHP powers the web that I know helps people. It doesn’t exclude other languages, but to disparage it because it doesn’t fit the tool set shows a bias of privilege that ignores the vast, ongoing, happening-right-now benefits of the web we have. Python, Ruby and Node can overtake it, and it appears like great strides are being made to overcome the weak tools of the past. But until a tired parent can come home from less than living wage job and share their pictures with their extended family with the same or less amount of effort it takes to sign up for Facebook, those languages and their projects don’t hold a flame to insecure, buggy, one-click installed, outdated, shared-hosting blogs.
Aim lower. We need all the help we can get down here.