CSS Tricks – I don’t blame you, Chris

March 5, 2024

CSS Tricks from 2009, the year I started regularly following the site. I first heard about Chris and the site from a Boagworld podcast on my commute to work.

Last week, Chris Coyier shared a post about his March 2022 sale of CSS Tricks to DigitalOcean and where things are at today. Since the time of sale, DigitalOcean has abandoned CSS Tricks with the last post being on April 12, 2023. Chris shares a bit of the story of the sale and demise of CSS Tricks but also reveals a part of the story that we didn’t know.

Chris shared that he tried to get CSS Tricks back. He had an email conversation with one of DigitalOcean’s VPs where he swung for the fences. He made a case for them to give the site back to Chris and have him run it.

It was a pretty big swing because as far as I can tell, Chris was not suggesting that he would buy it back. But DigitalOcean was not doing anything with the site and there has been a lot of negative sentiment toward DigitalOcean because they took such a valuable asset to the Web community and did nothing with it.

I had my reservations when I first heard about the sale. I have seen things like this happen in the past where something is sold and then it just goes downhill or silently retired. My post was in response to a tweet by Trav Stone on Twitter.

A week later, I listened to Chris talk about the sale of CSS Tricks on the Shop Talk Show. I felt a bit better about the sale after hearing Chris talk about it. Chris truly believed that DigitalOcean would be a good steward of the CSS Tricks moving forward.

It was evident that Chris no longer felt like he could carry the site. His life was very different from when he first launched CSS Tricks in 2007. He was a co-founder of Codepen, which is his full-time job these days. He got married and became a father. He and Dave Rupert continue to release Shop Talk Show each week. All this is to say that Chris is a pretty busy guy.

And CSS Tricks had grown a lot since the time that Chris first started it. At the time of the sale, the team running CSS Tricks was three people.

Chris truly believed that DigitalOcean was in a better position to move CSS Tricks forward into the future. At the time of the sale, DigitalOcean was keeping Geoff Graham, the lead editor for the site. Chris was also going to stay involved for the first three months as a consultant. I think Chris had every reason to believe that CSS Tricks was in good hands with DigitalOcean. It would allow Chris to step away from the site and focus his attention on other things in his life, like his family–which I think is a very important choice that I applaud.

It is really sad to see what happened to CSS Tricks after the sale. They continued to write new content. But I didn’t always feel like the content was up to the caliber that it had been under Chris. In just over a year, it was completely dead as they published the last article on April 12, 2023. I am glad that the site is still up and operational. There are several articles or guides that I still consult regularly. Or articles that I read after searching for a topic on Google. I have saved some of my go-to resources (like the CSS Grid Guide) and articles so that if the site were to go away tomorrow, I would have a copy of those valuable assets to refer to.

I had reservations about the future success of the site just after Chris sold it. CSS Tricks was Chris’ baby and was the vehicle that helped further his career in the industry. It was great to see the site evolve from just being Chris to having a whole team of top contributors. I feared that without the same passion as its founder (I don’t know of many people who have the same amount of passion and drive as Chris), CSS Tricks would slowly fade away and lose what has made it so special and such a valuable resource for designers and developers over 15 years. I hoped that I was wrong but I didn’t have a good feeling about the sale.

I appreciated Chris’ honesty and candor in his post last week. He expressed his disappointment with how things have gone. Although he did not say it in his post, I believe he was apologizing to the Web community because, on his social media card, it says, “Anyway, sorry about all that.” He also admits that he owns the fact that there were risks and that DigitalOcean was free to do whatever it wanted with the site once he let go of control. Like most of us, Chris is upset with what became of such a valuable resource.

I don’t blame Chris for the demise of CSS Tricks. I don’t blame him for making the decision he made. I understand why Chris decided to sell it and his logic seemed very sound. He seemed to have the assurance from DigitalOcean that they were committed to continuing to evolve the site and not just run it into the ground the way that they have. That is not his fault. I think a lot of us in the same position would have done the same thing and felt the same way about the outcome that Chris had.

I miss CSS Tricks. I hope that someone else can acquire it or that it will be given back to Chris. I would love to see it make a return and continue to be a valuable resource to the Web community. Geoff Graham shared his hopes for the future of CSS Tricks as a possible convergence that could solve three different problems that have been recently discussed in the Web community. It sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I would love to see it happen. Here is to hoping.

Update (3/11/24)

I read over the weekend (in Kevin Powell’s newsletter) that DigitalOcean’s CEO has reached out to Chris Coyier and would like to find a path forward. He admits that DigitalOcean has not lived up to its responsibility to steward the site.

1 Comment

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