HTML and CSS Reference
In-Depth Information
The Internet gave us the ability to share information with global audiences. But it could still take a long time for
the information to be discovered, and we relied on things like email and forums to spread the word. Google changed
all that by making data much more discoverable. Even so, the speed of its page indexing meant that we would still
need to wait for our data to be discoverable via search. The invention of “live blogging” meant that we could receive
frequent updates if we knew where to look, and those destinations were frequently well known media brands.
Social media upped the ante and created a global network in which news could be shared as it occurred, by
anybody. Services like Twitter were our primary sources of information during events such as the revolution in Egypt
in 2011. 1 The first realtime web game-changer, however, was that for the first time, the instant that new information
was posted it was also discoverable through search. This started to demonstrate the value of instant access to
new information on the Internet, increased user expectation for “live content,” and even lead to the well-known
technology commentator Robert Scoble asking if “the real-time web was a threat to Google.” 2
Social media platforms were turning into realtime communication platforms. No sooner would you post a
status update, than you would get a reply from one or more users. This fast, interactive feedback was very new to the
majority of us who, outside of those of us that played Flash-based games, were used to Internet applications offering
only relatively static single-user experiences. This new multiuser interactive functionality leads to a much more
compelling and engaging user experience.
Media had evolved from offering delayed and static content to having the potential to be richer, live, and
interactive. Users saw these experiences and the expectations they now have of their Internet application has
dramatically increased.
Even with all this instant gratification, demonstrated by the Internet and social media, many sources still aren't
giving us our news as live content or offering us interactive and engaging experiences. Why not?
Web Sites, Not Web Apps
The Internet has traditionally been used to share static content. A web site was simply a structure of static entities
belonging to a single collection. The primary focus of a web site was to display its content, and the idea that “Content
is King” 3 hasn't changed for many. Even when we came up with technologies to create “dynamic content,” what we
actually meant was that our server could now dynamically generate static content based on a differing, but defined,
set of parameters and values.
The application we used to view the entities on the Internet, the Web Browser, naturally focused on ensuring
that it met the needs of the day: downloading and rendering HTML and images, and understanding how to following
links—and that was initially enough.
In the same way that forms of media were driven to evolve, so were our web sites. We wanted our web sites to
look much nicer, so we introduced CSS. We wanted them to be more reactive to user input (can you believe you used
to be able to charge for DHTML libraries? e.g., drop-down menus), so along came JavaScript (let's forget VBScript ever
existed). These technologies enhanced the capabilities of the Web Browser, but focused on letting us enhance pages
on our web site.
A few pioneers saw beyond static web sites and started thinking about dynamic web applications. With web apps,
the focus shifts away from the server to the client. The client has to do much more work; it retrieves and loads content
dynamically, it changes the user interface (UI) based on user feedback, and the UI is presented in a way that we would
be traditionally associated with a desktop application. There's much less focus on pages reloading and the concept of
a page in general. Content also becomes much less text-based, and we start to achieve much more visually appealing
and interactive representations of data within a web application.
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