The Websiteless NGO

I’m managing a rebrand and website redesign for English PEN. Part of the project is the integration of third party services like Twitter and YouTube that host some of our output.

This has prompted me to wonder whether it would be feasible to run an organisation without a website. One could interact and share on Twitter; upload any AV content to sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube; editorialise on Storify and Facebook; publish all flyers and other documents to Scribd; use MailChimp as a mailing list and CRM solution; take money (donations, fees) via PayPal, and organise events on EventBrite. An online shop could be run through Amazon or eBay. Each of these services offers at least some space for a logo and summarised raison d’etre on a profile page, and many allow you to fully brand the pages you create.

What does this model lack? Well, it reduces websites to the sum of their parts. Each service does something very specific, and hones the functionality of that one feature or function. However, I think sometimes generic webspace is a virtue. It allows unexpected and complicated piece of content to be created. Also, I suppose the ‘bundling’ of several different types of content under the same top-level URL is a courtesy to the user.

Dissidents and anti-capitalists, and those concerned about online rights (which should be all of us, but in reality is very few of us) will have another criticism: this approach surrenders your content to third parties. Should you do something horrendous – like call for an end to theocracy in Iran, or remix some of Disney’s content, or be Julian Assange – then those who wish to censor you, be they government agents or corporate lawyers, can do so easily by petitioning these third party sites. In a crisis, you have a lot more control over our content if it’s all archived on your own web space.

Are there companies or NGOs that already use the websiteless approach?

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