2009: The Year the Web Coalesced?Jan 16, 2010 In Web Culture By Hans Hugli
The web has its flaws and shortcomings, and it’s easy to rant and mumble about all that’s wrong. But here, I’m going resist the urge to scrutinize and instead reflect on all the good things the webosphere has brought us in the recent past
First off, Happy New Year!
Every January, I try to take inventory and reflect on what’s happened over the course of the past year. The new year is the time to take a look at the good, bad and ugly—to examine what needs to change and what to continue doing.
The web has its flaws and shortcomings, and it’s easy to rant and mumble about all that’s wrong. But here, I’m going resist the urge to scrutinize and instead reflect on all the good things the webosphere has brought us in the recent past.
While great web technologies have been around for many years, a growing number of web sites and web developers started to realize the real potential of the web in this past year. They built robust, practical, intelligent applications that are useful across browsers. I saw far fewer sites using gratuitous tricks to get users’ attention, and far more integrated and highly designed user experiences.
I also recall a time when the services I needed to build applications that accessed and tied together disparate information were simply not available. Today this is no longer the norm.
Us + Them
While I know that web sites are still fiercely competitive, last year I saw them learning to work together amicably and respecting that customers want to interact with other web sites—even potentially competitive ones. They’re not locking site data away in a database somewhere as often happens in product price comparisons. This burgeoning “shopping mall effect” helps everyone, and I find that fantastic.
What Was Good?
Social Media Sites – While there is disenchantment with Social Media sites among some influencers,the numbers don’t really reflect that (yet). I’ve found at least a dozen lost friends on Facebook that I thought I’d never hear from again. I have access and contribute to a greater consciousness on sites like Twitter and Digg and Delicious. All these sites expose services that allow web developers to consume,combine, contribute and share information, making social media far more useful.
Browsers – Technologies that enable rich experiences in our browsers have been available for a while, but they’ve become more popular with time. It’s wonderful to see web developers consistently using technologies such as AJAX and jQuery + backend services to build rich, beautiful and productive cross-browser user experiences. In my opinion, 2009 was the year that the greater web realized it was feasible to use web clients as powerful applications.
News & Information – Blogs, Microblogs, RSS Feeds and my favorite, Wikipedia, have replaced paper publications as my primary source for news and information. RSS readers and tools such as FriendFeed aggregate information and let us efficiently sift through large amounts of information. New tools that make it easier to get to content that matters are cropping up all the time. Without RSS feeds, web services, and an overriding ethos of sharing information on the web, none of this would be possible.
Web Services (XML/JSON) – REST services have become the key to accessing those once impenetrable silos of information. I was involved with web services very early on, but I never anticipated how popular they would become (they were a hard sell early on). MySpace recently announced new developer API’s, for instance, which is very exciting. Web services are the magic ingredient in what advanced web sites are doing today and will enhance their capabilities more with time.
The Year the Web Coalesced
Overall, I think the web really started to come together in 2009. Clear lines were drawn between useful, robust, user-focused, and sharing web apps and the self-serving, archaic, hoarding ones of the past. These changes benefit the entire ecosystem: businesses, web developers and end users alike. It seems that a new API is being launched every week and that each one opens up vast new possibilities—especially when combined in new and unexpected ways. It’ll be very exciting to see what 2010 brings us!
What Great Things Did You Notice?!
Have you noticed a difference in the way sites share information recently? What has the web brought you that you never thought it could or would? What did you see on the web in the last year that surprised or excited you? Leave a comment or if you tweet, follow us on Twitter to learn about new content, opinions and articles.