Monday, February 25, 2013

The Web Shaped By Applications

The web used to be composed of simple pages. It still is, to a degree, but less and less so. For example, Wikipedia is the active giant still spewing forth pages rich with information. There are plenty of news sites, and blogs just like this one that I wouldn't consider applications. But less and less so. Instead, we're craving the interactivity brought about by applications. The information is still there, just arranged, and curated differently. Instead of a monolithic blob, such as this post, the pieces of information are fragmentary. Not necessarily incomplete, but defined by a work-flow different from what we're used to. Will there be a need for pages in the future when the web is composed of powerful applications that allow us to better carve out the chunks we need at that moment?

Some may view the traditional format by which humans consume information inefficient. This is, generally speaking, the book format. It's chief constituent the page. The page is near the front of the book, near the middle of the book, or perhaps near the end of the book. The page is related to other pages. These relations include next, previous and typically have a zero-based index. It is safe to say that the web borrows a page from the book format. Oh, and each page has information on it too, which is most definitely a secondary idea to the relationship between the different pages. The web of pages. The page content is arbitrary, as is the page size, in terms of web architecture. So where did this idea of pages break down? At what point did we decide that applications must be the ruling force for all internet users instead of information in it's nearly raw form?

Is because we can a satisfactory answer? It certainly has something to do with the growing onslaught of browser capabilities. Something where a basic web page would suffice ten years ago no longer needs to hold back. We can give the users their interactivity. We can make their chore of publishing and collecting information a maze, around every bend a new feature to learn. So, yes, I do think part of the complexity in web applications is due to because we can. But another part is due to the hidden connections. The urge for developers to hide the fact that this is a web page, it has some information on it, but here are some other related pages should you not find what you're looking for here. The connections that define the web of information need not be hidden. Regardless of what we're connecting, be it two pages of information, or two micro-applications, we should keep these relationships out in the open.