It seems like the world wide web is forever playing catch-up. Back in the ’90s, the web was competing with CD-ROMs and coming up short …at least in terms of what could be technically accomplished. CD-ROMs offered richer interactivity, better visuals, and the possibility of using audio. But in the long run, that didn’t matter. CD-ROMs just couldn’t compete with the sheer vastness of the world wide web.
Later on, Macromedia (and later, Adobe) Flash went toe-to-toe with the web. Once again, it seemed like the web couldn’t match its competitor for animation, audio, and video. And yet, once again, the web outlasted its flashier counterpart.
More recently, we’ve seen a re-run of this same story in the world of mobile. Compared to native apps, the web just doesn’t appear to offer the same level of rich interactivity. But even here, I suspect that the web will still be stronger than ever long after the craze for native apps has faded away.
Each one of these proprietary technologies—CD-ROMs, Flash, native apps—could be interpreted as a threat to the open web, but I prefer to see them as the web’s R’n’D department. There’ll always be some competing technology that superficially appears to be gunning for the web’s dominance. In reality, these technologies demonstrate what kind of features web developers are looking for from browsers and standards bodies. If it weren’t for Flash, would we even have CSS animations? If it weren’t for native apps, would there be so much work put into providing access to device APIs?
The web will always be lagging behind some other technology …and that’s okay. Over time, the web’s feature set grows and grows, all the while maintaining backward-compatibility (something sorely missing from those competing technologies). The growth of the web’s feature-set might sometimes appear to be painfully slow, but it’s worth taking a step back every now and then to see how far we’ve come.
This book is like a snapshot of the cutting edge of what’s possible in web browsers today. The progress we’ve made might surprise you. It certainly surprised me. I’m somewhat flabbergasted by how much we can accomplish now with audio, video, and animations. And there’s no better person than Shane to do the flabbergasting. He’s like the Doogie Howser of web development. (Ask your parents.)
So settle in for a wild ride. Shane Hudson is going to take you to the edge.