Around the web the usual suspects are beginning their yearly bets on what’s next and what’s dead. Interestingly enough, I was cleaning out some old files (yes, paper) and I discovered a binder that I had created back in 1998 of some CNET articles. The first of the two articles was entitled “Top 10 Overrated Web Building Products and technologies” by Fredric Paul (7/8/98) on Builder.com. Builder.com has definitely changed a lot over the years. I won’t copy the articles verbatim but I will highlight the top 10 points with some thoughts.
No.10: Java on the browser
- This I happen to agree with as Java Applets thankfully disappeared and Flash has done a great job of replacing this sort of interactivity
No.9: Plug-ins – RealPlayer, VivoActive Player, Macromedia Flash and Shockwave, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Headspace’s Beatnik, Life Picture Viewer, mBed
- Bandwidth intensive websites and applications were definitely an excess during those days and you were lucky if you got a non-pixelated version of a 120 by 120 screen in Real Player to view. Most websites give you many choices and four have emerged in this area as standards. (Real, Windows Media Player, Quicktime, Flash) Flash will most likely win this battle as it becomes easy to port content between different formats
No.8: Push – PointCast, Marimba
- Pointcast could probably now be called a combination of widgets and RSS. Konfabulator and feeds push content to most folks nowadays. If pointcast would have opened their network and allowed other people to develop and push content they would still be thriving today.
No.7: Video on the Web
- At the time video on the internet was unheard of but GooTube has definitely made video watching a past time. I think Paul was trying to say here that viewing video wasn’t a necessity at that point because bandwidth had not caught up with demand.
No.6: Open Source
- I completely disagree with this one because it is open source that has spurned the Web 2.0 era and lowered development costs considerably. The LAMP stack is what the majority of small websites are written on and now with the Rails platform there are more options then ever to lower costs.
- Where on earth did this go?
No.4: Surfing the Web without a computer
- See iPhone, Smart PDA Phones – I think he was referring to browsing on your TV or your refrigerator. Personally I would love to have a smart fridge that enables me to do a quick inventory and then I can submit my order directly to freshdirect.com
No.3: The need for speed
- People wanted interactive content then and they probably couldn’t live without it now. Why this was overrated is a puzzle to me because even with 56k modems I was straining my eyes to view small video windows.
- See number 3 – I don’t know what the difference was here.
- The definition of a portal has become a fuzzy one as social networking sites might be considered portals. The reason being is that homepages are an aggregation of what is going on within that community.
The second article in the series is “Top 10 underrated Web Building products and technologies” by Fredric Paul (8/5/98).
- This is definitely true as AJAX has fevered the Web Twenty movement
No. 9: Web Advertising
- In 1998 web advertising blew up company valuations and preceded the great web 1.0 crash. While advertising does drive the web now there is a difference in the way ads are presented. Google ads are certainly the main difference in this category and have given even the smallest of publishers the ability to make a few dollars.
No. 8: XML
- XML lends itself to RSS, OPML, XHTML, etc. These are the most exciting things of this era in Internet technology.
No. 7: Cookies
- While I don’t like things that track me around the Internet, especially one site tracking my habits elsewhere, I do like the fact that I can return to a site and it already knows my settings, my logins, etc. It saves me time and hassle.
No. 6: Testing
- This is certainly true but this day in age everything seems to be in beta. Your public launch is your alpha and beta and you are constantly testing and revising. There is no such thing as a perfect launch anymore. Release early and release often.
No. 5: Style Sheets
- Separating content from style was one of the smartest things to do. CSS has become the standard in which we develop sites.
No. 4: Graceful degradation
- The fact that most people nowadays want all the latest and greatest stuff means that developers have to worry less about going back 3 versions to be compatible with an older browser. Style sheets actually lend a helping hand that if the styles are not accepted in a browser it shows a format which is still viewable. Some applications that have been built online with AJAX style controls have issues with degradation but the benefits of upgrading outweigh the hassle.
No. 3: Email
- Email was underrated in 1998? Wow.
No. 2: Hand-coded HTML
- With WYSIWG editors not handling CSS very well, most developers/designers are turning to hand coding anyway. This is a necessity when changing style sheets as display and content are only connected through a link which calls the stylesheet.
No. 1: Content
- Content is king. User generated content that is. Social networks, YouTube, Flickr, etc are leading the way.
It may be cliche but the best way to plan for the future is to learn from the past. This binder has some really old school articles that I am going to try to cover from time to time. I think it may be something useful to take a look at in terms of long term technology trends. You can see that there are some real standouts on these lists and some while we remember them in their hay day, no longer exist. I think the overrated list is quite fascinating and representative of the technology maturity at the time and not the benefits.
If you want to share some old articles of your own that you have found interesting. Tag them Old School Tech in de.licio.us or on your blog.Here are a few of my predictions and if not predictions, what should happen this year to benefit us all.
- Bloggers will receive some sort of amateur press credentials to cover events more easily
- Bloggers will be included in industry journalistic awards with a dedicated category
- A new metric for tracking inline (ajax) page views will be developed easing advertisers/publishers concerns over page views and unique visitors
- A collapse of feature based startups – i.e. features not companies. General Web..ahem..twenty frothiness continues due to low development costs and barriers to entry. A mature market will emerge with financially stable companies who aren’t just bleeding investment capital.
- I buy a first generation iPhone and it sets my rug on fire due to overheating.
Here are some other links around the web predicting the good, the bad, and the ugly –
Information Architects JP
Ross Dawson blog
Now and next
Top trends Now and Next
PSFK 2007 trends
Forbes 2007 Predictions Sneak Peek