Late-night edition of the newsletter this week, folks. But a quick reminder: I’m Robin Rendle, a web designer and writer, and you likely subscribed to this newsletter via my website.
Apologies in advance, etc. etc.
It’s 9:47pm, live from San Francisco, and I’m sat in my living room with a rotund dog called Baby. He’s blissfully asleep after a long walk along the shore across from the SFO airport where we walked up and down the marshy bank, watching the planes fly in, and now he’s thoroughly exhausted. (I am typing quietly, trying not to wake him).
This week I’ve been thinking about this post from Jeremy Keith called Today, the distant future. On my walk yesterday around the park I just couldn’t get it out of my head, despite the explosion of pinks and reds and soft oranges taking center stage in front of a pale blue sky.
Jeremy’s blog post got me thinking about the future of the web. The web of 2042.
How will it work? Who will be the star players? How will it function? How will we log on? Who will we find? Who will we forget?
In his post, Jeremy looks at some predictions of the web back around when HTML5 was a fledgling thing (2008) and how lots of folks then believed that the web—and all the technologies underpinning it—would soon be replaced by something else. Something bigger, something more important.
The web, to them at least, was a stop-gap. A temporary thing.
After digging into some bad predictions, Jeremy quotes Jonny Axelson who argued back in 2009 that…
The world in 2022 will be pretty much like the world in 2009.
The world in 2009 is pretty much like 1996 which was pretty much like the world in 1983 which was pretty much like the world in 1970. Some changes are fairly sudden, others are slow, some are dramatic, others subtle, but as a whole “pretty much the same” covers it.
The Web in 2022 will not be dramatically different from the Web in 2009. It will be less hot and it will be less cool. The Web is a project, and as it succeeds it will fade out of our attention and into the background. We don’t care about things when they work.
(Okay, I will admit that one thing has changed in all this time: the quality of comments on a latent blog post. This is a damn fine comment, and I miss stumbling upon notes like this at the bottom of other people’s blogs.)
This constant search for new-ness sure is enticing! Heck, maybe we play into that too much over on the CSS-Tricks newsletter where we cover all the upcoming features in browsers. But it becomes a problem when folks start to think that anything old should be replaced. There’s a tendency to think that everything old is bad and out of date. Tear down the browsers and let’s start fresh!
This is what a lot of folks thought back in 2008 and I see similar comments about the web in 2022. They don’t see the world wide web the way I do: as a permanent project, the most important medium/format/platform of not just our generation but future generations, too. It’s a once-in-a-millennium thing. And it’s real easy to forget just how exciting the web is when you’re living your whole life inside it each and every day.
My prediction is that I’ll still be using websites when I’m in my eighties. And, hopefully, I’ll still be making them, too.
Websites always have and always will be websites, man. The technology will change, the people will change, but the promise of the world wide web won’t. The absolute marvel of a website today is the same as it was back in 2008 when I was furiously learning what
float: left meant in my college dorm room. Heck,
float:left has been replaced with flexbox and CSS Grid but I’m still making websites with CSS and HTML. And that’s not a bad thing!
So: my hunch is that the promise of the web today will not be much different 20 years from now. In 2042 we’ll be reading blog posts from poets in South America, or falling in love with musicians from Budapest. That’s more important than the wires and the protocols, but that’s what the web means to me.
Until next week,