A Common Interface

When people say something I want to respond to, I respond to it. And other people are, hopefully, responding to me if I say something interesting. When I respond to what others write, it is a compliment. It means that what was said definitely got my interest, regardless of whether I agree with what was said or not. When people respond to me, I take it as a compliment, even when they call me nasty things. (Go ahead! Call me a bitch! I live for this!)

Having carefully said all this, I find I do want to respond to something Dave said onĀ Scripting News. I have to respond — to hold it in will cause me an injury.

I was a developer before the Web was even a twinkle in Berners-Lee’s eyes. I love to program, and have worked — worked mind you — with 18 different programming languages, including C, C++, Java, Perl, Snobol (any of you recognize this one?), Smalltalk, Ada, Pascal, Modula II, FORTRAN, LISP, and so on. And I still love to program, though I spend most of my time designing technology architectures and writing now.

When the web came along, it was love at first byte. I thought that this was great stuff — a universal front end to any application. I was so sold that I focused as much of my professional life on the web as I could, and still pay the bills.

I wrote books and articles on CGI and DHTML and JavaScript and XML and CSS and ASP and a host of other web technologies. Even today I find I am as fascinated by the web as I was waaaaaaaaaay back in the beginning. I’ve never seen that the web is low-tech. If anything, I find myself being stretched more by the web than by traditional programming.

In all this time, I just don’t remember there ever being a battle between C developers (I’m assuming by this Dave meant people who don’t want to use the web as an environment for their applications) and web developers. Not all applications fit the web, and not all companies have chosen the web for their environment — but that’s not developers, that’s just business. Most companies today use applications from both environments, something that will probably continue to be the norm into the future. (We don’t want to use Word over the Internet as a service, no matter what Microsoft says. Same for PhotoShop)

There’s discussions — constantly — between server-side folks and the designers. I know that I’ve had a lively chat or two with the WSP people who are, primarily, web designers. But most developers I know of, such as myself, are thrilled to play with the new technologies the web has provided. There might be a few who don’t want to play web, but most of us are as happy (or more) working with web development as we are with traditional development.

The whole thing is really about services isn’t it? Providing services to people who need them. Most computer-based functionality is nothing more than services wrapped in a front end — doesn’t matter if the front end is a VB application or a web page. All that matters is that the services are prompt, efficient, secure, accurate, and effective. If some people prefer to create the front end in VB and put both service and front end on one machine, that’s cool. If they prefer a web page, that’s cool. Where’s the battle? Apples and oranges.

As for Netscape and Microsoft and the W3C not having a vision for the future of the web, oh they most certainly do and did. Microsoft’s whole vision is .NET and owning the internet. In fact, the company’s vision scares me most of the time. Netscape also had strong designs on the web before they became the underdog. As for the W3C, we wouldn’t have the web without this organization’s efforts. I may preach chaos, but I practice chaos on top of a specific development platform, and I have that platform thanks to the W3C.

The key is that there are a lot of groups and people who have their own visions for what is the future of the web. If we continue to work towards a common interface, then we can each practice our own vision and our own chaos behind that interface. But we must have this interface, and I’d rather it be provided by an organization that doesn’t profit, then one that does. The interface cannot be owned by any one company, any one organization, or any one person.

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