Talking to a brick wall...

Rants & Raves

Rants & Raves

The Future of the Web

The Future of the Web

Now, let me make clear, before you call me an idiot, that I have paid no attention at all to the development of web standards in the last few years. But when I saw this something called CSS, I had no idea what the W3C was talking about.
    Fortunately, that changed very quickly, and after a week or two of browsing around at Western Civilization, A List Apart (from which I have heavily borrowed for my current Rant format, hopefully to your benefit!), and the like, I was well informed of the current state of the web and all of its accompanying technologies.

As it turns out, CSS is the place, once your content is stripped to just that, where all your style and formatting go. This has several advantages and disadvantages.
     The main disadvantage is that it is, of course, more difficult to manage two different files for one page—one for content and one for style—but this problem disappears as you realize that you can use the same style sheet for any number of pages. It also could be problematic to have to consider all things as members of a certain class of information, but this is how HTML is designed anyway.
    A beautiful advantage of style sheets, however, and the one that I am most concerned with right now, is the fact that by having separated style and content, the style becomes an optional component, for those things capable of displaying it.

In the near future, we will have a large number of web browsing systems which are not traditional computers. I've already mentioned them, but the main examples are Palmtops and Web-enabled phones. Certain internet appliances are also likely to appear over the years.
    What is important about these is that many of them will have neither any need nor the ability to display the style and formatting that we currently consider to be universal web standards.

This is where I think CSS really may have an opportunity to really shine. By being separated from content, it makes style to some extent scalable.
    If a web page was coded the 'old way' (Why the quotes? I'll get to that.) then the poor internet appliance's browser would likely be bogged down by all sorts of things. Font tags all over the place, large tables for layout, yet more tables for even more layout, maybe frames... Not a pretty picture for something with a 33Mhz processor and 4-8Mb RAM.
    With 'new' web pages, or those coded with CSS, the browser could be set specifically to ignore style sheets and just display the page as simply as possible. Or, perhaps, the browser could do a quick scan of the sheet and apply the basic rules it was capable of... without having to go through endless calculations for each particular element that was put into a certain font style. Who knows, maybe the page author could specify different sheets for different broad, standardized media types.

All of this is potentially so nice looking, so idealized, that there has to be some big catch somewhere. >>

  1. In the beginning...
  2. What, no style?
  3. The concept of scalability
  4. But what about the old guys?
  5. Where we're headed