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The Internet

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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  • ... "the web" was lots of computers all networked together, clients and servers. Which, if it is, mean that the web remains what it was yesterday, what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow.
    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:08AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Yvan256 (722131)

        The worst part is, here in Québec people keep calling them "Site internet" because they seem to fear the english word "Web" in "Site Web".

        Stupid Office de la langue française,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by extrasolar (28341)

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

        No, that would be MSN, AOL, Yahoo, Google, etc. The Internet was a neat idea but has a crappy ad campaign.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cream wobbly (1102689)

      I always thought the Web was lots of computers all networked together: HTML clients and HTML servers.

      Fixed that for you. Kinda breaks your argument when you add accuracy, eh?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lazyDog86 (1191443)

      Well I always thought that the computers - and computer networks - networked together were the internet and "the web" was a collection of applications that ran over the internet. Specifically those associated with web browsers. For instance, I don't think most people refer to sending email as using the web.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flynt (248848)

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

        You must not get out much.

        • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:48AM (#24046439)

          The people I deal with have the reverse problem: Internet Explorer* is "The Internet". Outlook (or even worse, OE) is "The Email", which is completely separate from "The Internet". Even if they learn to use a webmail service, they assume that Internet Explorer magically takes them off of "The Internet" and on to "The Email".

          If you asked them what "the Web" is, they'd look confused for a minute, then say "oh, that's The Internet."

          *And, of course, "The Internet" is disconnected from their computer whenever they close Internet Explorer.

          • by BigDogCH (760290) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:39PM (#24047407) Journal
            My users might have yours beat....at least in one area. If I say "Internet Explorer", their eyes glaze over. I have to call it "The Blue E".

            One user impressed me, by saying he quit using Microsoft products. Then he explained that he was using "Foxfire for XP".
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Jason Levine (196982)

              "FoxFire" is a pet peeve of mine for some reason. I set up my father-in-law's computer with FireFox (for increased security over IE and since I think it's just a better browser overall) and he insists on calling it "FoxFire." No matter how many times I correct him, he keeps mangling the name.

              Of course, he also talks about sending us an "e-mail" while using Instant Messenger. When I try to correct him, he says "well, it's all the same." (*MUST... KEEP... FROM... LECTURING... FATHER-IN-LAW... ABOUT WHY TH

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gma i l . c om> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:28AM (#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 vux984 (928602) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:45PM (#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 plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:44PM (#24050491)

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

            and, sadly, what most hosts and advertising revenue driven sites don't want you to be able to avoid.

            The more ads they can shove in your way and get you to accidentally click.. the more malware they can infect your computer with.. the more money they make.

          • to do web applications.

            For example, Google Maps (and Street View) allows you to get a direct url for exactly the area you're viewing at the moment. I can give you, for example, a direct link to a street level view of a museum in Chicago [google.com] or a park in Atlanta [google.com] or the Golden Gate Bridge [google.com]. Even though you got to them by searching, panning, and scrolling.

            Most apps don't bother letting you pass these sorts of parameters in, which is unfortunate. But it's certainly possible to encode all of this in a URL (and even,

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:05AM (#24045583)
    As long as there is a central place for me to go download my midget porn, the web will live on.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:34AM (#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.

  • What web? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by e03179 (578506) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:07AM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by T3Tech (1306739)
      Mod parent up. In that sense, the Web is more true to it's name than it ever was. And there's alot more spiders now.
  • Fluff or content? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thogard (43403) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:08AM (#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.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:34AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dave420 (699308)
        Ever used a Google Maps flash implementation? If you had, you'd realise just how powerful and useful flash on the web is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by IntlHarvester (11985) *

        Flash is not a particularly "new technology".

        It was being widely used for movie and design agency websites 10 years ago. It's only a couple years newer than HTML itself.

        Slashdot loves to yelp "oh noes flash!", but to a significant degree it's actually less popular as a web design element than it was 5 years ago.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

      So you're saying that Slashdot is fluff?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by erockett (784008)

      I'm currently studying New Media Design, which is proving to be largely about putting as much fluff into pages as possible. The more I look at Flash websites, the more I'm amazed at how little content there often is, and how frustrating they can be compared to a plain HTML page. Okay, the graphics are awesome, but I don't really like the trade-off with usability on many sites.

      I took Web Design and Implementation recently, and I was appalled at the reactions of my teammates on our term project. Everyone w

  • Depends... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:09AM (#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)
    • by suggsjc (726146)

      For the majority, they don't know the difference.

      I think that sentiment can be applied to just about anything these days...

  • This reminds me of what I started doing AI and we spent ages fussing over the definition of "intelligence".

    I asked my dad, who is an engineer, about it and he said: "who cares as long as it's doing something useful."

    I know, I know, we might get better leverage from new apps with a big paradigm shift and massive restructuring, but as long as what we're using still fulfills requirements, there needs to be a very strong argument for messing with it.

  • The web is an abstract term to describe the general topology of interconnected connected computers. It has nothing to do with interfaces, etc. This would be like asking is the internet still the internet now that most of it's users don't use lynx and gopher. It's a ridiculous statement.

    The web is merely a platform, what companies and software developers come up with to deliver what people and/or their customers want, is up to them.

    How is it different from the real world, the real world is a 'web' if you

    • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:36AM (#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.

    • Fix your idea... (Score:3, Informative)

      by ratboy666 (104074)

      Interconnected computers is a "network". I have a network at home. The "topology" is the picture that these make when connected. That is, 5 computers are connected in a "star topology". 3 more in a "star topology", and there is a "bus topology" connecting the two "stars".

      In turn, this network is connected to a cable modem, which connects this ENTIRE network to other networks. How? We are not sure of the topology, so we draw it as a "cloud".

      This "network of networks" is the "internet".

      Nothing to do with the

  • Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124)

    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 @11:12AM (#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 2short (466733)
      Yes, I've noticed that I find the web much less useful than I did in the mid nineties.... Oh, wait...
    • The web is quickly turning into television - a bunch of stupid avertisements created by stupid people geared for stupid consumers.

      And we like it that way!

      The web is still way better than anything else we got.

      To continue your metaphor, there's more channels than cable and satellite put together, so the odds are better that something somewhere is worth watching.

    • 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.

      Actually, I think my experience now is better than it was in the 90's. I no longer experience ads that shout or play loud music at me, I don't have flyover adds blocking my content, I don't have have to ignore the flashing monkey I'm supposed to click on, etc.

      Of course, I had to go through the minimal effort of choosing a browser and plugins that let me discard all the crap I don't want to see, but I think that's something that anybody could do with a short list of instructions nowadays.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by a-zarkon! (1030790)
      Plaintext ASCII. I don't see the need for anything more than courier and perhaps bold/italic/underline for emphasis. Bring back Gopher!
    • The more mainstream something becomes, the more useless it becomes. That's not a new development. Take whatever technology and look at the difference before and after the invasion of the idiots.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Links on the left!
      Links on the right!
      Web ads! Popups!
      Blight! Blight! Blight!

  • google (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:14AM (#24045737) Homepage

    In the sites I visit, it's still pretty rare to see content presented in flash that would more appropriately be presented in html. I assume this is because people want to get indexed by google and have a high page rank, and they know they won't get indexed if it's in flash. If that's the case, then it's actually a bad thing that google is going to start indexing flash content.

    As far as silverlight, what are the chances that it will succeed? I'm optimistic that it will fail. Although Windows has a high market share, especially in the US, IE doesn't have anywhere near that market share. There are entire countries in Europe where Firefox is the majority browser. I don't see how any web developer could commit themselves to silverlight when it means locking out so many users.

    • Re:google (Score:5, Interesting)

      by owlnation (858981) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:13PM (#24046857)

      I don't see how any web developer (with a conscience) could commit themselves to silverlight when it means locking out so many users.

      Fixed that for you. Sadly there are those who will use Silverlight regardless of the hassle it causes users. MLB.com is one example. In their retarded drive to drm their (free) video content on their site, they use Silverlight. Despite being a paying MLB.TV subscriber, I cannot get any of their video to work on Firefox whatsoever on my windows box, I have to use IE -- it is the ONLY site I use IE for. And nothing at all will play it on my G4 iMac. Not Safari, not Firefox -- nothing.

      If you are developer that works for a company that doesn't give flying fuck, about its customers choices then you'll cheerfully use Silverlight. And it's these developers that are the real enemy, they are the ones "only obeying orders". They need to be condemned more. They can stop this -- but they are cowards, and just as unethical as the suits they work for.

  • by rob1980 (941751) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:18AM (#24045809)
    That is, with 238% more lolcats, buttsecks, and social networking sites
  • The "W3B," dude.
  • "...should we be shoehorning these apps into the Web's infrastructure..."

    You might as well ask if we should be shoehorning data communications into lines laid for analog phones and TV.

    Is the web a quirky, limiting platform for app development? Sure. If you want a platform where as many people have and are comfortable with the client software is there an alternative? Nope.
  • 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.
    • I think the comparison is fitting.

      Instead of a thing that you had to play with a hint of skill to sound at least decent, you now have a thing that every moron can get some sort of ok sounding something out of. Of course, you need a lot more than just the thing, you need some amplifyer, some revib, some other thingamajig and a lot of electrical power, but hey, every moron can use it!

    • there is less difference between electric and acoustic guitars than many think. the only real differenece is that most electric guitars have a solid body and all of them have some kind of a pickup.

    • Acoustic and electric guitars are fundamentally different, but an electric guitar is still a guitar to a guitarist.

      Apparently we don't know the same guitarists.

  • 1 link? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bandman (86149) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .namdnab.> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:26AM (#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.

  • while the functionality (see any ads for a Gopher maintainer lately?) and access topology (the original Arpanet was by definition not commercial) have changed radically, the core definition is still valid. put a smiley behind www if you have to, but Your Connected Internet has grown up, and is chasing the almighty dollar like the rest of us.

  • if a peer cannot share files with another peer?
  • The question is really "what defines the Web?". If the Web is just any system of transport and file protocols over the Internet that allows for easy indexing and cross-server linking, then sure, what we have today is still the Web. Personally, I'd like to see a major change in the Web - forget HTML, forget CSS, I want a real client-server approach. I think that so long as the protocols are easy to use (or at least scalable - the average 14 year old OMGPONIES girl needs to be able to throw together a site
  • Redefine "the world wide web" to your own private definition that nobody has defined it as before, and then claim it's dead?

    Got news for you sparky, the web ain't dead.

  • by pla (258480)
    Is it still the Web if[...]

    Yes. All the "problems" you mention derive solely from your preconceived notions about what "the web" means.

    Directness of navigation, indexing, searching, and browser compatibility have nothing to do with "complies with HTTP".

    Now, in the last case (only certain clients or devices work), you can say that something using port 80 for non-HTTP traffic doesn't count as "the web"... But that seems like complaining that your PC doesn't run your favorite games when you use it as a
  • by exley (221867) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:34AM (#24046189) Homepage

    Does this really matter at all? For anything?

    • by raddan (519638) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:08PM (#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.

  • Now it's the Web plus plastic.
  • Bogus article. Adobe must have made a big PR push to get so much attention paid to their indexing tool for Flash. Google has been indexing .swf files for most of a year.

    As for "Web 2.0" adding execution capability, Java applets have been doing that for years. They work pretty well, and most browsers can run them. Most of the unpopularity of Java applets seems to stem from the fact that most of them look ugly, but that's not an inherent problem with applets. (Sun just has no clue about fonts.)

    The b

    • in all fairness, flash is also an annoyingly proprietary codec.

      The difference though is it's supported on pretty much all OSS platforms (if mozilla/firefox will install, then the plugin will run).

  • still the web (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flahwho (1243110)
    I suppose you'd like to only visit sites coded in HTML?
  • I can still type in an ip address with directory trees or a direct URL for a piece of content and 99% of the time i'll get what i was looking for.

    Sure macromedia has made the spidering on flash video's an annoying freakin whore to get to, but if your client doesn't blow you can still get the direct link to the raw flash (FLV extension) through it's version of safari's "activity" window.

    I can still load NTTP, and the technology still does a reasonable job of routing around censorship if you're savvy enough w

  • ...or is it actually designed to break the open web in the cause of Microsoft lock-in?
  • If it can't be archived, is it still web? Perhaps that's the main question that should be asked. So perhaps it's not a static web of hyperlinks and content anymore, but a dynamic web of everchanging content. But HTTP still defines the means for us to find content that has moved.

    Now, what about user generated content? How about Youtube videos that were removed by some greedy corporation? The inclusion of video and audio in web content is definitely changing the web - content is no longer text-only.

    And this b

  • 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.
  • Is [the Web] still the Web if you can't navigate directly to specific content?

    That's why web documents have internal hyperlinks ... and have since Berners-Lee's original ENQUIRE prototype.

    Is it still the Web if the content can't be indexed and searched?

    The Web (1980) predates the first search engine (Archie in 1990, Wandex in 1993) by at least a decade.

    Is it still the Web if you can only view the application on certain clients or devices?

    What, like a web-browser? Remember, a browser is a "certain [class of] clients": though they are ubiquitous now, they weren't always.

    Is it still the Web if you can't view source?

    Viewing source code has never been the primary interest of most users.

    In short, it sounds like the author is saying "ZOMG! The Web has changed." Well, guess what, bu

  • We had text only and liked it, now get off my lawn!
  • All the crap is depressing. I was looking for something Monday, and clicked on a link to someone's blog, and the browser just went into "not responding" mode. Happened on three different browsers on two different OSes. What the hell could some douchesack put in his blog that kills three fully up to date web browsers?

    There's just too much clutter. Gaming sites are the worst. Most of them make 5 Mbps broadband feel like dialup again. And too many pages where you get a header, and then nothing but white space

  • What makes the web and the internet "our" thing is the freedom of information, not the particular content it arrives in. People can use static text or embedded flash videos or whatever, it's an argument for techies and purists as to what's best. My concern is about what governments and corporations will try to do to stifle things.

    I remember what it was like before the internet (at least before I was on it.) Local dial-up BBS's, that's it. Want national or international chatter? Get on Fidonet and wait days

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