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Is Today's Web Still 'the Web'? 312

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the worth-thinking-about dept.
snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister raises questions regarding the transforming nature of the Web now that Tim Berners-Lee's early vision has been supplanted by today's much more complex model. AJAX, Google Web Toolkit, Flash and Silverlight all have McAllister asking, 'Is [the Web] still the Web if you can't navigate directly to specific content? Is it still the Web if the content can't be indexed and searched? Is it still the Web if you can only view the application on certain clients or devices? Is it still the Web if you can't view source?' Such questions bely a much bigger question for Web developers, McAllister writes. If today's RIAs no longer resemble the 'Web,' then should we be shoehorning these apps into the Web's infrastructure, or is the problem that the client platforms simply aren't evolving fast enough to meet our needs?" If the point of 'The Web' is to allow direct links between any 2 points, is today's web something entirely different?
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Is Today's Web Still 'the Web'?

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  • What web? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by e03179 (578506) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:07PM (#24045601) Homepage
    The point of a Web is to make one, wait for visitors, catch them, and then eat them. It doesn't really matter what the visitor does once it gets in the web. It's just a matter of the spider finishing the deal.
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:08PM (#24045629)

    ... "the web" was lots of computers all networked together, clients and servers.

    No, that would be the Internet. It's very important not to confuse the two.

  • Fluff or content? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thogard (43403) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:08PM (#24045635) Homepage

    You have two options:

    1) Pages that provides information
    2) Fluff

    99.9% of the sites that provide information are static text pages with a bit of html mark up and most of the rest is fluff.

  • Depends... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:09PM (#24045643) Homepage
    From a technical perspective, one that is concerned with transfer protocols and knows what "http" "CSS" "ISP" and "FTP" stand for and why it matters, I suppose that the current uses of our series of tubes no longer fits that rudimentary definition of The Web.

    From my mother's perspective, my boss's perspective, and 90% of people who are not concerned about the actual way data is transferred, it will be The Web until something supplants it on a wholesale basis. It doesn't matter if they think they're Surfing, Instant Messaging, FTPing, AJAXing, or .Com-ing, so far as they know, they're using the web. (Don't SMSs travel on teh internets?)

    So it depends. Given our forum, yes, the web is probably not the same as it was. For the majority, they don't know the difference.

    So the question is, could we continue to have this interoperability if we more frequently used different protocols, technologies, and backbones for different uses? (eg. if we took AJAX/online apps off the "Web" and put them on their own infrastructure to keep the "Web" fully indexable/searchable)
  • Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:11PM (#24045693)

    It's still the web. So you're receiving something a little more sophisticated than just text and gif images. Big deal. No need to get excited and try to invent new terminology. As for clients not evolving fast enough. Uh, welcome to the real world where not everything conforms to your view of perfection.

    Since this is an article with somebody complaining, that would seem to be prima facie evidence that it's still the same ol' web.

  • by brxndxn (461473) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:12PM (#24045705)

    The more mainstream the web becomes, the more bullshit we have to sort through... the more useless it becomes. There used to be a banner ad. Now there's a banner, links on the left, links on the right, popups, flash over the actual text, sound, video, and 10x as many pages all with the same shit to click through just to get the same content. And, we're already hearing about ISPs adding their own shit to our shitty internet experience.

    It doesn't make any fucking sense that an article that could be entirely scrolled through takes 27 clicks to read.. It doesn't make any fucking sense that clicking 'yes' one time on the wrong thing can allow malicious software to install itself (that is your fault, microsoft). It doesn't make any fucking sense that our own damn web clients allow the developer to disable right-click on a page. It doesn't make any fucking sense that I have to watch a 30-second advertisement to watch a 10-second video clip.

    The web is quickly turning into television - a bunch of stupid avertisements created by stupid people geared for stupid consumers. The web is still way better than anything else we got.

  • by Quantus347 (1220456) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:19PM (#24045835)
    The basic idea of the the internet is connections. It was originally just computers connected, and so the web they carried was computer oriented communication, sharing and growth.

    Now, its connecting people, and when you offer a new means of connecting people, especially one as broad and global as the Internet, then it will become as diverse as the people involved.

    If you dont think so, think about the differences between the stereotype programmer, vs the Corperate Cog with his Blackberry, vs the average WoW-head, vs a MySpacer, vs the Goons, vs We here at Slashdot. We are all widely different, but we are all sharing the same common forum: The Net
  • by flynt (248848) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:19PM (#24045845)

    For instance, I don't think most people refer to sending email as using the web.

    You must not get out much.

  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:23PM (#24045919) Journal
    Acoustic and electric guitars are fundamentally different, but an electric guitar is still a guitar to a guitarist. Seems to me that we're in the electric guitar age of the web now.
  • by Mortice (467747) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:26PM (#24045977)

    If you're going to nitpick, probably a good idea to learn about the difference between HTML and HTTP first, eh?

  • 1 link? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bandman (86149) <bandman@gm a i l . com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:26PM (#24045981) Homepage

    When did we ever just have 1 link between 2 points? It's always been complex, unsettled, and a bit anarchistic. This is just the newest facet of it.

    The change in the internet is continuous. This is not something different, this is the way it always has been.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:28PM (#24046021) Homepage Journal

    "the web" was a collection of applications that ran over the internet.

    We have a winner. AJAX applications do not "break the web". They create richer documents and points of interest on the web. You can still link from one HTML application to the next, so the hypertext functionality is not lost.

    What *is* a challenge is to find good methods of indexing these richer HTML applications for purposes of searching, indexing, and cataloging. Since these applications can pull and display information in a variety of ways, search engines are presented with a challenge when they treat the application as a simple textual document.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:34PM (#24046171)

    Sad but true. Fluff is pretty much all the "new technologies" are about.

    Let's be blunt here. Was it so much "harder" to navigate a page before the advent of Flash? Or did a page offer less information? 99% (at least) of Flash in existance is, as you put it, fluff. I'd call it waste of bandwidth.

    What does Flash accomplish? There are basically 3 main applications on "the web" today:

    1. To get Ad-Spam past blockers.
    2. To hide there's no content between all those glorious special effects (for reference, watch a movie).
    3. Games

    Basically, there is very little content (aside of information that can only be relayed sensibly through movies) that cannot be done in plain ol' HTML. You can't even tell me that those Flash pages are easier to navigate. First, navigating a webpage was never so hard that you couldn't figure it out in 5 seconds, and second, those 5 seconds are wasted on a Flash page with the time it takes to load the crap.

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:34PM (#24046181) Journal

    You should have been modded insightful rather than funny because to most people that is what and how the Internet works. Not just porn, but as long as they can go get whatever it is that they like, the Internet is working and they are happy with it. Few users of the Internet think about whether they are on the WWW or the Internet. To them they are the same thing. Some of us remember their first viewing of Mosaic. We remember the Internet before the widespread use of HTML.

    As long as we can go online and get the information that we want for free, the Internet will be alive, at least as it is understood to be so by most of it's users. It doesn't matter if that is porn or the latest crap from faux news, or blueprints for the moon lander or thesis papers for last years PhD candidates in robotics theory.

  • by exley (221867) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:34PM (#24046189) Homepage

    Does this really matter at all? For anything?

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:36PM (#24046225) Journal

    The web is an interconnected collection of documents. You're confusing the web with the internet.

    The web is being destroyed because it's being monetized. To monetize something is to assert control over it, then exploit that control. This is the antithesis of what made the web powerful in the first place.

    Hell, look at Google. "Organize the worlds information" was a very lofty goal. What did they do once they got there? They sell the right to lead users away from the information they're looking for towards professionally written propaganda, and they're given a disgusting amount of power and influence as a reward.

    As far as I'm concerned, the promise of the web died when we decided there wasn't anything wrong with giving citizens dynamic IPs that they can't use to self-publish and selling those IPs to large corporate interests.

    Big Money wanted the Internet to be a Television, and lazy short-sighted sheep rolled over and let it happen. It's old news, and discussing the technical particulars this late in the game is kind of irrelevant.

  • by ashtophoenix (929197) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:00PM (#24046653) Homepage Journal
    Web, Internet, Web 2.0 whatever. Nobody fathomed what it would become when it first started and its hard to predict what it will evolve into.
  • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:07PM (#24046759) Homepage Journal

    So you're saying that Slashdot is fluff?

  • by raddan (519638) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:08PM (#24046763)
    If you're a computer scientist, the difference between physical, logical, and semantic relationships is very important. Network = physical relationship; Internet = logical relationship; The Web = semantic relationship. And like any dichotomy, there are places where these distinctions are inadequate-- that's where the science part comes in-- figuring out how to make our conceptualization match the real world.

    This reminds me of a quote:

    It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.
    -- Alfred North Whitehead

    If you don't care about these distinctions, don't be a computer scientist. Those of us who care about making computation easier, faster, and more useful should pay attention. Sometimes the niggling little details you don't care about are the key to understanding all of it.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:28PM (#24047167)
    Ever used a Google Maps flash implementation? If you had, you'd realise just how powerful and useful flash on the web is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:41PM (#24047453)

    You can still link from one HTML application to the next, so the hypertext functionality is not lost.

    Sure it is. Many of the AJAX sites I see these days encode session keys in the URLs. Days (minutes?) later, that session is no longer valid, and your URL is junk.

    It is certainly possible to design AJAX sites with persist URLs (contrast with Flash, where it is not), but is by no means guaranteed.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:45PM (#24047525)

    We have a winner. AJAX applications do not "break the web". They create richer documents and points of interest on the web. You can still link from one HTML application to the next, so the hypertext functionality is not lost.

    Not always. There are LOTS of sites on the web that you can not link to a specific page of information. Any attempt to try just links you to a home page which might be 40 clicks away from the information you want to link to.

    Hypertext is almost useless if I can only link to the front door of an application or website.

    search engines are presented with a challenge

    Not just search engines. Regular people looking to send a link to their parents, or including one on their blog or website find it challenging too...

    you used to be able to just send a link, now its... send a link to a starting page with instructions... ok, go there, then click enter, halfway down hit search, enter Q44425466, then submit, then 2/3rds of the way down click download, then 'scroll' through the license and tick of 'Accept', then 'Download', then choose a mirror, then uncheck 'install yahoo toolbar', and 'send me the newsletter', then 'download', and it should start.

    That pile of needless bullshit navigation is precisely what hypertext was supposed to allow you to avoid.

  • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:48PM (#24047575)

    Who on Earth modded the "fixed it for you" asshole "Informative"? The answers to both our questions are no doubt similar.

  • by nx6310 (1150553) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:26PM (#24048283)

    For some reason everyone referring to flash lately considers it some sort of fun and games platform, that could be true taking into consideration English speaking users coupled with english (or more specifically native language application support).

    On the other hand, you have a large portion of Internet users who do not have native language support from software vendors, like Arabic, Farsi, Armenian...etc.

    So flash DOES solve the problem with device independent fonts and languages. And it does make the user experience Richer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:32PM (#24048423)

    Flash delivers somewhat high quality streaming video content to users without first having to mess around with (sometimes trojan-infested) random codecs. Before Flash and high bandwidth this simply wasn't possible in a consistent manner. Let's give Flash the little credit it deserves.

  • by JimFive (1064958) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:25PM (#24049379)

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm in the right major, because I like good ol HTML pages better.

    You are clearly in the right major and I hope that you become a major influential force in your field. viva simplicite -- JimFive

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:54PM (#24049845) Journal

    Sure, videos on the web are useful, but there are better ways of delivering them than flash. For instance you can provide a direct HTTP link to the video which your browser will then pass to your favorite media player.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:01PM (#24049929) Journal

    Flash in applications can provide better UI animations and better user experiences. In the latest site I worked on, sometimes the user clicked something and something on the page would smoothly move. This effect could be used to draw a user's eye to the next step of the process, making the app less confusing. Just because UI usability often involves colors and animations rather than adding new content doesn't make it fluff, or worthless. It is important.

    If your application needs all that, do us all a favor and provide a binary to download. Native applications are always better than flash crap.

    That's not a fluffy reason for moving away from AJAX, and can allow you to provide richer, or even more, content because development time is shortened.

    Moving away from AJAX is good, but if you're moving towards flash you're going in the wrong direction.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!