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The Open Web: Can it deliver?

It’s ringing through my head as Microsoft releases Silverlight, as Adobe forces another version of Flash or Air, and as Sun tries to push JavaFX into the spotlight. It’s a dark whisper when I read how many still use old browsers (hello IE6!), or when I see Javascript being used poorly by otherwise knowledgeable programmers. It’s getting obvious when people complain over how hard and hacky HTML and CSS is.

People are simply not getting their job done fast enough. Just because we’ve hacked and hacked to the point of getting used to it, doesn’t mean our way of writing web apps is the best way. In the end it about delivering to end users or paying clients, and they care more about what you deliver than how. I’m not saying we are working slower than before, it’s the opposite, new tools makes web development less annoying. But I am saying that we get less work done in relation to the expectations.

So what do they expect? Well, they want flashy effects. The want application behavior. They want snappy response times, bright colors, and “Wow!”-reactions. For our clients, the web is getting more crowded every day and they need to fight harder and harder for people’s attention. That means you need to fight harder on their behalf.

Say you are a pro open standards developer, like me. What tools do you have to grab people’s attention? Valid HTML? DIVs with fading color? AJAX? No way man. A good Flash developer can get a wow reaction by the time you’ve chosen doctype (or at least by the time you’ve booted IE6).

So you turn to Google, and look for the latest and hottest in standards development. And you find that you need to use Javascript and Flash (sIFR) to render custom fonts. You find that you need to use (Adobe) Photoshop to add highlights and shadows on your headers. You find that you have to hack severely to be able to use alpha transparent images. To do any kind of animation, you need a big Javascript library, because browser makers have not yet (yes, it’s 2008) been able to collaborate on how the language should work.

You say that standards have to take time. That everyone needs to come together and thoroughly discuss important issues. The right committees and councils needs to be formed. Meanwhile Microsoft prepares for the release of Silverlight 2.

Have you no sense of urgency?

Friendly Bit is a blog by Emil Stenström, a Swedish web developer that occasionally gets ideas of how to improve the internet.