The first time I made a website was in early 2000, I wanted to publish the works I was making. After experimenting with a number of templates I rejected them in favor of a list of links. This format did not seam like an ‘idea’ or ‘concept’, I had not invented it or copied it, I had made it with the same pragmatic and functional necessity as my shopping list, and my weekly to-do list. Unlike my other lists, my website list was interactive, each link opened a work in the area immediately to its right.
At this same time many other websites I visited seemed to indulge in creating elaborate interfaces, often embellishing content with complex time consuming gimmicks. I became increasingly frustrated by having to learn and adapt to each unique display. Occasionally I would find another website that used the same ‘list’ structure as my own. I would enjoy the familiarity and ease at which I could immediately start exploring the sites content. In response I posted an invitation for others to replicate and copy this format, I stated ‘the more who use the list format, the more ubiquitous and archetypal the format becomes and the easier it is to navigate’.
My invitation was to establish a display format for the web, akin to other archetypal formats from other mediums, such as the ‘codex’ form of the book.
In a relatively young medium where innovation, constant development and technological progress, the invitation was meet with some skepticism and opposition. I did not want to slow innovation for the web, I wanted to make things simpler for myself and others whose primary concern was accessing its content. It was a reaction against websites that did not function unless you had installed the latest bit of software that was always too advanced for my aging laptop.
Like minded people took up the invitation, ‘grassroots’ style. For each site that replicated the format I created a link from the invitation page to their website and asked them to do the same, each making the format more visible. After two years 200 websites all built to the same specifications, each with different content, where all linked to each other starting a mini social network.
In January 2006 I received an email from Jeffery Vaska introducing himself as a designer and programmer with an interest in collaborating to creating a user friendly web application based on the list format. We started talking and a natural collaboration began from a strong commitment to the same idea. Shaped by conversation and shared enthusiasms, ‘Indexhibit’ was born, and publicly released in January 07, one year after first meeting in Brussels.
The web application was built and designed by Vaska. Sites made using it were technically superior to the majority of the ‘early’ adopters of the format. They were ‘internet friendly’, easier for search engines to find their content, they could be updated with greater ease, and they had a number of customization options. Each site displayed the credit, ‘Built with Indexhibit’ as a link back to the community, enabling others to find it, and connecting each user to all other users.
Since its release it has been embraced by a diverse creative community helping establish the format as an archetypal display for the web. Indexhibit has evolved into a self sufficient community. Users receive technical support in the forum from existing users.
A large part of Indexhibit’s appeal and popularity has been that it is simple to use and free of charge. We are an independent entity which does not depend upon sponsors or any governmental organizations for financial help. For Indexhibit to survive and be sustainable for the future we want to cover the cost of development and pay for additional hardware. At this point, five years after Indexhibit was released, and as Indexhibit Two is launched, we have introduced a nominal pricing structure for the CMS application. This will enable Indexhibit to remain independent, allow it to grow and improve for all users.