Services & Software

Guardian brings a broadsheet to your browser

To celebrate its 190th anniversary, the U.K.'s Guardian creates a Georgian/Victorian era version of its front--er, home--page, complete with serifs, swashes, and other such stylings.

The Guardian

Who says the old broadsheet newspaper is dead?

To celebrate its 190th anniversary, the U.K.'s Guardian (known at its 1821 founding as The Manchester Guardian) has concocted a very-old-school version of the front--er, home--page of today's edition.

The page uses serifed and black-letter Web fonts; copious vertical and horizontal rules; vintage engravings; and a background image of a pulpy, papery texture to re-create the thrill that awaited one who clapped a copper into a newsboy's palm and flapped open a newly purchased copy of the Latest Edition.

A vintage take on the "tweet this" button. The Guardian

In explaining the project, the page's developers also have some fun with Georgian/Victorian-era prose stylings:

"This new edition is available in the following establishments: the Flaming Fox public house; the Verdi & Traviatta at the Royal Opera House; the African Expedition outfitters and the recently-constructed Silver V8 engine foundry," they write in a blog post. When readers click the included links, the rather exotic appellations become clear:

  • "the Flaming Fox public house" = the Firefox browser,
  • "the Verdi & Traviatta at the Royal Opera House" = the Opera browser,
  • "the African Expedition outfitters" = Safari,
  • and "the recently-constructed Silver V8 engine foundry" = Chrome.

The rascally developers couldn't help but take what appears to be a swipe at Microsoft's notoriously standards-unfriendly Internet Explorer:

"Some copies will also be found at the Internal Voyager private society," they write, "but print may be slightly spoilt due to ill-applied waterproofing."

And there's more horseplay:

"Some clever use of mechanical legerdemain allowed the staff to reroute requests by readers to publicise the daily news through the means of Twitter, a new Tachygraphe that conveys 140 character messages which are then deliver'd via Carrier-Pigeon."

All this adds up to a cracking good job of capturing the authentic feel of a traditional newspaper of nearly two centuries ago. And the attention to the slightest detail is impressive: With my monitor-browser combination anyway, it's impossible to see all the stories without scrolling hither and thither, horizontally and vertically. At first, impatient 21st-century data consumer that I've become, I found this annoying. But then I decided it was actually the designer's brilliant way of replicating the experience of trying to read a traditional broadsheet while jiggling along in a hackney carriage or omnibus--folding the gigantic mess of newsprint this way and that, shaking out creases, trying not to elbow the gentlefolk beside you.

Now if they could just develop a way to leave e-ink all over your fingers...