OK, Nevermind. Actually, The Future is in the Past
I've been following the recent debate about the future of web standards and whatnot. It's been making me think a bit about what I really want to see in the future of web standards. And I can't get this great California zine Cometbus out of my head. (Well, ok, by "following the recent debate" I'm just trying to find a smart way to say I read a few blogs. Every single one of which is linked to on Tuesday by Jeremy Keith. Except this one from Thursday Zeldman post. Zing zing. Good stuff. Read the comments for sure. Or just read my post first if you want to feel good about skipping it altogether.)
Anyway, lemme explain.
In its essence I think that the call for better, more ambitious HTML and CSS specifications is great. Obviously it's crazy that we're just evolving to CSS 2.1 candidate recommendation after what, six years? (And I could have sworn we already passed the mark but, ok, I've complained enough about it enough this week).
Anyway, it's all well and good. Things are slow. (per Zeldman: "a slow bitch.")
Besides, really, most of us wouldn't have a job if it was not for IE6. :)
But one of most the interesting points raised somewhere in the debate goes something like "We need to sometimes ignore web standards and screw around with doing cool stuff. Then the people who write the specs will HAVE to include all these cool ideas we came up with. YAY! Bring on the browser wars!"
I think this is awesome. Geek out with your canvas elements already.
One thing I would observe, however, is that most web developers are not professionals. And this is a Good Thing. The network is good because it is made up of people, real people, who are much better at Whatever They Do than they are at creating websites.
One thing I would observe, however, is that most web developers are not professionals. And this is a Good Thing. The network is good because it is made up of people, real people, who are much better at Whatever They Do than they are at creating websites. They write about industrial ergonomics or your new nephew or architectural criticism or lolcats. Smart stuff, stupid stuff, it all aggregates into a wonderful brown sludge and the one thing that 99% of the network has in common is that they can't write code to save their life and really they could not give a damn about about all. At ALL. And they never will of course.
Amid all of the verysmart talk about the need for more advanced specifications, we should remember that no one really pays attention to them. They don't even know that they freaking exist. I mean, do you care about the fancy traffic-law setting bodies that surely exist? No, of course, not you just want to go somewhere.
So the reason this whole debate doesn't matter for the millions of Real People is that people don't need to write code anymore. They just need tools to help them publish their content. And, oh yeah, let's remember that there are BILLIONS of people don't even have the luxury of doing any of this stuff yet.
Somehow, Real People people need tools that help them just go somewhere. Nothing in any spec matters until it filters into the tools that real people can use, like blogging platforms, CMS's , and IDE's. So let's keep out heads and remember there is so much more to this "web" thing than proper validating HTML5 or CSS2.1 or XHTML2 fancy things, as good as those will be.
Thinking about this seems depressing at first. The issue really is about browsers and blogging tools, content rendering and content creation. The problem is even bigger than IE (which, holeeshit, passes ACID2!!).
But, for me at least, it is a reminder that we already have more capability on the web than we ever could use.
So yeah, think of the photocopier and zines.
What can you do with a fancy new photocopier that you couldn't do with one from 10 years ago? Not much. Once you've cleared the hurdle of cheap, pushbutton printing, you've launched yourself into a world of possibility greater than most people can deal with. You accomplish the most important part of the web just by being a great writer, and photocopying it. So I would submit The most important thing about the web is simple, powerful, ultra-low-fi communication, multiplied over and over and over. Connecting people to people. Photocopier innovation, traffic rules, W3C debates ... they just really doesn't matter to the DIY kids making zines, because, well, who CARES?
The best thing you could do is give people more photocopiers, and make them really really easy to use. Make em cheaper, make more of em and screw the Canon XTRZ-992834 with laminating and pink staples. Screw variables in CSS. Because lots of people haven't got photocopiers, much less telephones, much less usenet or blogspot and definitely none of us really have the capacity to use any of it to its community-centered potential.