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The nice and simple, HTML-based
World Wide Web: Just a passing phase?

This one is a real concern: Here we are, making our lovely webpages with text and graphics... we've learnt the skills, and we like the format -- it's like being able to make your own magazine, to a pleasing standard.

I like the Web as it is now. Making Web pages is relatively easy and pleasant.

So what if it's all just a temporary phase? By next year, will every decent website have to feature difficult-to-produce Flash animations... or video, and sound, and lots of other fancy things?

Will most punters reject material that's not produced by a 30-person design team working around the clock to produce complex, interactive content?

Won't every website that's a great idea now just seem rubbish in three years' time?

Is it wrong to be pleased to have secured a good 'dot com' address, as nobody will be thinking about 'dot coms' anyway in five years' time?

Responses to this appear below. There are eight responses so far. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my question (I've now changed "The World Wide Web: Just a passing phase?" to the less streamlined "The nice and simple, HTML-based World Wide Web: Just a passing phase?") because some respondents seem to have though I was asking if the whole internet itself was a passing phase. Naturally, you won't make that mistake.

This debate is now closed to new submissions (sorry).

Reply 1: Dave Rogers (23 February 2001)

Dave Rogers writes: "I do not think that the web will fulfil the promise that many claim is its due, until a number of things change:

1. A better system of site classification needs to be developed, that categorizes like sites into better defined groups. A filter somehow should be used to validate the legitimacy of these sites as a member of its category, and provide an index of contents. Possibly a system similar to that used by Zoologists and Botanists to categorize species of animal and plant life. [Editor says: This is what Yahoo does, isn't it?]

2. In concert with the above, a better set of search tools that help to 'zero' in on the desired categories, and specific sites within them that fulfil the request, would be useful in helping to interpret vast amounts of data available on the web.

3. A more secure web searching environment would be really helpful. A toolkit that provided the security of 'end to end' connectivity, free from viral infections, unsolicited intrusion into personal PC platforms for collection of information of any kind, for any purpose; and some assurance of privacy of interaction in all respects, that carried some legislative 'teeth'."

Reply 2: Natalie West (1 March 2001)

On account of the fact that technology changes so regularly, it is hard to say whether in 3 years the web sites produced now, will still seem interesting. If technology advances further we may find all websites with flash animations, moving images, sound and other advanced technologies.

Even now just normal text based web pages are being replaced by the more interesting web pages. If word-based web pages are no longer enough then within the next 3 years there will no longer be a need for them.

Although I don't think that the Web is a passing phase, people will use only the web pages that have the latest effects, and the text based pages will no longer be in demand.

Reply 3: Toni Churcher (1 March 2001)

On the whole it seems impossible for the web to be just a passing phase, despite the many facts which could make the internet less popular its overall ease of accessibility and the sheer amount of informative sites on almost every topic one could wish to research. Also the internet has become a major source of entertainment with its own games, music and films produced solely for the net. These services are widely available and vastly used and have become a popular and growing market especially among teens who have come to see the net as a way of expanding their horizons in a fun environment.

Currently it is possible for anyone who owns an internet-connected computer to design and display their own web pages with simple html formats that are relatively easy to learn and use. However with new, more impressive and equally complex formats being used to produce high quality sites, it is possible that the less fancy sites that are not created by "30-person design teams" will become less popular causing a downfall in good informative sites.

Reply 4: Jackson Davies and Dave Aanand (1 March 2001)

Is the Web going to become a passing phase? I donít think it will be personally. For instance, people can surely choose what type of website they want to design. Things may even go the other way - flashy websites can take ages to load, and are often quite difficult to navigate and find what you are actually looking for, leading to a change in the way websites were (simplistic and easy to make and use).

In this way, I donít think Ďpuntersí will only accept flashy websites to find the info that they are looking for. But then again, marketing and graphics do sell, and perhaps will make people more attracted to websites. A solution to this would be limits placed on search engines - Ďsearchersí could say when they want graphical quality, or content quality.

Overall, the web is a great new technology, that I donít think will disappear in five years, since it provides people with as much info as needed.

Reply 5: Flis Pitman and Emma Caple (1 March 2001)

We don't believe that the Internet is just a 'passing phase'. [Viewers, please note that this was meant to be a discussion of whether the Web would survive as the main interface to the internet, or be replaced by something else. Sorry if that wasn't clear enough -- David]. In fact, we believe it is the way forward in terms of communication, information and education, though we realise that this is not the point of the debate, it is a valid statement. As for the question of whether what we do with the Internet now will still be relevant in three years time, we believe that the websites will still be of use and interesting but, of course, as technology moves forward, so do the people and they will be expecting the Internet to incorporate these technologies.

Mainly though, people will never reject ideas that are intelligent and inventive, whatever their format or how much they cost to produce. People appreciate ingenuity and the unique pieces of work rather than first questioning how many scientists slaved over it so the Internet will always be popular and in use as long as people are willing to put their time and effort into their sites.

Reply 6: Karen Rogers (1 March 2001)

We think that the internet is more than just a passing phase. [As noted above, the question wasn't about the future of the internet itself -- David]. It has facilitated our access to information and communication. We are used to the format of the Internet now, and it can only be broadened on. The recent introduction of the Internet on television sets is cheap and easy, meaning that it is accessible at more places more of the time. Web sites can be expanded on to make them bigger and better. The way in which we communicate has been determined by the Internet, meaning that we can interact "face-to-face" with other people on the other side of the world through video-conferencing. How can we do better than that?

The Internet is now very much a part of our lives and will not go away. The Internet won't just be a passing phase because of the profound impact it has had on the lives of society as a whole. It could, however, improve with quicker access and movement around the World Wide Web and the introduction of television and mobile phone Internet access could be increased upon by introducing other forms of access.

Reply 7: Liz Percival (1 March 2001)

I think that the Internet in itself is not just a passing phase but will be around for decades maybe even centuries to come. [As noted above, the question wasn't about the future of the internet per se -- David]. I believe that the process of technological determinism has made sure that we would not be able to go back to life as it was before the Internet. It is like television in the way that it will advance to different levels but will still be used in everyday life. However i do think that certain aspects of the Internet are just passing phases. As stated in the debate description things that are seen as impressive now will be seen as old and unimpressive in years to come and people will expect more from the Internet and its services.

Reply 8: David Phillips (10 March 2001)

The Internet is inclusive. Yes there will be a brand new way of watching, doing and being in cyberspace. Sony Playstation2 is much more fun than a PC for most 10 year old boys. But Playstation2 IS the Internet. It is 100% Internet enabled. So too is the new Ford Lincoln motorcar, every WAP and SPS enabled cell phone and my new PDA.

Feeling deprived? Lost your URL? NO? Oh! Does this mean we can have IT ALL... of course it does and lots more besides.

In addition the need for content in a variety of forms will still be essential. In cyberspace you can play football and aim at a goal... or not if that is how you like to play football. The great thing is how do we choose to spend time.

Good round here huh!

Reply 9: John Carter (23 April 2001)

It doesn't matter whether a website will 'need' animations, graphics, sound, video, just as it doesn't matter now. Pretty colours and sounds might appeal to children and chimps, but they are meaningless without content. Frankly, people who 'demand' interactivity etc. are facile morons who think they are on the cutting edge when really they don't matter. Give me some sort of content anytime, and damn the graphics nazis.

Reply 10: Ali Smith (5 September 2001)

I think maybe the internet will change so that part of the internet is a result of the convergence of various electronic media like tv and radio, and maybe also print media like books, newspapers and magazines. I imagine it will be owned and by corporations - the kinds of corporations that own newspapers, movie studios, satellites, cable and network tv, publishing houses, and so on. I think this part of the internet will be unlike the web as it is now.

I hope that there will also be another part of the internet that retains the accessiblity of the "nice and simple, HTML-based World Wide Web." I like HTML and I know how to make web pages using HTML, so it would be good, for me at least, if it was still a technically feasible way of making a site. But I don't think the use of HTML or the longevity of my domain name are important.

What is important is that there continues to be a part of the internet that all kinds of people and groups have access to - not just as consumers, but also as producers. I think the web as we know it does this pretty well. I don't think sites with just words and pictures are boring. I think words and pictures can be just as compelling as other ways of communicating.

Reply 11: Derek Arnold (19 September 2001)

HTML is a great system for allowing "cross platform" creation of web pages that will view on any system. This pre-processor type system which interprets embedded codes has been around for some time (see LaTeX, a text processing system). Somehow, LaTeX has managed to survive despite the prolific use of Word Processors and the WYSIWYG software that we all enjoy today.

Web design is constantly evolving and what started as a basic interpretive system has expanded and been enhanced by the use of custom plug-ins which each manufacturer insists that we use in order to properly enjoy the full power of the WWW. You're nothing without plug-ins which delivers animation and interactivity and you simply can't live without animation and interactivity can you? Or can you?

Certainly, web pages have become more visually stimulating through the use of plug-ins (see Macromedia Flash as a prime example) but are they essential elements of good page design - I don't believe that they are. In the early days of web design, it was thought to be overkill to have flashing text on a page yet those same critics are, I'm sure, gung-ho about the use of Flash animation. When I learned web page design, I deliberately used the Windows NotePad to code pages manually in order to gain an understanding of the use and structure of the HTML codes (yes, I like the power and control I get from a DOS prompt too (grin)).

I suppose it boils down to "what is this web site about"; "what is its purpose"? If the purpose is to impart information then many web sites do themselves an injustice - you can't find the forest for the trees in many cases. If the aim is to entertain then Flash animations and movies are the thing.

Here in the UK we have an overriding consideration - that of speed. Unlike the USA where cable modems abound, the majority of us are stuck on 56k modems. Going "on-line" in the UK is still very much a novelty for many communities. Cable providers are getting themselves together slow but sure, but for the average family, browsing the web is still very hit-and-miss. Slow modems together with insufficient band-width coupled with inefficient ISP's all serve to keep web browsing very much in the novelty arena.

Fast delivery of all page content will determine the life of bog-standard HTML. Until all households have 24/7 access to the Internet and WWW, then the speed and functionality of HTML will be very much appreciated. Perhaps when the day arrives that everyone is on-line all day, every day, the technology behind the delivery will be revised - until then, hail HTML!

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