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Are Webmasters An Endangered Species? (Part 1 of 2)

'Webmaster' doesn't mean what it used to mean.Web 2.0 also introduced a more collaborative internet experience for users. Instead of just clicking on links and passively consuming content, web surfers would discover new interactive experiences like social networking sites, weblogs (blogs), and massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs).


Most significantly, however, it was the growth of e-commerce that created and defined the role of the professional webmaster as we think of it today.


Even after the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, businesses were still eager to embrace the potential marketing and sales power of the internet. Marketing departments, largely made up of copywriters and designers, didn't have the people with the technical know-how to create and manage e-commerce sites. To "get on the web", these businesses needed webmasters.


The power of web technologies continued to increase over time, enabling a new wave of online products and services. To this end, modern webmasters were required to expand their knowledge and skills into new areas of website creation and management. Scripting languages, relational databases, SQL queries, security and encryption, server hardware and software, and other disciplines were added to the professional webmaster role.


Webmasters in 2018


Today, the job role of webmaster is more diversified than ever before. Webmasters are now typically called upon to work on front-end web development (the presentation side of a website) as well as back-end web development (the plumbing behind the scenes that makes everything work).


Webmasters are also responsible for site maintenance and security, which often involves collaborating with in-house IT security employees and off-site datacenter staff. A webmaster must be familiar with a company's business continuity and disaster recovery plans in order to get one or more sites back on their feet in the case of a catastrophic event.


One new responsibility that has become the top priority for many webmasters is optimizing websites to place them at the top of the relevant search engine results. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the internet's new religion, and its practitioners are constantly looking for new technical nuts and bolts that webmasters can employ to make a website more attractive to the almighty algorithms of Google's search engine.


SEO site content is also very important, and webmasters are being called upon to create and/or manage content management systems for marketing writers and designers.


And, of course, today's webmasters have had to become skilled at creating sites optimized for browsing on a mobile phone. Over the last few years, the total amount of global web browsing has become dominated by mobile devices over desktop and laptop computers. Webmasters are using new technologies like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to give mobile sites faster loading times while maintaining an expected level of rich functionality.


Today's larger businesses are more likely to divvy up the webmaster's responsibilities to a team of people, rather than heaping the load onto one employee's back — although the latter option is still often the case in small business environments. Alternatively, some companies choose to outsource their web properties to specialized firms or contractors rather than hiring their own in-house webmasters.


In Part Two of this look at the webmaster job role, we'll dig into what skills and training you should look at if you want to pursue a career as a webmaster.



Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer and knowledge management specialist based in Edmonton, Canada. His work has appeared in titles from Que Publishing, and on many tech blogs and websites. His professional writing site is