Joel Dueck ·

Static vs. dynamic

Publishing Nerds (like me) often talk about “dynamic” (database-driven) websites and “static” (file-driven) sites. But this is not a coherent or useful distinction.

When I was using Textpattern, a database-driven CMS, I made use of a plugin that cached every request as a static file. Every single page request was served from that cache. Was it still a dynamic site because the posts and templates were saved in a database? Or was it a static site with frequent, automatic builds?

In the past, this site existed as a Fossil repository, which is really a single SQLite file. Is a Fossil repository a “dynamic” site because it happens to be served from a relational database? Or is it static because the content resides in a normal, portable file?

You might say every static site is just a dynamic site that uses the filesystem and build tooling as its database. You might say every dynamic site is just a static site with a really complicated file format (the database at-rest).

Hypothesis: Although the terms “static” or “dynamic” purport to be saying something deep about where the content is “living” or how it is served, people are usually using them as shorthand for toolchains with different friction profiles.