The Future of the Web

Posted at 1:53 pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Technology, and tagged , , , , .

There are two aspects to the web that need to be tackled… the design and media (specifically video). One of them has been solved with the latest version of Firefox, the other only partially, but a sandbox for development has been built.

Web designers have long desired to control the look of their sites,1 and to be different, unique, special. But that has always been difficult to do. For one, every browser renders web-pages differently (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.). This has been getting better as more and more browsers accept web standards of how to interpret HTML code. Except for Microsoft’s veritable Internet Explorer, that is, which has long tormented even hobbyists of web design (including myself).2

One way to control the look and feel of a site is by using Flash as a site within a site, however the portability of Flash is limited, if non-existent, and overall, text, images and video is what makes the majority of web content, and Flash doesn’t provide any of those in a reasonable way, at a reasonable speed, with any reasonable sense of reliability.3 And that is why embeddable fonts will be huge.

Why limit yourself to what your end-user has installed on his computer — or what you assume your web user has installed on his computer? We have been strictly limited to a very few, yet ultimately serviceable, web-friendly fonts. A pox on all that. If I want fancy header text — why force myself to use an image which may be unreadable on portable devices, or scaled incorrectly, or rendered incompletely? Rather, embed the font in the CSS, call the font as-needed, wherever and whenever (allowing the end-user to download it temporarily, most likely without notice4), and the end-user will see how the designer wishes to present the text (not how his or her browser decides, not how his or her native font choices decide). Very simple. This is a huge step. Flash, and graphics to a lesser extent, will not be used as widely simply as a way to maintain control over text fonts. It will be unnecessary.5

The future of web is video. This is clear. (In maybe a more broad, far-reaching sense, the future of the web is 3d holograms and scratch-and-sniff, but let’s be realistic.) Therefore, control over video is essential. The new video tag/element in HTML5 is mostly amiss however. First off, no one uses Ogg format. No one; and likely, no one ever will. A video format cannot simply be forced upon people. (Recall the Real audio format. Where has that gone?) That being said, this will hopefully allow developers to fool around with the video tag and take us mere followers where we need to be in the future. That is, to simplify the video embedding process and optimize the code. (Video embeds are needlessly long and overtly redundant.) I have to admit, the idea of controlling video parameters from CSS gets me excited. Probably too excited to be considered healthy.

I’ll ask my doctor, but in the meantime, the web is changing towards a multimedia-focused experience, with more control for the developers to convey their design on computer screens, regardless of browser or operating system, and that makes me happy.

Notes
  1. Duh. This will never change.
  2. This is my favorite IE bug (which still exists): “The easiest way for you to fix the problem is to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. This problem no longer occurs in Internet Explorer 8.” Why did it exist in the first place? Why don’t you patch the existing software that the majority of web users in the world use in the meantime?
  3. Plus it is a bitch to add to, subtract from, or interact with in a meaningful way for the majority of web users and designers. Flash is an end-product only. It is never a work in progress, which is how most people would view their creations, or blogs or websites.
  4. This may be considered a security concern, however just like every other embeddable image or video, security will always be a concern. Adding a downloadable/embeddable font is not changing the game.
  5. Rendering times of web pages will be reduced (i.e., sped up), less material overall will be forcibly downloaded by users, the tubes of the internet will open up (until they are clogged again).