Applications Versus Documents on the Web

It has always bothered me that while the web has well defined standards for defining documents, much of what we do on the web isn’t about documents at all. Rather, it is much more like traditional application development.

Ian Hixie, Mozilla hacker and Opera Software employee in Norway, is also bothered by this, and plans to try to do something about it.

This would be a difficult task, but it is worth watching.


8 thoughts on “Applications Versus Documents on the Web

  1. Interesting. He’s bothered that there isn’t a language for applications or there isn’t a W3C language for applications? Isn’t Flash a language for applications? It’s not a W3C recommendation, but it seems much more powerful than SVG.

  2. The problem with Flash is that it isn’t semantic, it’s presentational. You can’t take a flash application and render it on your PDA, or take a flash application and render it aurally for blind users, etc. HTML is very well suited for this, but HTML doesn’t have a decent way of doing _application_ — for example, it has no way to do native context menus.

  3. The problem with Flash is that it isn’t semantic, it’s presentational.

    That has been a problem with Flash, but Flex and MXML aim to correct this.

    At any rate, I’m interested in your efforts, Ian, but more from the interaction designer perspective. I would hope that as much attention is given to user experience as the developer experience.

  4. In what way is XUL a false start? XUL has fulfilled exactly the niche it set out to fill, and is still actively used and maintained.

    And note that Flex and MXML are still presentational, much like a large part of XUL is.

    If you are interested in this, please, e-mail me your needs. I can’t address “the user experience” unless I know what is important for the user.

  5. i’d love to know when computer “programs” died and “applications” were born and what the actual definition of “application” is.

  6. Ted Nelson, of course, has a lot to say on this.

    Paraphrasing, he says we must overthrow today’s entrapment systems – the paper model, with its four prison walls and peephole 1-way links. The hypertext of today’s web is still the paper model. The web’s long rectangular sheets, aptly called “pages”, can be escaped only by one-way links. There can be no marginal notes. There can be no annotation (at least not in the deep structure). The Web is the same four-walled prison of paper as the Mac and the Windows PC, with the least possible concession to nonsequential writing by which thoughts could branch sideways without hitting walls.

    Now it seems to me that the w3c is trying to acheive this by architecting semantic web-driven application integration through web services

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