[thelist] what IS a webmaster??

M. Seyon evoltlist at delime.com
Wed Nov 23 00:59:14 CST 2005

Hi Bill,

It is an interesting question, and certainly one that is likely to generate 
a variety of responses.

I'll start by saying that, in an industry that is really much less than 20 
years old, it's expected that there not be a definitive job description for 
a "webmaster". I suspect, though, that originally the term referred more to 
the person responsible for maintaining the hardware/software of the web 
server itself.

Taken in the context of what web servers originally did - serve up 
webpages, that were really nothing more than very slightly marked up text, 
it is easy to see someone with the technical competence to manage the 
server being able to markup and publish html documents. Remember in those 
early days Javascript, Flash, ASP/PHP were very rarely used, if they even 

As the industry expanded so did the job description, so now you do have 
webmasters who are jacks of all trades.

In my personal experience, and opinion, you're more likely to find these 
do-it-all types in non-profit or small freelance markets where there may 
not necesarily be enough work to justify having more than one full-time 
staff member (or even regularly paid consultant) on the payroll.

Once you start dealing with larger, more complex projects though it makes 
sense to have multiple people doing the jobs that suit them best - 
technical individuals who can configure Apache, or write Java apps may not 
necessarily be the best copywriters or graphic artists. Not to mention the 
marketing and sales people. Or... or... you get the idea.

I think the main idea you should communicate to your board is that the 
"webmaster" should be a managerial level position with a budget and with 
the authority and ability to make decisions, and to liaise with other managers.

The position should be more of an analytical/planning role than a 
webmonkey/mouse jockey role. If your webmaster is too consumed with 
routine, trivial tasks like troubleshooting staff email problems, then then 
whose steering the website to make sure it's meeting company goals?

The webmaster should have at least a conceptual idea of all that goes on in 
his domain, and should even have some level of competence in the major 
areas. But in the same way that the Director of HR wouldn't roll up his 
sleeves and scrub the toilets if the janitor staff goes on strike, the 
webmaster should not be expected to personally handle every single task 
related to the company's website.

So I'd say that all those tasks you described here:

>In that capacity, I've designed the site, planned, wrote and managed most 
>of the copy,
>continue to expand the functionality, written the plan, goals and vision for
>the site, process and optimize images, in other words, the whole enchilada.

I'd write that the webmaster should be in charge of OVERSEEING these jobs, 
and developing standards and best practices. But not necessarily doing them 

Because even if you personally can do it all, what will happen to these 
people if in another three years you get some job offer you just can't 
refuse and you part ways? Will they be able to find some other individual 
who can fill your shoes? Or will they be left floundering around because 
they're not sure exactly what it was you spent the past six years doing?

And if none of that makes any sense, my excuse is that it's 3am and I've 
got the flu! ;-)

In which case, simply refer to 


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