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The Web and Flow of Things35:42 with John Allsopp
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a paper describing his recently launched Hypertext system, the World Wide Web, to the peak international conference on HyperText, HyperText ‘91. It was rejected. Throughout the 1990s, (and beyond), the print publishing world could see little but shortcomings in the same system. Few fonts, a canvas that designers had no control over, a ludicrously limited colour palette. And now, with the Web over two decade sold, we hear that in an age of Apps, the Web is dead, or dying, or, in the words of John ‘daring fireball’ Gruber ‘a kludge, and native apps provide a superior experience.’ Ouch. And yet, the Web not only prevails, it continues to reach ever more people, continues to become increasingly capable. So what is its secret? How can this seemingly always anaemic, scrappy underdog, owned by no one (and so in a sense everyone) continue to defy its critics and naysayers? Continue to thrive?
[MUSIC] 0:00 I'd hope that just about everyone in this room would at least know that 0:08 the World Wide Web was largely emerged from the efforts of a single person, 0:13 Tim, now, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. 0:18 You don't have to win the Tour de France to get a knighthood apparently. 0:21 At Sun at the beginning of the 1990's, which for many of you in this room, 0:24 would seem like a lifetime ago, but for others, like me, far less so. 0:29 The blink of an eye. 0:35 But the web was by no means the first implementation of this 0:38 idea we now call hypertext. 0:41 Indeed, the idea of hypertext might be traced back as far as the Talmud, 0:43 a central text of Judaism, as long ago as 2000 years hence. 0:48 When a single page might incorporate centuries of accumulated exegesis. 0:54 And very unusually for the time, the text wasn't linear. 1:00 It didn't follow a single idea, but 1:04 rather, intertwingled ideas from different generations and different centuries. 1:05 If we move to the modern era, the Mundaneum is a building 1:12 originally created over a century ago, which we can still visit today. 1:16 And is perhaps the first significant example of the idea of hypertext, 1:21 though of course from before the time of electronics and 1:24 before even optical miniaturization. 1:27 So at the scale of everyday human objects. 1:30 Half a century after the Mundaneum, as the terrible second World War drew to a close, 1:34 Vannevar Bush imagined how we may think. 1:39 And the Memex, a pre-electronic knowledge management desk that used optical 1:43 miniaturization and mechanical automation to advance ideas that 20 years later, 1:49 almost exactly 50 years ago today, were finally given the name hypertext 1:53 by the legendary Ted Nelson of Xanadu fame though not, 1:59 sadly, the movie with Olivia Newton-John. 2:04 Xanadu was perhaps the first and certainly the longest running and 2:07 most audacious vaporware project in history. 2:10 So when in 1991 Tim Berners-Lee announced the World Wide Web project that he'd 2:15 been working on for many years, the idea of hypertext was well established, and 2:20 indeed, commercial systems like HyperCard, many others had been available for 2:25 some cases for years. 2:29 In fact, so established was the field that the association for 2:32 computer machinery had a large scale conference focused specifically on 2:36 Hypertext called in that year, very imaginatively, HyperText'91. 2:40 In 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee submitted a paper on his WWW project 2:48 to this very conference, how was it received? 2:52 You'd imagine it was considered the answer all researchers and 2:56 hypertext developers and experts had been looking for. 3:00 Surely it was recognized as the system to make hypertext mainstream and global. 3:02 As it turns out, Tim Berners Lee's paper on the World Wide Web project was rejected 3:09 from that conference. 3:14 He was however given the more lolly place and allowed to demonstrate 3:16 his system at the conference, and here in fact, is a photo of that occurring. 3:20 But all was not lost. 3:24 The conference, Hypertext 91, 3:25 did feature such important contributions to the field of hypertext as, 3:26 Screen Management in Hypertext Systems with Rubber Sheet Layouts. 3:32 I'm not sure I wanna think too much more about what a rubber sheet might be, 3:37 but cascading style sheets sound much nicer. 3:40 And SAL: A Hypermedia System. 3:43 But in all seriousness, how could this possibly be? 3:48 How could experts in this field not have recognized the important 3:51 breakthrough that was the World Wide Web? 3:54 Well, let's try and get a sense of what was going wrong. 3:59 Here's the enormous thoughts of an Hypertext expert 4:01 critical of the WWW from this time, and here's what he had to say. 4:05 Well, I'm assuming it's a he. 4:10 I don't know that for certain, 4:11 because his name has been, or her name has been withheld from history. 4:12 Links in hypertext must be bidirectional. 4:16 The World Wide Web's are only one way. 4:19 Servers aren't aware of each other and there is no inter-server communication. 4:22 All WWW servers are equal. 4:27 There should be a concept of hubs. 4:30 WWW servers don't keep state. 4:34 They are completely unaware of their previous interactions. 4:36 This is one of my favorites. 4:39 It is obvious that whoever wrote the hypertext engine doesn't understand HTML. 4:41 This HTML is done all wrong. 4:46 This is the kicker. 4:51 Finally, he's giving this away for free. 4:52 That means it has no value at all. 4:55 Right, this goes down with some of the very famous apocryphal or 4:57 otherwise observations that the world will only need six computers and so forth. 5:02 This is how the World Wide Web project was received by experts in the field 5:07 when it was announced, a bit over 20, nearly 25 years ago now. 5:12 So the specifics themselves don't matter all that much, well over, 5:18 we will return to a couple of them, because there is some interest there. 5:21 But what does matter to me is that the Web didn't conform to the well-established 5:25 hierarchies and closely held beliefs of hypertext experts at the time. 5:30 And I'm gonna make a confession. 5:35 Experts like me, because yes, in the early 1990s, 5:37 I was rather obsessed with hypertext. 5:41 Around the time, I was building what would become a commercial system for 5:44 the Macintosh. 5:48 A hypertext system that embodied many of those closely held beliefs 5:49 about hypertext. 5:53 For example, the links were bidirectional in my system. 5:54 Now as it turns out Tim Berners-Lee actually developed 5:57 a hypertext system before the World Wide Web. 6:00 It was called Enquire. 6:02 And interestingly enough, in Enquire links were bidirectional. 6:04 So it wasn't just ignorance and 6:09 naivety that led to the design decisions that Tim Berners-Lee made about the web. 6:12 They came informed by his own many year experience. 6:17 But I must admit, like probably most hypertext experts at a time, 6:21 I definitely felt the web was underpowered. 6:25 It was anemic and couldn't possibly survive in the long term. 6:29 It would be replaced by something that more closely adhered to this well 6:33 established hierarchies that we all knew that what hypertext was really about. 6:37 But curiously it turns out that being worse isn't always the impediment for 6:44 a new technology we might intuitively think it is. 6:49 Clayton Christensen's, The Innovator's Dilemma, 6:53 makes the case that disruptive technologies don't start out better than 6:55 established technologies as we've seen intuitive, they start out worse. 6:59 But for all their faults and 7:04 comparisons with their entrenched established competitors, there's something 7:05 radically different about them that opens whole new opportunities. 7:08 And makes them, in that now chronically over and misused term, disruptive. 7:12 If you're gonna blame someone for the term by the way, 7:17 it's Christensen who coined it in this sentence. 7:19 So what was this difference upon which the web and the success of the web rested? 7:22 What radically different thing did the web enable? 7:26 For one, to me, and crucially it was the web's simplicity. 7:31 Bidirectional links. 7:36 Bidirectional links, hub servers, stateful servers. 7:42 All these would've added huge complexity to the web. 7:45 That would have required, closely coupled systems and 7:48 coordination of resources across teams and entities to get anything up and running. 7:50 In an era when computing was essentially hugely expensive and 7:55 massively centralized in governments and universities and enterprises, 7:59 this closely held belief about what computing was, made perfect sense. 8:02 But it severely limited what networking technologies could ultimately, 8:07 possibly do. 8:11 And more importantly who was able to build and participate in such systems. 8:13 On the contrary, the web simplicity made competent programmers 8:18 could build a basic HTTP server or a browser in a matter of days. 8:22 And doing so required no permission or licensing or 8:26 complex integration with other systems. 8:29 For authors, rather than complex and unforgiving SGML, 8:32 the done all wrong version, HTML, could be picked up in a matter of an hour or two. 8:36 I'm sure some of us in this room actually did build their first webpages 8:41 in that time frame. 8:46 It's simplicity, it's lack of any of styling it's lack on inline images, 8:48 let alone any interactivity or scripting while weaknesses also made 8:52 developing browsers really straight-forward. 8:56 And very much not least, Tim Berners-Lee was, as we saw, giving it away. 9:02 As he himself observed, had the technology been propriety and 9:08 in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. 9:12 You can't propose that something be universal space and 9:16 at the same time keep control of it. 9:19 Which more than a little reminds me again of Tao Te Ching which 9:21 we're gonna return to a few times, over the next half an hour or 9:24 so, because as Alba mentioned, probably the only reason 9:28 that I'm standing on your stage is I wrote an essay about 15 years ago that looked 9:33 at the principles of the Tao Te Ching gene and how they applied to the web. 9:36 And I kept coming back to that idea. 9:40 In Tao Te Ching in chapter two right at the beginning, 9:45 we find this idea of the master. 9:48 And the master helps people lose everything they know, 9:50 everything they desire, and creates confusion in those who think 9:54 they know Now, all this may look like a happy accident, but 9:58 it's important to observe that at that time of rampant commercialization of 10:02 computer technology where companies paid hundreds of dollars annually per sit, 10:07 to companies like Novell to network their computers. 10:12 And interlace terms of many multiples of what we pay for 10:16 harbouring software, the principles underlying the web were radical and 10:19 I'd strongly argue, significantly responsible for its success. 10:23 Later Tim Berners-Lee articulated these values and these principles. 10:26 And I think it's worth having a quick look at them, 10:30 because the web wasn't accidental. 10:32 And it wasn't just built as an idea around technology. 10:36 It was built as an idea around principles and values. 10:38 And I think at times when we get a little lost with the web and 10:42 we worry about its future. 10:47 It's worth returning to these values, because I think it underlies 10:49 I think all the decisions we should make about what we do with the web. 10:52 The first of these was decentralization. 10:57 So there was no permission needed from a central authority to post 10:59 anything on the web. 11:02 There's no essential controlling node and 11:03 no single point of failure and no kill switch. 11:05 This also implies freedom from indiscriminate censorship and 11:08 surveillance. 11:11 Non-discrimination, if I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of 11:11 service and you pay to connect with that or 11:16 higher quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. 11:18 And this is the principle of net neutrality. 11:21 Bottom-up design. 11:25 Instead of code being written and controlled by a small group of experts, 11:26 it was developed in full view of everyone encouraging maximum participation and 11:30 experimentation. 11:34 Universality, for anyone to be able to publish anything on the web 11:37 all computer involved have to speak the same language to each other. 11:40 No matter what different hardware people are using, whether they leave, or 11:43 what cultural and political beliefs they have. 11:46 In this way the web breaks down silos while still 11:48 allowing diversity to flourish. 11:51 And lastly, Consensus. 11:55 For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. 11:57 But it is worth noting that these principles underline the way 12:02 in which the world wide web was developed. 12:06 And I think the success of the web, which let's face it, a quarter of a century is 12:08 a very long time frame for a technology to grow and survive and flourish. 12:12 Think of all the technologies that were dominant in the early 1990's, and 12:18 how many are left now. 12:21 Very, very few, but the web is still there, and I think for 12:22 no small part because of these principles. 12:25 And so with this foundation, a period of extraordinary growth, of the adoption and 12:30 commercialization of the web in the middle 1990s started. 12:33 At the time, the almost anarchic nature of the web both led to its growth, 12:37 but also seemed to be the greatest threat towards survival. 12:43 Netscape, the first successful commercial browser, 12:46 drove the innovation with technologies introducing inline images, the font tag. 12:49 Both of which Tim Berners-Lee actively hated but 12:55 didn't step in the way of being implemented. 12:57 Frames and other novel features of HTML 13:00 that other browsers scrambled then to reverse engineering implement. 13:03 But this innovation was chaotic and poorly thought through and 13:06 threatened many of the web's underlying principles. 13:09 And the web itself in many ways. 13:11 And some of you old enough to have been there will remember. 13:13 When Microsoft got into the act with Internet Explorer, 13:18 we saw two browsers from two incredibly well resourced companies 13:20 competing through the innovation of the web platform. 13:24 But each in their own way thus threatening the web's existence as an open 13:27 interconnected ecosystem. 13:31 Threatening those core values that we just saw. 13:33 Fortunately for reasons in part still hard to fathom, 13:37 perhaps a jujitsu move by the still uncharacteristically underdog Microsoft, 13:40 perhaps purely a happy accident. 13:44 Some sense prevailed with the formation of the World Wide Web Consortium and 13:47 precisely or perhaps exactly the right time. 13:51 As a sort of honest broker with his rivals like Netscape and 13:54 Microsoft could trash out agreements as to 13:58 withstand it rather than simply do that in the arena of new browser release. 14:01 Which all led to the commercial growth of the web. 14:09 And as the web became more widely adopted and commercialized, for the first time 14:12 it drew visual communicators, until then, largely absent from the medium. 14:17 And mostly these came from the tradition of print design. 14:22 At the time purely digital graphic design was very much in its infancy and 14:26 tools like Photoshop and 14:29 Pagemaker were designed with the print rather than digital media in mind. 14:30 Computers were in most people's minds at the time still towards to 14:34 creating content. 14:37 They were very expensive and they had to pay their way. 14:38 There weren't toward for consuming content as they have become for 14:40 the most part today. 14:44 And it was in this context, the first sophisticated attempts to create 14:47 page layouts and designs for the web and merge. 14:50 Exemplified perhaps by the number one selling book on Amazon in 1996. 14:53 And this is of any book on. 14:57 It was called Creating Killer Websites. 15:00 And Killer Websites Advanced Techniques that your grandparents may 15:03 have told you about. 15:06 Including rendering some or all of a pages texts and image. 15:07 Which interestingly is something that lived on until only a few years ago 15:13 with the rise of fonting bidding. 15:17 I'm pretty sure almost everyone in this room used image replacement techniques. 15:18 But where they originally came from was that book. 15:23 And what we all see right now tables for 15:26 pixel perfect layer again, was basically popularised by this book. 15:29 As well as a whole range of other completely horrible techniques that you 15:35 probably haven't even seen, but which were very popular, and which basically were 15:38 the standard tool in trade of a web designer in about 1997, 98. 15:43 So why was that? 15:50 Well, at the time designers saw the screen on the web as basically a lower 15:51 resolution broken worse version of paper and railed against such 15:56 absurdity as the difference in effective dots per inch between the Mac and Windows. 16:01 The different system fonts available on each of these platforms. 16:06 The moving tide of different screen sizes, all we had to do with a terrible 16:08 range from all the way from 640x480, all the way up to 1040x768. 16:12 But at the time this was considered this enormous landscape that was 16:17 almost impossible to deline around. 16:20 Not to mention the different color pallets that Netscape and 16:23 Internet Explorer had, meaning that their only a limited number of website colors. 16:25 Seriously, for quite a few years there, 16:30 this is mostly the sort of thing we worried about, basically how to turn 16:32 the web back into a piece of paper that we were comfortable with. 16:35 So we spent the best part of half a decade trying to fix CSS and trying to fix, 16:40 literally as in make it unchanging across different devices, the web. 16:45 To give designers the control they readily had with PayPal. 16:49 Where all the characteristics of the medium are fixed in advance and 16:53 knowable and controllable. 16:57 We tried to make the web what you see is what you get. 16:59 Which of course, 17:04 was the future because we'd just seen printing move to that WYSIWYG model. 17:04 Now someone whose name until now has been left out of this story but 17:10 who might readily have turned up long ago is Douglas Engelbart. 17:14 Amongst other things he invented video conferencing and the mouse. 17:18 And he made the observation that what you see is what you get 17:22 isn't really what you see is what you get. 17:25 It's what you see is all you get. 17:28 Because we make compromises when we choose the convenience and 17:30 the easiness of WYSIWYG. 17:34 And these are comprises the work really well in a paper based world where 17:36 the possibilities of the medium and the paper size the color, 17:40 the output resolution, are highly constrained. 17:44 But the same compromises worked less well 17:47 in a networked world in a multitude of devices. 17:50 For years, we saw this fluidity, this lack of a fixed output surface of the web, 17:53 as a limitation, a bug to be eliminated. 17:59 In early 2000, I bought together a lot of ideas 18:01 in an essay to which I'm referring quite a few times today, A Dao of Web Design. 18:07 The ideas in it were far from exclusively mine, but rather it seems that 18:13 at the right time, I synthesized what many of us had been thinking about, and 18:17 talking about, and doing with the web. 18:21 How perhaps, these supposed bugs of the web. 18:25 Word really bugs after all, but features, features of a new medium that looked and 18:29 felt like prince only worse. 18:34 Features that we needed to understand and embrace and 18:37 explore to really help create that new medium. 18:41 Now in many ways these criticisms of the web by print designers, 18:45 its low resolution, its fragmented screen sizes. 18:49 Radically different color gamut across devices, poor font options. 18:52 These are all very legitimate. 18:56 But they also miss the point. 18:57 Screens aren't paper, they had their own strengths. 18:59 Particularly when they networked and, as we imagined then but 19:02 which really only came later, when they're mobile. 19:06 You see while network screens while worse from a print design perspective, 19:08 also support animation. 19:14 Which funny enough we've only really started to embrace now in any meaningful 19:16 way, a decade or more later as well as sound and video. 19:19 They decreased the time to access information and potentially the cost and 19:23 certainly the effort, as compared with paper, dramatically. 19:30 They allowed documents that are searchable and 19:33 indexable, that you can link together and annotate. 19:35 And as we observed at the time, they allow content to, 19:39 in what we now call responsive design. 19:42 Respond to a myriad of devices, and use context. 19:45 None of which paper can do. 19:49 The way that the early 1990s as we saw was initially conceded in an under powered 19:54 worse version of hyper text. 19:59 Except as it turns out its limitations are also its strengths, 20:00 what made it radically different. 20:04 And then a decade later, in relation to prince as a medium, 20:06 we see the same pattern emerge. 20:10 Perhaps there's something going on here. 20:12 After the frenetic browser wars of the second half of the 1990s, 20:16 things settled down somewhat. 20:20 An uneasy truce between Netscape and 20:23 Microsoft saw the rise of a standards based web and there's a long and 20:25 important story to tell here too, which we don't really have time for today. 20:29 If a band of, well let's put it frankly, deluded people 20:33 including my good friend and latest speaker at this conference, Eric Meyer, 20:37 who's somehow lacking any real standing or importance in the technology industry. 20:40 Managed I really still can't work out how, to convince, 20:45 ultimately the entire industry to fly in the face of the proprietary, monolithic, 20:49 siloed, winner takes all economics of IT that had prevailed for decades. 20:54 Since IBM wouldn't even send you, only lease you, a mainframe computer. 20:59 Convincing browser manufacturers including the near then dominant Microsoft 21:03 as well as everyday web developers, to adopt 21:08 what was then a radically new standards base approach for developing for the web. 21:11 It's a miracle Netscape period fell away and 21:16 by 2003 Internet Explorer for Windows was more or less the only game in town. 21:20 Now it's become commonplace to decry IE 6 for 21:27 Windows and the long stasis that followed its release. 21:29 I'm not sure that is fair enough, but we are fortunate that it was as good as it 21:33 was, and supported techniques like doc type switching, 21:37 that allowed us to develop standards based websites at all. 21:40 And once again it was the underlying principles 21:47 of the web we saw earlier that saved it. 21:50 From the moribund state it had reached in 2004. 21:52 While the Mac as a platform had dropped to slow single digits in terms of its user 21:56 base, it had retained an influential user base of designers, and 22:01 then with the rise of OS X developers. 22:05 And with Safari and almost simultaneously Firefox which rose from the ashes of 22:07 Netscape's open sourcing its browser some years before. 22:13 For the first time in several years we saw the arrival of new web browsers. 22:16 Indeed of any new web features at all. 22:20 Hard as it is to believe in this era of monthly new releases of Chrome and 22:24 Firefox, and even frequent updates of Internet Explorer. 22:28 Now, compare this resurgence of the web with the attempts at the same time to 22:32 develop apps which competed with Microsoft's dominant Office franchise, 22:36 where interoperability was more or less impossible due to the proprietary, 22:40 undocumented, and often changing, hideously complex, Office file formats. 22:45 Which at times even Microsoft struggled to maintain compatibility with across 22:49 versions of their own software. 22:53 The web fortunately didn't have this lock in by principle and by design. 22:56 Thanks as I said to that principle of openness its relative simplicity, 23:02 its royalty free nature and 23:08 the efforts of the folks to bring about a standards based approach to development. 23:10 And while Microsoft had more or less the bang in the web with IE6 for 23:16 several years, the web platform still survived and in time grew again. 23:20 But that wasn't an accident. 23:25 And then the moment, we'd seen almost a decade before the arrival of a genuinely, 23:28 usable, mobile web with the original iPhone in 2007. 23:34 It was a great day for the web and for 23:39 those who'd advocated a standards-based responsive approach to development. 23:41 The term of course came three years later in 2010, but 23:45 we'd talked about that idea way back in 2000. 23:49 In a Dao of Web Design, I gave that general idea that became responsive 23:53 design, the term adaptive web design. 23:57 But the masses of developers clambered for native, not web apps, for the iPhone 24:00 that jobs in Apple had originally touted as the way to develop for the new device, 24:07 and so began the most recent, and in many ways, the most challenging era of the web. 24:11 The age of Apps. 24:17 But before we turn that page, 24:19 it's important to observe just how central to the success of the iPhone the web was. 24:20 The web was the only way that apps outside of Apple's own 24:27 themselves could be developed for the platform. 24:30 And it became I'd argue the iPhone's instant point of differentiation. 24:33 Despite it being a slower device in terms of networks, it was 2G only 24:37 in an era when 3G was almost de rigueur and CPUs. 24:42 Despite it being in Christianson's terms in many ways a worse device 24:47 than the then dominant blackberries and Microsoft and Nokia devices. 24:52 Of the time. 24:55 All of those companies laughed at the iPhone when it was launched. 24:57 And we look back in time and 25:01 we can wonder how foolish they we were, but they were playing a different game. 25:02 They were looking at the specs of device, 25:06 and the iPhone was massively under-specced by the standards of the day. 25:10 But what it had that no device before it ever had, was a usable mobile web. 25:14 I'd argue the web as much as, even more than multi touch 25:20 was the iPhone's key differentiator when it was launched. 25:24 Seriously imagine the original iPhone without the web. 25:27 I doubt that it would have been the success that it is today. 25:31 But for those of us who advocated that the web was the way to build for every device, 25:35 things turned out a little differently than it appeared in early 2007. 25:41 With the rise of native apps the web faced and perhaps continues 25:46 to face it's greatest challenge since it began over two decades ago. 25:49 Now the concern for 25:55 the web both within and outside the community of web professionals is above 25:55 all that the technologies of the web are lagging behind that of native platforms. 25:59 And it is a worse platform. 26:05 By way of example we've seen in recent months Flipboard build an entire pseudo 26:08 dorm and rendered canvas instead of the browsers own dom because you can't 26:12 build a 60 frame per second scrolling list view with the dom, unquote. 26:18 So apparently it makes sense to try out all the browsers goodness. 26:24 All of the hundreds or thousands of personal years that effort that 26:27 have gone into browsers and to standards, to ensure we get jinx free scrolling, 26:30 on the latest greatest mobile devices that is. 26:36 Forget the rest of the web devices. 26:39 Now does this sound a bit familiar to you? 26:41 It's interesting too how this goal of pixel perfect layouts is 26:46 touted as an important reason for Flipboards approach. 26:49 The term pixel perfect layout, which I'm sure we've all heard, might not have been 26:54 invented by Killer Websites, although it's entirely possible that it was, but 26:57 it's certainly popularized in that book. 27:01 I honestly thought it was a phrase only used ironically these days. 27:03 Perhaps this is a subtle hint the footballs actually trawling us. 27:07 But somehow I don't think they are. 27:11 And lastly I wanna observe about this little episode. 27:14 So I'm lost in this conservation is the fact that Flipboard thought, 27:17 I mean let's face it they're tremendously successful with solely night of losses. 27:20 They thought it was important to bring their app to the web at all 27:25 is a really interesting thing to observe. 27:28 And of course there's an entire cottage industry of folks 27:31 making observations like, apps aren't really in opposition to the open Internet. 27:34 They're just superior clients to open Internet services. 27:38 And going so far as to describe flick boards, let's face it, unbelievable 27:43 overkill re-implementing a sizeable subset of the entire browserstack. 27:48 To basically get junk freely scrolling in the latest devices. 27:52 Forget the rest of them where it won't work at all. 27:56 A scathing combination of DOM CSS web standard stack. 27:58 Now underneath these criticisms is always the assumption that somehow by their very 28:04 nature native apps are superior to browser-based apps. 28:08 It's hard to pin down such advocates exactly as to why, but you know what? 28:12 Maybe these people are right, because what's our response as web designers and 28:19 developers been to all this? 28:24 Above all we accept the premise that what the web should 28:27 do is acknowledge its inferiority and compete with apps on their own terms. 28:30 But our look at the history of the web this morning has 28:37 a suggestion for us i'd argue. 28:40 And I think that lesson is that we shouldn't give in to this app envy, and 28:41 continue to wish we had features that ain't in native platforms. 28:46 Just as in hindsight, hypertext envy and print envy were misguided. 28:50 In 1991, should Chin Berners Lee have taken his worst hypertext added 28:55 by directional links, centralized servers, and so 29:00 on and on, but that's exactly what Sal did. 29:03 I don't know, ironically, the only way you can get the proceedings of 29:06 politics 91 is to pay a very large amount of money for them. 29:09 Thank God Chin Berners-Lee embraced his worst version of hypertext. 29:13 And what if we'd envied print? 29:17 Well indeed we did. 29:19 We spent a decade trying to use image replacement techniques and 29:20 all sorts of techniques to overcome the limitations of the medium. 29:26 That print design is lamented. 29:31 Indeed, Adobe Acrobat 3 in the late 90s allow PDF documents to be served 29:35 on a per page basis effectively making a PDF a website. 29:39 Turns out people didn't care that much about the web 29:44 not being like the printed page. 29:47 Well not as much as all the other things that this worse medium 29:49 had to offer Ironically, John Gruber almost gets it right. 29:54 This is actually from only yesterday. 30:01 The reason the web won in the late 90's, 30:04 whereby won I may mean became the dominant platform of software development, 30:06 that sounds like winning to me, wasn't because whereabouts we're native like. 30:11 Correct, Mr. Gruber, quite the opposite. 30:17 The web became dominant despite the fact 30:20 the apps were rather crude from a UI perspective again, correct. 30:22 But again, were why were they successful despite these things? 30:26 And then he adds, cuz he has to, the solution is for 30:33 the entire browser web development community to get it through there, 30:37 that means our heads, that the web will never out-native actual native apps. 30:40 But you know what? 30:49 John Gruber is, in some ways he's right. 30:51 Many of us do continue to invest enormously in our app envy. 30:54 Reinventing the dom to support some snazzy controls that would otherwise be jenky, 31:00 like jenky scrolling is the worst thing ever, instead of perhaps embracing 31:06 the reality that the effort to do this comes at the cost of 31:10 making the things we build vastly more complex and difficult to build and 31:13 maintain, and even to learn to develop for in the first place. 31:17 We seem to be forgetting those underlying principles and values of the web. 31:22 I don't know about you, but to me this sounds a lot like those responses to 31:29 the web at Hypertext 91 or the response of print designers in the late 1990s. 31:33 When will we learn that the web isn't a version of something else, Hypertext or 31:38 print or app platform or OS, as much as it may seem to resemble these things, 31:43 it's a worse and radically different thing. 31:49 Perhaps we should by now embrace what the web does best and the values the web to 31:53 build not what's common and popular now, what looks and feels most like the past. 31:58 Our closely held beliefs, but what comes next, so, what does come next? 32:04 And this, dear listener, is where I must leave you, I'm not a futurist, 32:13 despite my two year old's best attempts at hair styling. 32:17 I look nothing like Shingi who gets paid enormous amounts of money to think about 32:20 the future. 32:24 I tend to more side with Alan Kay and 32:24 observe that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. 32:27 But I do know the web's future will be built on the principles and 32:34 spirit of the web, not on the web growing up and 32:37 competing with native platforms better anymore than it needed to grow up and 32:40 be more like what we thought hypertext should be or more like prints. 32:43 Because while it's often worse, it is different, and 32:47 as we've seen time and again, that's not a bad thing. 32:50 Making the web adhere to the closely held beliefs about Hypertext in 91 would've 32:54 been its end before it even began, it would've been consigned to the same 32:58 scrappy as cell, and all the other systems I'm sure that were demoted at a Hypertext 33:02 91, because it would've been backwards looking, not looking to the future. 33:06 Making the web more like print, something we spend so much time in the late 90's and 33:11 early 2000's, was backward looking, the future looked worse, but different. 33:16 But without abandoning those ideas, they could have been no responsive web design. 33:21 And now today, wishing the web could better compete with native platforms is, 33:26 I'd argue, backwards looking. 33:31 Yes, the web is worse, but hopefully now 33:32 you'll have the confidence to not just know but believe that's not a bad thing. 33:35 The future starts by being worse and that's okay. 33:40 A little more bluntly someone's who's ideas and 33:45 efforts over decades I continue to admire hugely Scott Jensen recently quoting 33:48 Thomas Edison observed, Vision Without Execution is Hallucination. 33:52 Jensen in this recent, rather challenging essay Vision Without Execution, 33:59 also cites Martin Luther King, the difference between a dreamer and 34:03 visionary is that the visionary has his eyes open. 34:08 Jansen concludes the essay, she confided, my plea is simple, 34:14 let's stop predicting the future, and start building it. 34:18 How we understand technology beyond a trivial demo is the much 34:22 harder problem to solve, and there are no simple tricks, it's hard, dogged work. 34:26 So before we just too far in the future, 34:31 let's keep our eyes open, build something, anything and discuss what we learn. 34:33 Dare to be wrong, rejoice and share when it works. 34:37 That's how sufficiently adverse technology gets built. 34:40 One stubbornly obvious step at a time. 34:43 The next two days, we'll be hearing from many wonderful folk, 34:48 who I admire greatly, who are doing that hard dogged work, 34:53 across a range of disciplines and technologies. 34:56 They're inventing the future, they're building things and 34:59 discussing what they learned. 35:01 Folks like Eric Meyer to whom we all on the web owe an enormous debt of gratitude, 35:03 and Rachel Andrew and 35:07 Zara Sweden and a whole raft more, I hope like me you can't wait to hear from them. 35:09 And in sharing courageously what they've learned, they're emphasizing one final, 35:14 and I think probably ultimate, principle of the web, perhaps its greatest, that 35:20 keeps me such an advocate for and believer in it, the principle of generosity. 35:25 In the hands of people like these, and 35:29 you all here, I thought the web's gonna be just fine, thank you very much. 35:33 >> [APPLAUSE] 35:37
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