The Beach Website as Genre

You didn’t know that websites had genres, did you? Well, they do, and I’ve discovered a new one. Blogs are a genre of website, ‘portal’ type sites are another, forums are also a genre, shops are a genre of website too… but until now no one had formally identified the Beach Website as a genre.

Check out Piha Beach, voted New Zealand’s best surf beach, located out on the far western coast of Auckland. It’s a great piece of work, even for a  website made in 2004.

This initial discover stirred my curiosity… what other famous beaches harboured a secret internet presence, and what did they demonstrate about this genre? What kind of person even looks for the website… for a beach? I have no answers, only more examples.

What kind of website would Sydney’s most famous beach have, I wondered? My answer: this kind. Is a pattern emerging?

One more, from Sydney’s Cronulla Beach. A functional, council run beach site. Very much a bureaucrat’s idea of a “good beach website”.

From the other side of the continent, Perth’s Cottesloe Beach (pretty similar to Cronulla).

And because we’re interested in an international genre, here’s Waikiki Beach, with live cams from the Hawaii Government’s website.

If I were a proper researcher I’m sure I’d go dig up some more examples, but I’m pleased with those. The Beach Website it seems comes in two forms – the remnant of the geocities-era, in which making websites for things like Beaches was still something that people did (“Hey, I wonder if Piha has a website… I wonder if I could make one?”). The other kind is just a boring slice of CMS-content with some local photos and probably a map or useless information to pad out the otherwise empty page (Cronulla: Opening Hours, 24 hours/day, 365 days/year).

It’s interesting to think about how Websites have ossified into just a few genres. It’s hard to find a site that doesn’t fit within one the few formats mentioned above (blog; forum; portal; CMS; store; I can’t really think of any others). Perhaps we’ve reached CSS saturation — and with good reason! CSS rocks, and the web is so much nicer for it… but I also wonder, no actually I’m reasonably sure, that standardisation has also curtailed a lot of the early weirdness and creativity of the internet. Who makes websites for beaches anymore? Bureaucrats and city council employees, only.

Standards and genres do things – to our expectations, and to our experiences. And in light of articles like this, I can’t help but think questioning these rapidly calcifying genres and standards is a probably a good thing. The author of that piece declines from manifesto, but I might write one. If I do, it’ll be about Doing Weird Shit with websites, like breaking them. “CSS SUX” isn’t just a song, it can also be an avant garde anti-web-standards critical stance.

“BLOGGERS, TWEETERS, PINTERESTERS, LEND ME YOUR EARS! CSS SUX! TURN OFF STYLE SHEETS AND VIEW THE INTERNET AS ITS CREATORS INTENDED! PURE AND UNADORNED WITH ‘STLYE’. THE INTERNET IS ANTI-STYLE”

This will be our rallying cry and the internet will be proper shitty.

I wonder what kind of trackback spam I’ll get now? All these beaches will probably skew and confuse my SEO spambots.