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Debian: An Examination of its Web Presence 1997 – 2012

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Assignment: Entitled ‘Way Back Time Machine‘ (ds106), it tasks students with looking up their favorite websites and seeing how they’ve changed from the earlier years of the internet using the tool of the same name, Way Back Time Machine (tool).

Initially I didn’t know what website I would choose. Some of the websites I wanted to do, such as Firefox’s, were too new and some, such as Google, would be too generic.  Instead I chose to look at the website for Debian Linux.  This Linux distribution began in 1993 which meant their web presence would have a much longer history than other popular websites today. Above is the gallery of images I took which all represent major changes to the website. Here are some comments:

1997: Debian’s first website is very simple and simply composed of a graphic logo and text.  The design is not at all focused on looking good, it’s only meant to show information.

1999: This new look was a marked improvement over its predecessor and brought in a lot of new design elements. It doesn’t simply show information anymore, but actively tries to present it in a more aesthetically pleasing way.

2001: A very subtle change, but you can observe rounded corners on the top and side navigation bars.  The logo for the project has also changed and is now centered.

2009: Eight years later the layout remains much the same, but does have wider spacing between navigation areas and content.  Looks rather outdated for a site in 2009, although the graphic prominently displayed looks modern and nice.

2011: Finally, in 2011, the website layout was changed.  Perhaps as a 10th anniversary gift to the old layout they finally put it out of its misery. This new layout is still minimalistic and very white, but they’ve finally ditched the ugly ‘serif’ font that had remained with the site for 14 years! Even though the design is simple, I feel this website is serviceable and fairly modern looking, something that couldn’t be said about it previously.

As of today, the layout is the same as 2011. Although I’ve never used Debian*, I still enjoyed taking a look back at its web presence history and seeing how the project represented itself. Very glad that I chose a website that wasn’t mainstream and that I wasn’t familiar with, it made for a much more interesting “Way Back Time Machine” adventure :D

– Paul

*Linux Distros I’ve used: Mandriva, SUSE, Fedora, and Ubuntu. Go Linux!


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