The Future of the Web

There has been a few interesting developments in the future of the web in the past week. First, Microsoft have announced that normal service will be resumed, and they will be using a slightly different take on web standards than the rest of the world. WebRTC is a great little idea that allows plugin-free, realtime communication between web browsers. It sounds a bit dull, but will allow for data (say, live video) to be easily broadcast over the web. In many ways what Microsoft have proposed is a more liberal, developer-friendly offering. Their previous record on such things may well prejudice a lot of developers against them, perhaps slightly unfairly given that they have done some good in the past – for a start they pretty much invented AJAX, one of the key components of “Web 2.0”.

There’s also been a tantalising glimpse in to the future of CSS selectors. Whilst it might not be enticing reading in itself, at least for non-technical eyes, it does offer features which will reduce many previously time-consuming tasks for web developers and designers – the parent selector in particular. Firefox has also started to support scoped stylesheets in it’s nightly builds. To the layperson, what that means is that sites will be able to give their users far more control on the stylistic appearance of their ‘area’ of a site without having to consider the possibility that the site’s own branding might be compromised in the process – something that, say, MySpace was particularly concerned about back in it’s heyday.

Staying in Mountain View for a moment, Brendan Eich has said that he’ll be taking on an even larger role at Mozilla. Eich’s a particularly important figure in the development of the web, having single handedly created JavaScript in ten days way back during May 1995. There’s been a slow decline in the number of people using Firefox since it reached it’s zenith in October 2009, although it still remains a major browser.

Another browser suffering a bit of a collapse in usership, on mobile particularly, is Opera, which has dropped down to being the third most popular mobile browser having enjoyed top spot as recently as May last year. In response, there have been rumours that Opera may be on the verge of dropping it’s own rendering engine, Presto, in favour of WebKit – on iOS at least. How close it is to the truth is anyone’s guess since there’s been no official word from Opera themselves as of yet, and Presto enjoys rather partisan support from it’s quarter of a million userbase.

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