This topic is interesting… how the web goes back to users’ hand.
I started to wonder about the topic, but then I realized that there is a slight misunderstanding in the topic. The web never was in users’ hands before!
When I started working (yes, I’m old), I did not have a clear understanding of what the Internet was. I know the Internet Protocol (IP), but I saw it as a mere implementation of a series of theories I saw during my last year at the university.
Well, I also knew that there was something called e-mail but it was kind of a freak’s domain. There was an even more unknown thing called the web and I recall, people even were sometimes arguing if it was the same sort of network available via Gopher (a now almost disappeared invention… so almost forgot it is that when I looked to it with Wikipedia I found it… but almost in the bottom of the listing… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopher)… (By the way, if still curious, the definition starts here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopher_%28protocol%29)
Well… so I’m old enough to tell I was there when the web started… I mean there: On the Internet, in some way. The readings about it in magazines said that it would give the users the power that they did not have with Gopher. The cited protocol required a server, and a lot of knowledge in order to know where to link another gopher page. The news about the web was that, besides text, users could now link MULTIMEDIA (strange and exotic word in a world where very few computers had other sound more than beeps) meaning primarily graphic files. It was funny, the first browser I used, Lynx, was text only, so it seemed a lot like Gopher… now I understood what was the discussion all about.
Then appeared Mozilla… amazingly graphical and then I understood all: There was a new… much easier way to read on the Internet.
The first time I figured out how to publish anything there I felt frustrated… I was a recently graduated student and I did not have the money to have a server… other reasoning went around the topic of how can I keep this information I publish available… the phone bill would be enormous if I let a server connected all the time (there were other times, indeed!)
Anyway, I tried it… I read how to create a web page… I learned a lot about tags starting with symbols like < and actually I felt comfortable with writing in that language: HTML. After my first web page (a mere “Hello, world” exercise) I felt God. It didn’t last long… now I look back and see that in the moment I made my first page, I stopped being a “user” and became an “Web developer”, so the enchantment died.
Today, almost 20 years later I come to this topic and see that it is not that the users are gaining back the control of the web… they really never had it. In those years… I felt once and another disappointed with it… I learned a lot of codes that soon were replaced by a tool called Frontpage… so easy to create “powerful” webs… and not very later, everybody could create for the web with Word… my “competitive advantage” was gone forever. And when I saw every day more software developers using their everyday tools like Visual Basic to program scripts and web pages in ASP or Java to build powerful applications, I decided my future was not as a developer.
Using Word, however let users write on the Internet, or in web pages inside their companies, but what we are seeing now is different. Now we have the chance to let other people participate on it with free and easier tools (yes, easier than Word), and even though I’m using Word (2007) to write this post, I’ve met people who feels pretty comfortable writing on a blogger or any other plain web page.
Is that the meaning of users having control? I think it should be even easier. Now users have control of what they write, but they still don’t have the power to make applications or to tie logic to what they write. Maybe in a near future, we’ll be researching on ways to do it. But for today, October/2007, I’m sure the users still have never had the web in their hands.