Category: Opinion

The Future of the Open Web

I’ve spent a lot of time in my career writ­ing and talk­ing about future web fea­tures, from CSS3 to Web Com­po­nents. But I’ve recent­ly come to realise that, while I still think these fea­tures are impor­tant, I’ve been miss­ing out on the big­ger pic­ture: the sur­vival of the open web. That sounds hyper­bol­ic, I know, but so many arti­cles I’ve read, con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had, and behav­iours I’ve observed, have led me to the con­clu­sion that the open web, in the form we know it now, is under threat.

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On and Idealism vs. Pragmatism

I‚Äôve been think¬≠ing a lot recent¬≠ly about the clash between ide¬≠al¬≠ism and prag¬≠ma¬≠tism. I‚Äôve been work¬≠ing on the Web for many years, and for much of that time I‚Äôve tried to do things the ‚Äėright‚Äô way; stan¬≠dards-com¬≠pli¬≠ant, val¬≠i¬≠dat¬≠ed, mobile-first, respon¬≠sive, acces¬≠si¬≠ble, clean, exten¬≠si¬≠ble, etc. I‚Äôm def¬≠i¬≠nite¬≠ly not claim¬≠ing that I‚Äôve always suc¬≠ceed¬≠ed, but the inten¬≠tion and effort was there.

In the past few years the explo¬≠sive growth of the Web, and the devices used to access it, has meant a par¬≠al¬≠lel increase in the pow¬≠er and com¬≠plex¬≠i¬≠ty of the tools need¬≠ed to build it. And of course we want to make sites that are fast and light and per¬≠form com¬≠pet¬≠i¬≠tive¬≠ly with native apps. But I think in this sharp focus on the tech¬≠ni¬≠cal side of build¬≠ing, we risk los¬≠ing sight of why we are build¬≠ing, and who for.

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Web Components: concerns and opportunities

On the 21st of March I had the plea¬≠sure of par¬≠tic¬≠i¬≠pat¬≠ing in the Web Com¬≠po¬≠nents pan¬≠el at Edge Conf, and the priv¬≠i¬≠lege of giv¬≠ing the intro¬≠duc¬≠tion to the pan¬≠el. I‚Äôm a strong advo¬≠cate of Web Com¬≠po¬≠nents and it was great to be able to pro¬≠vide my opin¬≠ion on them, along¬≠side some real experts in the field, as well as hear ques¬≠tions and feed¬≠back from the com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ty. The main con¬≠cern which was raised is that, as devel¬≠op¬≠ers cre¬≠ate their own ele¬≠ments, some impor¬≠tant con¬≠sid¬≠er¬≠a¬≠tions ‚ÄĒ acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty not least ‚ÄĒ could get for¬≠got¬≠ten about.

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Code as she is wrote

There is a famous Por¬≠tuguese-Eng¬≠lish phrase¬≠book, pub¬≠lished in the 19th Cen¬≠tu¬≠ry, with the title ‚ÄúEng¬≠lish As She Is Spoke‚ÄĚ. It con¬≠tains many unin¬≠ten¬≠tion¬≠al¬≠ly hilar¬≠i¬≠ous trans¬≠la¬≠tions of words and expres¬≠sions, includ¬≠ing such famil¬≠iar phras¬≠es as ‚Äúthat are the dish¬≠es whose you must be and to abstain‚ÄĚ, and ‚ÄúI not make what to coug¬≠hand spit‚ÄĚ. The author, Pedro Car¬≠oli¬≠no, had the best of inten¬≠tions in pro¬≠duc¬≠ing this book, but suf¬≠fered from one major draw¬≠back: he did¬≠n‚Äôt speak Eng¬≠lish. The book was appar¬≠ent¬≠ly trans¬≠lat¬≠ed from an ear¬≠li¬≠er Por¬≠tuguese-French phrase¬≠book, using a French-Eng¬≠lish dictionary.

The rea¬≠son I bring this up is that I think this is a fair¬≠ly com¬≠mon prob¬≠lem in cod¬≠ing. Many peo¬≠ple know how to write code in order to get a result, but they don‚Äôt know the lan¬≠guage at hand in enough depth to realise that the result does¬≠n‚Äôt always make sense.

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Pride and Professionalism

It‚Äôs almost the end of 2012 and I‚Äôm wind¬≠ing down for the hol¬≠i¬≠days, so in lieu of new con¬≠tent I thought I‚Äôd share a few inter¬≠est¬≠ing quo¬≠ta¬≠tions I‚Äôve seen/heard/read recent¬≠ly, on pro¬≠fes¬≠sion¬≠al¬≠ism, pride in your work, and being cre¬≠ative. Cheers to you all, see you in 2013.

Aes¬≠thet¬≠ics are your prob¬≠lem and mine. Nobody else‚Äôs. I want every¬≠thing we do ‚ÄĒ that I do per¬≠son¬≠al¬≠ly, that our office does ‚ÄĒ to be beau¬≠ti¬≠ful. I don‚Äôt give a damn whether the client under¬≠stands that that‚Äôs worth any¬≠thing, or whether the client thinks it‚Äôs worth any¬≠thing, or whether it is worth any¬≠thing; it‚Äôs worth it to me. It‚Äôs the way I want to live my life. I want to make beau¬≠ti¬≠ful things, even if nobody cares. 

- Saul Bass

Once [Steve Jobs and his adop¬≠tive father Paul] were build¬≠ing a fence. And [Paul] said, ‚ÄúYou got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good look¬≠ing as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you‚Äôre ded¬≠i¬≠cat¬≠ed to mak¬≠ing some¬≠thing perfect.‚ÄĚ 

- Wal­ter Isaacson

To be real¬≠ly cre¬≠ative you have to deal with lone¬≠li¬≠ness and point¬≠less¬≠ness and you need to be bru¬≠tal¬≠ly hon¬≠est and crit¬≠i¬≠cal of your own thoughts and actions. It‚Äôs what makes great cre¬≠ators, inven¬≠tors and entrepreneurs. 

- Nico¬≠las Roope

Accessibility isn’t Optional

A new, light­weight datepick­er wid­get, Pickadate.js, was released recent­ly, and caused a few peo­ple to con­tact its cre­ator, @Amsul, regard­ing a lack of acces­si­bil­i­ty fea­tures in the code. His reply was quite depressing:

Our tar¬≠get mar¬≠ket does¬≠n‚Äôt need it [acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty], so its safe for us to use. 

Most of us, I’m sure, would admit that we could do a bet­ter job of mak­ing our web­sites acces­si­ble, but to active­ly state that a11y isn’t required seems wil­ful­ly stu­pid. I don’t know how you get to serve pages only to your tar­get mar­ket. I mean, this is the web; it’s pub­lic; stuff gets everywhere.

Through sheer serendip­i­ty I read an arti­cle by Karl Groves about an hour lat­er, which states clear­ly why a11y should be some­thing you con­cern your­self with: Yes, actu­al­ly, it may be you one day. He sums it up perfectly:

If you mar¬≠ket or devel¬≠op ICT prod¬≠ucts and ser¬≠vices and you‚Äôre still ignor¬≠ing acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty, you‚Äôre ignor¬≠ing the com¬≠ing real¬≠i¬≠ty. One day it will be you, or some¬≠one you know and love. 



I‚Äôve updat¬≠ed my Speak¬≠ing page to include more con¬≠fer¬≠ences, more videos, and a lit¬≠tle on my speak¬≠ing require¬≠ments and pref¬≠er¬≠ences. I‚Äôm plan¬≠ning to cut down on the num¬≠ber of talks I give in 2014 (twelve is too many), but am always open to inter¬≠est¬≠ing offers and oppor¬≠tu¬≠ni¬≠ties, so please get in touch if you‚Äôre organ¬≠is¬≠ing an event.

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