Update September 13, 2009

The web is not evolving. We are.

A couple of years ago I visited Big Bear mountain in California. A behemoth of a molehill – didn’t see any big bears though (or small ones for that matter).

It took about an hour to drive up a very windy road to its remote town. I found a quaint little bookshop and in that bookshop I found a book called ‘The Way Things will Be‘. It was written in 1935 and it made some predictions about how life will be in the future. The beauty of it was, this was our present, and I was reading a book predicting what is happening now.

I felt like a time-traveler avoiding awkward questions from a Victorian mob wielding pitch forks and hurling anti-demonic remarks

The best book I’ve ever bought. Turning the pages, I felt like a time-traveler avoiding awkward questions from a Victorian mob wielding pitch forks and hurling anti-demonic remarks. I knew the answer to their questions as my metallic time machine shimmering in the background under a flume of smoke.A couple of pages in and it spoke of how machines will become commonplace in every day life. It spoke of how it will create many jobs and how we will depend on them. Lets bear in mind that this was a book before the home personal computer, before computers were even invented (apart from Charles Babbage’s mechanical monstrosity).

Roll on three quarters of a century later and millions of people around the world are using computers to help their everyday life, however just as the Book predicted we will make use of the Machines to help us, millions of us are employed to help run the Machines. In addition to that, we are inventing new ways to improve their use. But is it the technology that is evolving or our attitude towards it?

An example of how we can continue to progress the Web
An example of how we can continue to progress the Web

Technology advancements can be measured at a very large rate, sometimes quite alarmingly, but its essentially  improvements on the old. There is a theory that, as a human race we aren’t actually very clever at all and most of the time we do not ‘invent’. We merely trial and error until something actually works. A bit like monkeys on typewriters writing the complete works of Shakespeare. One of the major catalysts for notable technological achievements is war. And yes, that’s right – the Internet originally was a piece of military technology. (My blog uses technology originally designed to help kill people!)

Lets define what the Internet is …

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standardized Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP), serving billions of users worldwide. – Wikipedia

So basically – I have a device that can send a beep. I send that beep down a channel and another device receives it. Not much of a message really. So lets send some beeps in a certain order so I can send across a clearer message. Is this not just fancy Morse Code? OK, maybe its not that simple – you replace the beeps with something called Packets, that follows the Internet Protocol etc etc. However the principle of of online communication is based on just that and perhaps our advancements on this medium have already been available to us and its our attitude that is changing only.

A noted event in the progression of the World Wide Web in recent years was the advent of Web 2.0. A ‘buzzword’ that marked the creation of new user friendly websites with a stronger emphasis on social networking. This was coupled with some ‘new’ technologies. Lumped in with this were design trends that we see regurgitated everywhere. Tim Berners-Lee who instigated the development of the Web (in terms of linking HTML with hyperlinks, but I digress) debunked this as nothing but a “piece of jargon”.

Web 2.0 is, of course, a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means.

“Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is, of course, a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along. And in fact, you know, this Web 2.0, quote, it means using the standards which have been produced by all these people working on Web 1.0. It means using the document object model, it means for HTML and SVG, and so on. It’s using HTTP, so it’s building stuff using the Web standards, plus JavaScript, of course. So Web 2.0, for some people, it means moving some of the thinking client side so making it more immediate, but the idea of the Web as interaction between people is really what the Web is. That was what it was designed to be as a collaborative space where people can interact.” – Tim Berners-Lee

This is very interesting. Berners-Lee explains that the technology for web 2.0 has always been here for a long time. For example, Ajax (the way to load content from the server without refreshing the page) has been around since the early 90’s but it has only been adopted with its coin-word recently. This is especially so since Google popularized it with their suggested searches pop-up. It has now grown to become a programming and even a design philosophy, encompassing a broad range of technologies. Is it the technology that is evolving or us?

I think we will see an increase in technology that separates us from the computational aspects of our lifestyle as much as possible. Gesture based interfaces will be on the rise, as well as social networking, UI’s that are less complicated, and an increase in visual communication. Eventually motion capture will take its place and we are already seeing the seeds grow in the Games Console market, with the Wii and the new XBox 360 motion capture (update: now called Kinect). Imagine when this is used for communication and interactive experiences. Standards compliance is becoming increasingly more common and web code and its applications are becoming cleaner and more effective. As a result, developers will continue to create improved web applications. Browsers will continue to become standardized to promote engaging experiences for the web’s audience. The Internet will continue to be spread beyond our computers and not just gimmicks like the side of your fridge but rather progressing the mobile Internet.  All of this based upon beeps.