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The Internet Technology

Tim Bray On the Future of the Web 46

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bet-hedging dept.
snitch writes "In a recent interview at QCon SF 2008, Tim Bray talks about why he is not convinced with the buzz surrounding Rich Internet Applications and shares his ideas on Cloud Computing. He also expresses his opinion regarding the debate REST vs. WS-* and the future directions web technologies will be taking. Bray also addresses the way web technologies are affected by the current economic turmoil and gives his insight into which paradigms he sees going forward in these challenging times."
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Tim Bray On the Future of the Web

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  • Very nice interface for playing videos though..
    • What is said (or not said) that you think this 1/2 hr video is unworthy of a watch? I think much of what Tim says is quite relevant. For people who fail to think of the larger picture w.r.t. large scale web app development, his insight is quite apropos.
  • by phiz187 (533366)
    The design schematics for all the hardware and experiments from LHC are publicly available. By perusing the design schematics a talented amateur found a fundamental flaw that hundreds of experts spending millions of dollars missed.
  • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Monday March 23, 2009 @06:51PM (#27305021) Homepage Journal

    What he says about RIA might be controversial but there is some validity to what he says. There is a lot to be said for simplicity of interface and richness of content. That has been the hallmark of most great websites.

    That's not to say user interfaces couldn't be improved on the web through technologies such as AJAX, but I feel it should be used more as a condiment rather than the main course.

    I remember back in the 90's people kept saying "push" technologies will be the next big thing but that didn't seem to be the case.

    By the way, there was a cool presentation of the Sun Cloud [sun.com] at CommunityOne last week. It's pretty neat. I think that cloud computing should still abstract scaling from the user, but that may never happen or will take a lot longer to implement.

    Right now it's just like drawing a network diagram in Visio, except the symbols in your drawing represent actual virtual servers in the Sun Cloud. It's pretty neat. It will be interesting to see what the pricing will be like. They say they are planning on being price competitive with other platforms, which should mean it should be similar with Amazon's EC2???

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nextekcarl (1402899)

      I'm glad you posted that link, there are some interesting things in the second chapter.

      I had lunch with Tim Bray at RailsConf 2007 one day by chance and he's one of the more personable geeks I've had that chance to meet. He has some interesting ideas, and I think he has a good grasp on the way things are likely to actually pan out in the next few years.

    • by pallmall1 (882819)

      What he says about RIA might be controversial but there is some validity to what he says. There is a lot to be said for simplicity of interface and richness of content.

      The marketing types are trying to push RIA to the masses, and it doesn't always fit there. It can lead to a lot of bloat and complexity for the user (the web page with the interview is evidence of that). I think the real place for RIA is in the niche market, where specialized information can be processed presented in a less complicated wa

    • There is a lot to be said for simplicity of interface and richness of content. That has been the hallmark of most great websites.

      I couldn't agree more. All these "hot new technologies" companies are trying to push really just serve to build upon the foundation of what the Web is all about: easily accessible content that you can reliably view with a wide variety of devices (both high and low-powered).

    • by bonch (38532) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @02:08AM (#27308521)

      The thing that bugs me about the new web application push is that we spent 30 years creating operating systems with standard application APIs, and now everyone is trying to throw that work out and start totally from scratch for every website. It's an odd idea to run an operating system to run a application to run an application.

      • by genik76 (1193359)
        The browser is the terminal of the 21st century.
      • I personally blame Microsoft. No, really. Remember the happy days of yore when you could effortlessly run commercial applications from removable media, and run them from any machine you made bodily contact with at the moment? Just to name one particular one, WordPerfect4.x. Amiga, PC, I had purchased copies of both. What happened? Microsoft began pushing the wacky idea of "installing" programs in ways that sprayed and splattered them across the hard drive, so you COULDN'T easily run them on arbitrary comput

      • ... we spent 30 years creating operating systems with standard application APIs, and now everyone is trying to throw that work out and start totally from scratch ...

        There are a lot of APIs: POSIX, Linux-specific, Win32, MFC, .Net, Cocoa, Java, Swing, CPAN, Qt, etc., (and none of these are web-related) and more are being created all the time. It's not a new phenomenon.

        • by bonch (38532)

          But the standard application APIs are Win32, Cocoa, and QT/GTK. Web application developers are remaking things like mail applications using from-scratch APIs when we already have mail applications developed for the operating system using rich, native APIs, with all the associated advantages. It's as if we're going back to MS-DOS where there's no windowing system or standard APIs, and everyone is reinventing the wheel for each website, and now you have to run an application to run an application. What's w

          • But the standard application APIs are Win32, Cocoa, and QT/GTK ...

            Really? What are their respective ANSI or ISO standards numbers? The only one in my original list that is actually is true standard is POSIX. Win32 is no more a standard than any given module on CPAN is.

            • That's why 99% of us use unique keyboard layouts - it's because there was no ANSI or ISO around to give it a number.

            • by bonch (38532)

              Oh, you're one of those guys who splits hairs to have something to argue about. Believe it or not, the word "standard" doesn't mean "has an ISO or ANSI number." You know, like how Win32 is the standard API for developing Windows application? Or wearing pants is standard attire for most humans?

              • No. Win32 is just an API for programming for Windows. It's not any kind of ANSI/ISO-ratified standard. It's not even a Microsoft standard because there's also MFC and .Net. It's not a standard by any definition. Also, a "standard" in relation to computers and engineering has a very strict meaning as opposed to a social "standard" ("custom," really).
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 23, 2009 @07:32PM (#27305535) Homepage

    The article itself is a perfect example of what can go wrong when you use javascript, etc., inappropriately. They make you look at the article through a keyhole, and you can't make the keyhole bigger. The answers are also hidden behind these little plus-sign icons, which you have to click on. Hmm...so much for access for people with disabilities. Here's the full text in -- ahem -- html.

    ***

    Hi my name is Dionysios Synodinos and we are here at QCon San Francisco with Tim Bray from Sun Microsystems, to talk about the Future of the Web. Mister Bray with all the buzz about Rich Internet Applications there are many that believe that the future of the Web is synonymous to RIA technologies. What do you think of the RIA notion in general?

    So when people talk about Rich Internet Applications unfortunately what they seem to usually mean is like Flash. Things that respond to key strokes and wiggle and morph and have video and move around, and they say that we need these things because the web needs to be more responsive, and more immersive and more reactive, and I am generally speaking massively unconvinced. I am old enough to remember before the web when everybody spent all day every day dealing with reactive immersive response compelled applications usually written in Visual Basic or Motif or something like that and mostly really bad. Because designing user interfaces is a hard thing and most of them aren't done well and most of them are bad.

    When the web came along people shriked with glee and universally abandoned all those rich immersive responsive pre-internet applications and ran into the arms of the web. I can remember like yesterday content management conference that was held sometimes in the middle late nineties and it was a woman from a large manufacturing company talking about the content management for the technical documentation, which was a pretty big project, and she said "Oh it was so great when the vendors all brought in the web interfaces because it forced them to get rid of all these weird cascading menus and options that nobody ever used, and brutally simplified everything down" and at the end of the day the interface the browser presents is something that people are comfortable with. Over the years since then I have regularly and steadily heard them saying: "We need something that is more immersive, more responsive, more interactive".

    Every time without exception that somebody said that to me, they have either been a developer or a vendor who wants to sell the technology that is immersive or responsive, or something like that. I have not once in all those years heard an ordinary user say "Oh I wish we go back to before the days of the web when every application was different and idiosyncratic ... ". On the other hand richness is a good thing but I would rather take an old fashioned point of view and if you look at the world's most popular actual real Internet applications you'll see things like Google and Facebook and Wikipedia, and so on kind of which I play all day web applications, and they are rich all right, they are rich because they expose you to lots of deep high quality content and allow you to communicate with interesting people and I think a dollar with that kind of richness is worth a thousand dollars of things that wiggle when you put the mouse over them So I tend to be highly cynical about this whole subject.

    To the extend that web applications need to become richer, do you think Ajax is the horse to bet on? Also do you think that web browser is sufficiently interactive to facilitate highly engaging user experience?

    Regarding the answer to the last question, the answer to this one will be fairly obvious. Yes, I mean Ajax is getting awfully good in particular with the advances that are being made in the browser technology with the increased compatibility between things like Firefox and Safari and so on and the new canvas element and the fact that the new browsers have these fantastically high performance JavaScript engines in them. I s

    • by QuincyDurant (943157) on Monday March 23, 2009 @08:39PM (#27306303)
      You really did prove Bray's point--that content often trumps form.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bcrowell (177657)

        You really did prove Bray's point--that content often trumps form.

        It's actually kind of hilarious to go back and read the contents of what Bray said and compare it with the way they presented the interview on the web site. There's this, for instance:

        I can remember like yesterday content management conference that was held sometimes in the middle late nineties and it was a woman from a large manufacturing company talking about the content management for the technical documentation, which was a pretty big

    • The article itself is a perfect example of what can go wrong when you use javascript, etc., inappropriately. They make you look at the article through a keyhole, and you can't make the keyhole bigger.

      Judging from a few paragraphs, the text is more readable if you look at line-wrapped HTML source.

      That is fail :(

  • I'm right behind his point in the first paragraph - that RIA is pushed by vendors, and users just want plain/simple/familiar HTML.

    And yet the web site has packaged these comments up in a nasty little scrolling window that you have to click and scroll and fiddle with every couple of lines - all so they can show lots of marketing gumph, which I studiously ignored.

    • so they can show lots of marketing gumph, which I studiously ignored.

      What? There was gumph? Apparently I'm banner blind...

  • My feeling is that "Web 2.0" was a giant waste of time distraction, and "we" should have kept on with what xml is doing at a high level. But people got put off by cooperating.

  • "Rich Internet Applications"
    You mean like web browsers, IRC clients, email, streaming video? Those things are pretty convincingly useful.
    Reading the article I discovered that this was actually an incorrect reference to 'web applications'. The internet is not just the web.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I once thought Tim was so right on, but seems somewhat lost here. No one I'm aware of is asking for "flash" like web apps, in fact I think folks realized about 4-5 years ago that such flash/multimedia container applications were outdated. Tim has many solid points, but seems a bit out of phase with modern web development.

    • You COMPLETELY missed what he said. He specifically said that "no one is asking for RIA...except for vendors and developers".

      I actually take very few exceptions to what Tim has to say in that video. I believe he is bang on w.r.t. multi-core, REST, (lack of) RIA, the strength of HTTP and the lack of evidence supporting a need for push-based applications (i.e. the argument that poll-based doesn't scale is completely invalidated by the fact that it does as RSS, twitter, email and a host of other very larg

  • His argument sounds a bit like the old question "Why can't UI's be as simple as a toaster?" Of course, the answer is "they can be if you're just making toast".

    The UI for Google search is simple because basic search is simple. If you need to do an advanced search, it's a bit more complicated.

    Sure we've gone through 10 fonts in a letter, blinking text on web pages, gratuitous flash, etc, but complex applications will not be useful if their interface is oversimplified.

  • We need a "GUI Browser" standard. HTML+DOM+JavaScript+CSS is not working well and is too easily sabotaged by MS. We need a Rich-GUI-Over-HTTP standard that allows desktop-like GUI's to be produced and that natively supports outline-trees, editable data-grids, right-clicking, combo-boxes, and all the other stuff we love about real GUI's. That's what we really want and really need.

    Let's stop bending our current browsers, meant for e-brochures, not GUI's, over beyond what they were made for. I miss developing

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