Does a website need a TLS (SSL) certificate?

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No, but we strongly urge everyone to use them. TLS certificates (previously SSL) give far more confidentiality and security, by encrypting data passing between the user and the site, including crucial things like passwords, etc. The site is accessed using HTTPS, i.e. the URL is https://www.website.whatever, rather than http://...

See: https://webarch.net/certs.