Tag Archives: Ranganathan

(Re)birthing Pangs: The HTML Charter Revisited

(Cross posted from dev.aol.com)

Aside from us hapless Web developers, few people really think about HTML when they surf the Web. The average user’s Web site of choice is likely to work with their browser of choice. The fact that this is the case can largely be seen as a testament to the W3C standardization process — HTML just about works, tag soup notwithstanding.

Not many people know about the often acrimonious debates between Microsoft and Netscape that induced this kind of interoperability in the past, or about a certain HTML working group meeting in Colorado a few years ago where everyone worked all night on HTML so that they could go skiing all day. The point is, HTML is out there — the mavens have spoken. So what’s all the fuss about?

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Jim Ley invited me in Boston to check out Joost as an alpha-tester. Joost is the startup formerly referred to as The Venice Project (and also known affectionately as The Covenant in W3C circles). The guys who started Skype and Kazaa are behind it. They’ve hired some really smart SVG brains, among others.

While playing with it, I think I had a vague “aha!” moment about social media as television. Sure, there are bandwidth issues (insert net neutrality snide remark), but the Joost guys figure they’ve solved affiliated compression problems.

One of the things I like is that each channel has its own chat room, and you get plugins like instant messaging in full screen mode. I wonder where all the content will come from, since this is not about user-generated content. Content is a bit limited (how much of the surf video can you watch?) but I got really engrossed in an independent movie and started watching it. Before I knew it, a whopping hour had passed. Just like vegging out in front of the (regular) TV! I haven’t (yet) found a sufficient community to test out the plugins like chatting and ratings, but the left-over insight following my “aha!” moment suggests that there is, indeed, a “There there.”

I like the slick SVG menus that overlay the video when it is playing. I read somewhere that these guys use XUL Runner, apparently, and leverage a pretty diverse open source stack. I really like the fact that despite user-agent foibles, the Joost (Yoost?) folks make use of the most appropriate technology. That’s in keeping with my view that many of the most interesting things on the Web will likely be the sum of small parts, and not an immersive user agent experience. That is, Web technologies (protocols — HTTP — and formats — e.g. SVG) will be leveraged where they make the most sense, cobbled into application-driven user agents (not classic “Web browsers”). I think this is particularly true in the mobile world, and said so in my Mobile 2.0 presentation.

I was informed by the playfuls.com write-up on Joost.