Well, A List Apart has a big wake-up call/rant this morning.
Time To Close The Web? by Alan Herell, the head lemur at lemurzone.com and a member of The Web Standards Project.
Read it. Sure, he's shouting and pounding on the table -- he wants some attention. He wants to get this read and discussed. And it should be. I don't disagree with that.
Some years ago, almost pre web, I was in a nightclub with the techno pounding and the vid screens were playing samples of computer animation. A non-computer guy I knew watched these over his beer for a while and then said, "But what are these FOR?" It took me a while to gear down [note the location; I was not church sober or clear headed just then] and I finally said, "We're playing. It isn't for anything yet. We've got to play with things before we can figure out how to use them."
Like Herell said, 50% of the people on the net just came online in the last year. So you don't think we're still just figuring out this medium? Just because you might have been on the net since before the web, you think you know what it's for? You think it has stabilized into a knowable shape? Of course you'll have ideas about this, but do you really think something bigger isn't going to happen?
We're not even close to finding all the pieces of this toyset. It's going to be a very long while before we know what it's for.
Dig into your memories of early interviews with guys like Woz with the Apple 1. When they were asked what people were going to do with personal computers, they would get thoroughly tongue-tied and come up with laughably vague examples. They knew computers were going to make a huge difference, but they couldn't say what. They only knew for certain it would be very very big.
A few years ago the same thing was happening with talk about networking the home. Every time the media would ask, What do you mean you're going to connect EVERYthing to the net?, somebody would always repeat this inane example that the appliance company could then diagnose your refrigerator problem immediately and possibly even fix it by uploading a patch. Huh? Am I unusual in that my fridges usually don't break? And that they don't need anything with 1's and 0's to patch? Am I really supposed to get excited by the idea that the fridge could tell my car to remind me to pick up milk on the way home? Oh I get it: These guys are just lost again. Same disease -- they know it will be big but can't say just how big till they get the tools out here where people can play with them.
So I just can't quite join in with the head lemur on this call to arms. Yes, I understand there's some serious garbage happening right now and wake-up calls are in order, but, you know ... the kids -- the ones who were born after the mouse -- they are turning 16. They will be kicking ass for the next 4 to 15 years. They know these toys/tools we've got now better than anyone, and they will inhale the new tools like so much extra jet fuel. I think what they are going to do with the web is going to make the battles we are trying to fight today look as insignificant as an ant war.
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© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 28 April 2000