My Web: Yesterday and Today

This “Web 2.0” that we’re all so accustomed to lately is great. Semantic, accessible, open, and dripping with fantastic design. However, there are times I reminisce about the days of old, the days of well – Web 1.0.

There are several sites, some still in existence that I really do miss. I remember spending hours on the old Deviant Art just trying to find minimalist desktops and indy art. I also remember digging, refreshing (what is that anymore?) and bookmarking countless pages on The to find the latest and greatest information on release of the Star Wars Special Editions. I remember pulling my damned hair out trying to get ASP to do what I wanted by using Microsoft’s documentation.

It goes beyond sites though, since back then the web wasn’t about usage but rather building the foundation for what we have today. Using the Web in the 90s wasn’t, for me, about sharing photos and bookmarks, or creating and distributing content quickly and easily, it was about communication and expression of thoughts via hypertext. The more I think about Web 2.0, the clearer the picture becomes about the Web as a whole. We have an insanely far distance to travel before the Web becomes what it has the potential to be. Obviously services like Flickr,, and Newsvine are getting closer to what we’d all love to see replacing Deviant Art, e-mailing bookmarks, and CNN, but they are still only very simple concepts done in fairly complex ways.

I listened to a few of the Carson Workshop podcasts and, I must say, I realized how complex our jobs sound to the “average uninformed developer”. Combine the complexity of learning the “best practices” in Web development with how many developers out there that are still using tables for layout, Microsoft Access databases, and reading Lockergnome for HTML tips, and you can see that we’re not even close to where we could/should be.

What makes it even worse is that the people that could be advocating these changes in the new and ignorant developers, are resting on their laurels or even bad-mouthing efforts to help out. Perhaps such efforts as Naked CSS Day won’t make a large impact on Web Standards Awareness, but who cares, at least Dunstan Diaz is trying to do something about it!

“Back in the day” (according to Dane Cook this was indeed a Wednesday) I was always amazed when new specs were released, new technologies developed, or different ways of accomplishing tasks were mastered. Nowadays, I see a lot of copying going on. Sure, we have our elite few that are definitely leading the innovation pack, but in the old days everyone was an innovator. If you couldn’t get something to work, you figured out a way to do it regardless. You busted down walls, you hacked like a mad-man, until finally the result you were looking for was accomplished. Nowadays, you run to Google and do about four searches and copy what someone else has done right from their site. Sometimes this is good, but if you find yourself doing this every time, it isn’t.

I suppose I miss the speed at which innovation seemed to be moving on the Web. Even at 56kbps and under, it surely seemed that the Web was changing faster in 1996-1999 than it is now. I think we’ve hit a Web 2.0 plateau where 10 major services were released and everyone else is trying to catch up with them instead of trying to do better than them.

Take microformats for example. A great effort. Standardize the way specific chunks of content are marked up, this way it will make it much easier to move, distribute, and work with going forward. However, some of these standards are just atrocious. I look forward to trying my hand at making some updates to some of those specs in the near future, but instead of trying to simply use microformats, we need more than just five people thinking about how to improve them.

Recently we’ve seen a gathering for an RSS Advisory Board. Thank heavens, the last guy that was running the show was not only an asshat, but he made Communism look like Kazaa (if you don’t get this joke you probably have a life, which is cool – can I borrow it?). I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with RSS in the near, and distant, future.

AJAX. Oh god, do not get me started. A superb effort has been put into improving not only awareness but accessibility, implementation, and documentation of the HTTPRequest Object. Sure, we’ve had these types of abilities for ages, but I still think all this “excitement” will lead to one good thing – improvements. Ajax, while not revolutionary at all, has caused many newbies to open their eyes to, not only standards (due to the use of XML, etc), but also to the thinking a little bit beyond the separation of presentation and content – but also of functionality. I’d like to put a name on this particular movement, but I doubt the World could hold such an acronym.

I said we’re on a plateau right now, but I think that might be incorrect. Rather, I believe we are on the escalator. The down escalator. And, instead of actually going down with it, we’re trudging onward and upward – each foot landing on the next step only to find another one approaching right after it. This battle to make the Web better may never really “end” but I definitely think we need to pick up the pace a little. Like back in the old days when we said “Screw you” to tables for layout, WYSIWYG editors that wrote horrible HTML, and oh yeah – Windows servers.

[tags]internet, web 2.0, ajax, web development, programming, microformats[/tags]

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