I love just about every answer that Martin Rees gives in this wide-ranging interview.
Prompted by my talk, The State Of The Web, Brian zooms out to get some perspective on how browser power is consolidated.
The web is made of clients and servers. There’s a huge amount of diversity in the server space but there’s very little diversity when it comes to clients because making a browser has become so complex and expensive.
But Brian hopes that this complexity and expense could be distributed amongst a large amount of smaller players.
10 companies agreeing to invest $10k apiece to advance and maintain some area of shared interest is every bit as useful as 1 agreeing to invest $100k generally. In fact, maybe it’s more representative.
We believe that there is a very long tail of increasingly smaller companies who could do something, if only they coordinated to fund it together. The further we stretch this out, the more sources we enable, the more its potential adds up.
What I want instead is an anarchist web browser.
Throw away everything and start again and focus intensely about what people care about when it comes to the web.
This speculative version of the internet archive invites you to see how websites will look in 2046.
How do you keep knowledge alive over centuries? Stuff that seems big enough for a group of people to worry about at the time, but not so big it makes world news. Not the information that gets in all the textbooks, but just the stuff that makes the world gently tick over.
The World Wide Web at its best is a mechanism for people to share what they know, almost always for free, and to find one’s community no matter where you are in the world.
A terrific piece by Jonathan Zittrain on bitrot and online digital preservation:
Too much has been lost already. The glue that holds humanity’s knowledge together is coming undone.
Wait a minute. There is no real difference between the dataome—our externalized world of books and computers and machines and robots and cloud servers—and us. That means the dataome is a genuine alternative living system here on the planet. It’s dependent on us, but we’re dependent on it too. And for me that was nerve-wracking. You get to the point of looking at it and going, Wow, the alien world is here, and it’s right under our nose, and we’re interacting with it constantly.
I like this Long Now view of our dataome:
We are constantly exchanging information that enables us to build a library for survival on this planet. It’s proven an incredibly successful approach to survival. If I can remember what happened 1,000 years ago, that may inform me for success today.
Good to see Google, Mozilla, and Apple collaborating on fixing cross-browser CSS compatability issues:
- position: sticky
You can track progress here.
In 1990, the science fiction writer Douglas Adams produced a “fantasy documentary” for the BBC called Hyperland. It’s a magnificent paleo-futuristic artifact, rich in sideways predictions about the technologies of tomorrow.
I remember coming across a repeating loop of this documentary playing in a dusty corner of a Smithsonian museum in Washington DC. Douglas Adams wasn’t credited but I recognised his voice.
Hyperland aired on the BBC a full year before the World Wide Web. It is a prophecy waylaid in time: the technology it predicts is not the Web. It’s what William Gibson might call a “stub,” evidence of a dead node in the timeline, a three-point turn where history took a pause and backed out before heading elsewhere.
Here, Claire L. Evans uses Adams’s documentary as an opening to dive into the history of hypertext starting with Bush’s Memex, Nelson’s Xanadu and Engelbart’s oNLine System. But then she describes some lesser-known hypertext systems…
In 1985, the students at Brown who encountered Intermedia had never seen anything like it before in their lives. The system laid a world of information at their fingertips, saved them hours at the library, and helped them work through tangles of thought.
An excellent explanation of the new
text-edge properties in CSS, complete with an in-depth history of leading in typography.
(I’m very happy to finally have a permanent link to point to about this, rather than a post on Ev’s blog.)
Chromium browsers—Chrome, Edge, et al.—are getting a much-needed update to some interface elements like the
progess element, the
meter element, and the
color input types.
Excellent news! All the major browsers have agreed to freeze their user-agent strings, effectively making them a relic (which they kinda always were).
For many (most?) uses of UA sniffing today, a better tool for the job would be to use feature detection.
This is good news. I have third-party cookies disabled in my browser, and I’m very happy that it will become the default.
It’s hard to believe that we ever allowed third-party cookies and scripts in the first place. Between them, they’re responsible for the worst ills of the World Wide Web.
When one company decides which ideas are worth supporting and which aren’t, which access problems matter and which don’t, it stifles innovation, crushes competition, and opens the door to excluding people from digital experiences.
So how do we fight this? We, who are not powerful? We do it by doubling down on cross-browser testing. By baking it into the requirements on every project, large or small. By making sure our colleagues, bosses, and clients know what we’re doing and why.
Mozilla comes out with all guns blazing:
Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet. By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google.
Microsoft Edge: Making the web better through more open source collaboration - Windows Experience BlogWindows Experience Blog
The marketing people at Microsoft are doing their best to sell us on the taste and nutritional value of their latest shit sandwich piece of news.
We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Losing [browser] engines is like losing languages. People may wish that everyone spoke the same language, they may claim it leads to easier understanding, but what people fail to consider is that this leads to losing all the culture and way of thought that that language produced. If you are a Web developer smiling and happy that Microsoft might be adopting Chrome, and this will make your work easier because it will be one less browser to test, don’t be! You’re trading convenience for diversity.
When’s the last time you can remember that a framework was given preferential treatment like AMP has been given? You could argue that it’s a format, like RSS, but no one has ever tried to convince developers to build their entire site in RSS.
I’m with Tim on his nervousness about Google’s ever-increasing power in the world of web standards.
Monocultures don’t benefit anyone.