Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Please God, Give Me Something New!

"Here... check out this (link). But you have to use the most recent version of Chrome." Sigh. Haven't we been through this already? 15 years have passed and we're headed right back to the same place we started... "Best viewed in <someone's favorite browser>." It's sad, really.

Don't get me wrong. Years of standardization work on HTML, JavaScript, the DOM, CSS, etc. cleaned up a lot of messy lose ends and yes it was indeed necessary, but stringent standardization also stifles creativity. And now that HTML5 and friends have loosened some of the restrictions the pendulum has started to swing back in the opposite direction. People have started to innovate again. This time around it's Firefox vs Chrome instead of Internet Explorer vs Netscape.

There's a systemic problem that goes beyond browser wars, however. Remember AOL? This time it's Facebook trying to be “The Internet.” Remember mainframes and terminals? After pushing everything to the desktop, now we're pushing everything back “to the cloud.” All the fourth and fifth generation programming languages have come and gone and the best we have now is Java and Clojure?! Remember Ajax, er I mean DHTML, er I mean JavaScript? We're all "innovating" but nobody is really doing anything new, exciting, and unique.

Hell, Tesla plugged 200 light bulbs into the ground and lit them up 25-miles away from a power source in 1899 and the best we have now is Solyndra and the Prius? What gives?!

The sine-like cycle of technological advancements wouldn't be bad if each cycle actually gave us something new; you know, an advancement. Maybe that's what has me so jaded. Each cycle seems to rehash the previous cycle and there's nothing really new and exciting anymore. We're moving in circles, not traveling in spirals. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Is Quindlen right, and every story has already been told?

Think about HTML5's canvas element which everyone is saying how great and wonderful it is, an area for 2D drawing that can be manipulated with JavaScript. If browsers had actually implemented decent support for SVG 10 years ago we wouldn't need canvas now. That's right, we've had this “hot new technology” for 10 years already. And sadly, SVG is superior in many ways. And sadly, we've had 3D capability with VRML/X3D since the mid-90s. And sadly, we've settled for something less and are grinning from ear to ear.

Wouldn't you like to have technology from 10 years into the future? It sounds tempting, but I'm not so sure I really would... because it'd probably be the same as what I've already had for the past 10 years just with a new marketing campaign.

Esperanto translation is available at