Friday, April 16, 2010

website, not Web site -- rare revision from AP

It finally happened. Earth has fallen out of orbit. The blue moon, once a rarity, has now become every night’s moon.

The AP -- which hardly ever changes its stylebook at all, other than to add or rearrange – has changed its style on Web site, which is now website.


This is the day we’ve been waiting for. I didn’t think it would come so soon, though by some people’s estimates, it’s 10 years late.

So it’s website, not Web site – got it? As of today.

From Twitter, about an hour ago: @APStylebook "Responding to reader input, we are changing Web site to website. This appears on Stylebook Online today and in the 2010 book next month."

Thanks, Michelle Cwirko-Godycki, for alerting me.

OK, I'll ask: When can we change e-mail to email? I'm begging. Pleading, really. Let that be next.


People have been asking me, "Why was it like that before?" Well, in 1995, it made more sense to say Web site than website. Back then, the Internet was called the World Wide Web and people actually used the term.

Most of the time, we called it the World Wide Wait.

It took many minutes for a page to load and when it finally got there, the info wasn't worth the time. The only browser was Netscape. The notion of an effective search engine was still just a gleam in a visionary's eye.

World Wide Web is a proper noun, like Spain. So the exact term back then was World Wide Web site, and only the most devoted geeks had the patience to visit one. And this was back in the day when "geek" wasn't a compliment.

In the AP's San Francisco bureau, I remember a summer evening in 1995 when a coworker showed me the World Wide Web. We had to turn on the lights ahead of us as we walked to a darkened section of the office where no one was sitting.

She flipped some switches and did a little typing. Then we waited and waited, chatting and killing time but mostly waiting. Recognizable images eventually took shape on the screen. I can't remember what they were because they were about as useful to me as a speck of dust.

Now, a website is a fully formed concept in everyone's mind. Not only do the vast majority of us have personal experiences with websites, we feel crippled without them. The Internet is omniscient, omnipresent, interactive, social and highly personal.

It would have been nice if The AP had made this change in 2000, the dot-com bubble's peak. By then, Nasdaq had become an important stock index and Internet companies were making headlines every day. Surely, by then, anyone who didn't live in a cave knew about websites.

But -- I hate to say it (sorry, New Yorkers) -- The AP's headquarters is in New York City, which (fabulous though it is) is conservative -- in thinking, writing, editing, business attire and definitely enthusiasm about new technology. So California may have been ready in 2000, but NYC wasn't.

You'd think The AP could have done it in 2005. But then again, The AP aims to be as inclusive as possible. News should be easy to digest on a fast first read, by anyone. The AP errs on the side of immediate clarity. And maybe in 2005 there were still a few elderly people in small towns in Idaho who didn't know about websites.

In The AP's defense, one of the reasons AP style is an industry standard is because it doesn't flip-flop with the times.

Also in The AP's defense, it was way ahead of the rest of the world in technology innovation of its own and always has been. Six competing newspapers (in NYC) founded The Associated Press in 1848 so they could share the costs of a crazy new technology called the telegraph.