back to article The browser's resized future in a fragmented www world

"We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities." So wrote Tim Berners-Lee in a document 25 years ago on Wednesday that’s being celebrated as marking the birth date of the web. Berners-Lee never …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T B-L

    The man who gave us the web is now hell-bent on destroying it. So much for rendering on any device, you'll soon need to have proprietary plug-ins and if the software maker doesn't support your OS or device; well screw you then - go buy something new.

    MS must be creaming their pants over this. The can bri...encourage software makers to alter the plug-ins and force users into a never-ending upgrade cycle. All because of T B-L.

    "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

    Yup, and T B-L is *ENCOURAGING* that fragmentation.

    The web does not need DRM, T B-L. The web no longer needs you, unless you wake-up and actually embrace openness.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      TBL is MS!

      It's a tricky choice, I can either listen to one of the VISIONARIES who started the web, or some ANONYMOUS internet BLOWHARD with a monster MS CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDER....

      But that's unfair. Let us know exactly what global communications infrastructure you've created so we can really put this in context.

      1. James 51

        Re: TBL is MS!

        Don't feed the trolls.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TBL is MS!

        @AC - You know, I've never done a pop concert either but I can tell you when someone is off-key.

        T B-L's support of DRM is going to kill the open web. Or perhaps you can explain to me how proprietary extensions that only run on some platforms is going to help the open web?

        The web is only here BECAUSE OF OPEN STANDARDS. Anything less spells its ultimate demise.

        @James 51 - No troll. DRM is anti-freedom, anti-openness, anti-user. It should not be encouraged.

        1. Anonymous Bullard
          Pint

          Re: TBL is MS!

          "The web is only here BECAUSE OF OPEN STANDARDS. Anything less spells its ultimate demise."

          Adobe could see this, so they've announced to concentrate more on HTML5 than Flash (even though there were more Flash enabled browsers than HTML5).

          Microsoft could correctly see that the 'web would threaten the desktop, by making the OS irrelevant.

          So they tried to their Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish tactic on the web with IE6*. Fortunately for us, Mozilla (and then Google) fought back.

          Silverfox was a pathetic attempt to grab the web back to proprietary. Defeated, MS (now ditching the desktop) are desperately trying to catch up now, from the self inflicted strangle-hold it had on IE.

          *IE4-6 killed Netscape (proprietary techs, bundling, predatory pricing), then moth-balled IE so the web didn't progress (since they there was nobody to compete with).

          [I'm not anti-MS; just pro-computer]

          I do believe DRM has a place, though. It's just that it's not currently being executed properly (so much so that people are pirating because of convenience, not price)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: DRM

            It doesn't matter how pointless and stupid DRM is, big companies want it so it's going to exist. TBL can't stop it. Anonymous internet blowhards can't either.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBL is MS!

            Once you unleash DRM you'll regret it. It won't be applied sensibly.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: TBL is MS!

              >Once you unleash DRM you'll regret it. It won't be applied sensibly.

              Er, last I looked DRM is already unleashed. Websites are already able to frustrate attempts to copy text (to check reviews of a product they are selling, for example). An example of silliness can be seen on the Currys site. Just try copying text from the webpage below:

              http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/clearance-photography-1902-commercial.html?intcmp=home~Camera-clearance~clearance~r4~half~c7~cp1902~070314

              But hey, people are free to shop with someone else.

              1. captain veg

                web site DRM

                I had no trouble at all copying the text off that web page. In Opera it was trivial. In Firefox a scroll to the end and a shift-click selected the text, no worries. Didn't bother trying other browsers. And you can always use the source, Luke.

                If that's an example of DRM, we really have no problem.

                -A.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: TBL is MS!

                "Er, last I looked DRM is already unleashed."

                So we should just bend over at take it?

              3. Joe 35

                Re: TBL is MS!

                Copied fine on Firefox.

                1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                  Re: TBL is MS!

                  Can't copy text from curry.co.uk on Chrome... Win 7 64. Fair enough- it was just that i was reading up on the pessimists views, and the inability to copy text was one of their fears. I'll try Curyys again with a difgferent browser tomorrow, when I'm sober.

                  Cherrs all

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: TBL is MS!

          >DRM is anti-freedom, anti-openness, anti-user. It should not be encouraged.

          You've confused the current flawed and propriety implementations of DRM with the concept itself.

          All T-B-L suggested was that if DRM is to be used, it should be cross-platform and sensibly implemented. Then content creators will have the freedom to choose whether to implement it, and users will be free to engage with it or not. The user may choose not to, in which case the content creator can choose to reassess their business model. Choice and freedom.

          Most users are quite happy to pay for a DVD or Blu-ray. Most people consider their Netflix subscription to be fairly priced. If there is a legitimate way to watch paid-for protected content on a portable, off-line device, most users wouldn't have a problem with that either, as long as it is reliable, easy and device-agnostic. User friendly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBL is MS!

            "All T-B-L suggested was that if DRM is to be used, it should be cross-platform and sensibly implemented. "

            So T B-L is going to personally ensure that every DRM system is implemented on Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Firefox OS, Tizen, Blackberry, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora.... is he? And on all supported versions now and in the future? No, of course he isn't. Some versions of Windows, OS X, iOS and Android will get implementations; nothing else. End of the open web.

            "Most users are quite happy to pay for a DVD"

            DRM media is MUCH less functional than a DVD, even with the shitty and pointless region lock. Even Blu-Ray is better. I can watch a DVD on any device I choose (after transcoding). I can watch is as often as I want, whenever I want until the disc dies. I can lend it to my friends. I can't do any of that with DRM infected media.

            Watch it on PC? Pay (I'm OK with this)

            Want to watch it on a tablet/phone/other? Pay again or be told to get stuffed.

            Want to lend it to a friend? Get stuffed.

            Want to watch it in a different country? Get stuffed.

            Want to watch it in 5 years time? Get stuffed (either because it 'timed out' or the DRM servers are gone).

            Want to watch it now? Get stuffed, it got deleted from your account. Get down on your knees and work some mouth magic to get it back (by which I mean, plead).

            And, of course, trying to fix any of these problems (i.e. remove the DRM) will be dealt with as if it was one of the most heinous crimes known to man.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: TBL is MS!

              >So T B-L is going to personally ensure that every DRM system is implemented on Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Firefox OS, Tizen, Blackberry, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora.... is he?

              Look it up [that is the joy of the connected web]:

              TBL was only ever talking about DRM in relation to an API in HTML 5 for discovering and using DRM systems.

              The alternate situation is one in which content providers only release content through propriety applications that only run on a small number of OSs, such Windows, OSX, iOS and Android.

              In real life, people are free to make agreements with each other. I can choose to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement. If I choose not to sign it, I accept that I won't get to see the interesting McGuffin that the other party might have shown me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBL is MS!

            It won't be cross platform though. It never will be since there are niche platforms that won't be supported.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBL is MS!

            @Dave 126

            I use spotify now and even though not all music is on there I couldn't be happier !!

            So much easier than downloading tons of albums and storing them. I stopped the day i used spotify.

            Would like the same for film please. And not just a small choice that is currently on offer. A proper film library, I get really annoyed when they let you watch jaws2 and jaws 1 is nowhere to be seen :/

            If they can get the film industry to work as smooth as spotify I would stop pirating films.

            Anon for obvious reasons

        3. James 51

          Re: TBL is MS!

          I think his attitude is let’s have the least evil form of DRM and seems to be a pragmatic compromise in the face of corporate power. Ideally I’d get rid of DRM as it only reduces the experience for honest customers but that isn’t going to happen (unless people make it ‘happen’).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBL is MS!

            "I think his attitude is let’s have the least evil form of DRM and seems to be a pragmatic compromise in the face of corporate power."

            Or he could have stuck to some principals and been a force for good.

            Guess not.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

    The IOS web browser is by far the worst one out there, maybe because there is no 30% Apple tax on the web.

    Being a thorn in the side, the browser is surplus to corporate requirements.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

      "no 30% Apple tax on the web."

      What?

      1. James 51

        Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

        I think he means that apple can't charge 30% for accessing a website so they have produced browsers which are poor to the point that people will pay to avoid using it. Not having used the browser on an iphone I can't vouch one way or another for its quality.

    3. PerlyKing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

      "The IOS web browser is by far the worst one out there, maybe because there is no 30% Apple tax on the web."

      Which is somewhat ironic as when the iPhone launched we were told that there were no plans for a native SDK, and that we could do everything we needed to in the browser, in JavaScript. But devs howled for a native SDK... be careful what you wish for!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

      "The IOS web browser is by far the worst one out there"

      Considering you don't even seem to know what "The IOS web browser" is called I can't really take you seriously.

      Apple don't allow other browsers the same access to the rendering engine as Safari has, and lock down their usage so they can't improve their rendering speed much (it's why Firefox wont release an iOS version). This means Safari is the best web browser for iOS out there in terms of both quality of rendering pages and in terms of the speed it does that rendering!

      Comparing Safari on my iPhone to Chrome on my old Android device the Safari one loads sites faster, has better "reading" support (the thing that translates pages from graphical to text only) as it prefetches the next pages so you just keep scrolling rather than having to navigate to the next page, and generally gives a better user experience.

      But please tell us what obscure and rarely used feature of Chrome or Firefox are you talking about that Safari doesn't need and it's users don't care about.

      1. DanDanDan

        Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

        I thought Safari was the desktop version of the browser. Oh wait, it's both? Oh man, how confusing! How would I distinguish between the two? Maybe I could call it "The iOS browser" to make it clear I'm on about the iPhone version of Safari, not the OS X version. Oh crap no, that would totally invalidate all of my arguments instantaneously!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

          @DanDanDan

          Saying "the iOS Browser" could mean Opera, Chrome or Safari (all 3 available on iOS), use you big boy words and call it "Safari for iOS" if you really want to be clear. But you don't want to be clear, or provide a valid argument, you just want to write uninformed uncited crap just to get a reaction from people like me.

      2. The Man Himself
        WTF?

        browser restrictions

        "Apple don't allow other browsers the same access to the rendering engine as Safari has, and lock down their usage so they can't improve their rendering speed much (it's why Firefox wont release an iOS version). This means Safari is the best web browser for iOS out there in terms of both quality of rendering pages and in terms of the speed it does that rendering!"

        I hadn't realised Apple were that restrictive. Does that not count as restrictive anti-competitive practise...the sort of thing that gets companies sued?

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: browser restrictions

          Only if your Microsoft. If you Apple you're a saint company working hard to light the dark, poor souls of users, and thereby it's allowed anything, including a closed store which can refuse applications competiting with its own (think what would have happened if Microsoft refused OpenOffice to run on Windows...) , keeping API restricted to its very own apps (MS was forced to open its Windows API....) - of course for "security reason", not to keep competition away (after all the NSA spies on your for your security too, right?), ask a 30% fee on every app you sell, keep its browser locked down (Microsoft was fined even if you could install and use whatever browser you liked, just because IE was preinstalled!) and so on. It's the classic streotype, if you look ugly you're surealy bad, if you look handsome you can't be bad, you're surely good... and that's how conmen work.

          1. Anonymous Bullard

            Re: browser restrictions

            "Only if your Microsoft."

            Or more accurately: only if you have a monopoly to abuse.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: browser restrictions

              "Or more accurately: only if you have a monopoly to abuse."

              MS isn't a monopoly - they only have around 20% of the market.

              Google, now there's a monopoly.

              1. Anonymous Bullard

                Re: browser restrictions

                "MS isn't a monopoly - they only have around 20% of the market."

                Oh sorry, you must be new to the industry. The bundling of IE was with Windows... which was a desktop operating system (current market share of ~90%). For the desktop, they had a monopoly and they abused it.

                Only 6%[1] of smartphones are Windows, accounting for less than 1% total web browsing[2]. So I'll give you that one - no monopoly there.

                "Google, now there's a monopoly."

                Of...?

                [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_operating_system#Market_share

                [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems#Web_clients

                1. AceRimmer

                  Re: browser restrictions

                  MS had a browser monopoly

                  Emphasis on HAD. Their share is down to 10% now

                  They've lost out to Chrome

                  Personally IE is my favourite browser... for downloading chrome

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: browser restrictions

                  "Oh sorry, you must be new to the industry"

                  Nope, but I know that MS only has a 20% share of the computer OS market. Which is more than you appear to know. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/13/windows_market_share_just_20percent/

                  "For the desktop, they had a monopoly and they abused it."

                  Please note your own use of the past tense. MS's share of the OS market when it pertains to downloading is further diluted by the third-party browsers many install. If we were talking solely about desktop usage, you may have a point; but as we're not, you don't.

                  "Only 6%[1] of smartphones are Windows, accounting for less than 1% total web browsing[2]. So I'll give you that one - no monopoly there."

                  And as this debate is about mobile apps, that's an even more pertinent figure. MS can't abuse something they don't have. So now you contradict your own statement.

                  ""Google, now there's a monopoly."

                  Of...?"

                  Are you aware of who writes Android? It's a company called "Google". You may have heard of them. They also have a monopoly on web search, a large slice of the Internet advertising market, mapping and various other service; heck they're even becoming an ISP. All of these they tie together in their OS which, by your own link, has most of the smartphone market.

                  So tell me, who has what to abuse?

                  1. Anonymous Bullard
                    WTF?

                    Re: browser restrictions

                    "Nope, but I know that MS only has a 20% share of the computer OS market."

                    Hmm.. who are you trying to con? Are you serious?

                    MS offer users a choice of browser because they abused their monopoly in the PC market. That's what the issue is.. desktop.. Not computers in general or devices, end points, or anything else with a chip.

                    That is why Microsoft offer a choice of browser in the EU, and why Apple, Google, or anyone else are able to bundle their own on their OS. You know that very well.

                    Ask most experienced web-developers and they will assert that IE has been a hindrance to the adoption and progression of the WWW due to the fact devs are restricted because of dreadful support in IE.

                    Only now is IE becoming viable because MS have been forced to compete fairly! Competition is a good thing; it's made IE better for you!

                    As for your OT problem with Google:

                    Android certainly is the dominant mobile OS, at 64% (including Android without Google services) - but not quite a monopoly. Search is <70% - dominant, but not a monopoly.

                    The way Google are behaving in a different market doesn't discount the fact that Microsoft abused their >90% PC OS market share.

                    But you know all that anyway, don't you?

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: browser restrictions

          *How* does iOS stop non-Safari applications accessing the rendering engine. If an application calls render_page("I am Safari, honest guv", *page_to_render) how does the renderer know that this isn't Safari making exactly the same call?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: browser restrictions

            "*How* does iOS stop non-Safari applications accessing the rendering engine. If an application calls render_page("I am Safari, honest guv", *page_to_render) how does the renderer know that this isn't Safari making exactly the same call?"

            It's mainly related to the way Javascript is handled. 3rd party apps have to use UIWebView only where as Safari has access to Apples Nitro Engine (which is a lot faster) and they aren't allowed to use their own version so can't change or even tweak how it handles JS. If they don't follow the rules Apple don't allow the app on their store so most of them are stuck with have a poorer performing app.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

      >The IOS web browser is by far the worst one out there, maybe because there is no 30% Apple tax on the web.

      Websites, say IMDB or eBay, release free apps. Hold on a moment whilst I do the maths... 30% of $0.00 is... lets see now... um... yep, I got it: $0.00. What figure did you arrive at AC?

      What is irritating is that number of websites that throw up a 'Install our app!' when accessed through a mobile browser... but this annoyance is common to both iOS and Android.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re - "Fragmentation is hurting the PC and the browser, yes"

        Developer licence fees, which are about £89 a year.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gone are the days when the browser was a platform the vendor controlled – a vendor which forced you to trade certain freedoms to simply view or consume the web.

    Still happening, only things are now called "free" where in reality you are paying with your privacy.

    1. Anonymous Bullard

      You're talking about £0 free. You can't get something for nothing, there has to be something in return otherwise people wouldn't be able to provide these "free" services.

      Either get out your wallet, or provide some personal data.

      1. SuccessCase

        "Either get out your wallet, or provide some personal data."

        So when Google and Facebook sucked-up my personal contact details through ingesting the contact databases of colleagues I know, was that because I personally failed to get out my wallet?

        When Google photograph my garden because of the height of the camera in their Google maps car, is that because I personally am failing to get out my wallet?

        When they slurped wi-fi data and then lied to government by claiming it was not a management sanctioned activity, when it was, was that also because I personally failed to get out my wallet.

        When Google produce a maps app with no option to pay and which doesn't function well unless you log in, and then link my movements and build a personal profile about my person and do their level best to link it all with web site browsing data from entirely different contexts, is that because I am failing to get out my wallet?

        When I run a commercially valuable project in competition with a Google service and then find for practical reasons, I have to give-up and allow correspondence with contractors, suppliers etc who are using Google mail accounts (or spend my time "King Canute" like, policing all correspondence and insisting Google Mail users use an alternative) and Google are entirely able and free to read about the internal status of my project, is that also because I have failed to open my wallet?

        Your assertion is a an ignorant simplification that wholly ignores the dynamic whereby the end user is finding it more and more difficult to exercise choice, and is being parcelled up to be sold as food at the Google trade restaurant.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think you missed the original point that was probably being made.

          But it's funny how someone's throw-away comment ends up being responded to by someone throwing dirt at a competitor of a company who they're a loving customer of.

          So when Google and Facebook sucked-up my personal contact details through ingesting the contact databases of colleagues I know, was that because I personally failed to get out my wallet?

          No, because your collegues put your personal contact details on their Google/Facebook accounts?

          Reality check: Google and Facebook aren't going to call you!

          When Google photograph my garden because of the height of the camera in their Google maps car, is that because I personally am failing to get out my wallet?

          Who cares? Anyone can do that! If you have a problem with that then report it to google, or call the police, build a bigger wall, or stop gardening in your Y-fronts.

          You've ignored the advantages of the service that they provide (for £0), such as viewing properties, working out how to get to an interview, confirming the sea-front view of the hotel you're about to book, historical records, etc...

          I guess you've never used streetview, then.

          But... GASP! HORRORS! Everyone in the world can look at the outside of your house!! Instead of the public peaking their head over your fence to check you out... they can see the dog shit in your garden from the comfort of their homes!!

          Reality check: Nobody cares about you! Not even Google.

          When they slurped wi-fi data and then lied to government by claiming it was not a management sanctioned activity, when it was, was that also because I personally failed to get out my wallet.

          That was unlawful - not defending law breaking, but they've captured information that your wireless router is freely broadcasting... so fucking what?

          Reality check: Who really gives a shit what your SSID is?

          When Google produce a maps app with no option to pay and which doesn't function well unless you log in, and then link my movements and build a personal profile about my person and do their level best to link it all with web site browsing data from entirely different contexts, is that because I am failing to get out my wallet?

          It's your choice to use such an app. Google gather your "web site browsing data" in order to accurately predict the type of adverts you might be interested in.

          I guess you've never advertised a product, and wasted £1000's due to lack of targeting. And as a consumer, isn't it a good thing to be shown adverts of products that you might actually be interested in?

          And what about store loyalty cards? Many of us use them.. we get free stuff in return for the shops knowing our favourite flavour of milk shake. But that's ok.. it's not Google.

          Reality check: Google don't personally give a shit about your favourite sites - People make products, and they need to advertise them efficiently.

          When I run a commercially valuable project in competition with a Google service and then find for practical reasons, I have to give-up and allow correspondence with contractors, suppliers etc who are using Google mail accounts (or spend my time "King Canute" like, policing all correspondence and insisting Google Mail users use an alternative) and Google are entirely able and free to read about the internal status of my project, is that also because I have failed to open my wallet?

          That's one of the disadvantages of using 3rd party email services. ANYONE can read the data on their own servers, not just Google - you didn't know that?

          Nobody at Google is interested in reading your emails! They get millions of emails each day, they can't hire that many people to read through everyone's emails.. or is it just yours they're interested in?

          Reality check: A computer reads your emails and advertises products related to that. It's a fucking machine!

          Your assertion is a an ignorant simplification that wholly ignores the dynamic whereby the end user is finding it more and more difficult to exercise choice, and is being parcelled up to be sold as food at the Google trade restaurant.

          We're all victims of that - long before Google was around.

          I'm out to defend Google, I don't like or hate them. I think you all need to get a bit of perspective.

          So CompanyA competes with the company that you've committed to, and love ... So Fucking What? Get a grip of reality!

          1. SuccessCase

            Oh dear, another commentard who has no clear appreciation of the difference between secret and private. When in the middle of a dinner party, I go to the loo and lock the door, it's not a secret what I'm doing. I'm not trying to cover my tracks. I don't think anyone particularly cares or finds value in being able to look at me on the throne. But it is, nevertheless private, and no one else's business. So every one of your points along the lines "no one cares," so therefore "get over yourself, privacy is irrelevant" is a straw man argument. Attempting to paint me and others who argue for privacy like me as egotists entirely misses the point. I don't think anyone cares what I'm doing in my front-room this evening, but I certainly don't want to live in a world where any fool can just wander in, sit down and start watching.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              So now it's gone from seeing your back garden, to watching you curl one off during a dinner party and walking into your house?

              Big difference... that was kind of my point. The privacy "invasion" you had is insignificant and was already publicly available.

              (Maybe not you, nor me, but people in general blast all sorts of personal crap on Facebook for the world to know. Us geeks are a minority in this)

    2. SuccessCase

      From the article, and given in the context of how native apps came to be:

      "Native is on a run for two reasons: one, because the app writers were ordered to do so by the app store owners or phone makers and there was too much at stake in saying "no". Two: because tuning the app to the hardware ensured the app performed beautifully and without any crashes."

      This is simply not a true reflection as to why native apps came about. The author has totally forgotten (or wasn't aware in the first place) when the iPhone first introduced apps, there was an equal emphasis on creating web apps (apps accessed via an icon off the home page but that are rendered by the browser) as native apps. At the first iOS WWDC (before it was called iOS) half the sessions were dedicated to how to produce web apps that would render well on the device. There was reams of documentation on how to do it. Apple changed their emphasis only after developers voted with their feet. The web app sessions were unpopular and the web app documentation on the Apple developer portal went unread. For a certain section of the computing press it's an easy assumption to make; that Apple conspired to promote the native app and suppress HTML (it plays well to the gallery) but that simply doesn't match the history of what happened. Indeed Apple firmly believed the first iOS Safari browser was a wonder of mobile computing that developers would love to leverage (and at that point in time it was) but developers still preferred native. It is undoubtedly fair to say Apple fairly quickly cottoned on to the fact web apps weren't enthusiastically embraced and quickly saw the strategic advantage of native apps and changed emphasis, however that change was a direct reaction to developer preference, not the result of a nefarious master plan to undermine the web hatched with the inception of the iPhone.

  4. James Hughes 1

    Er what?

    Browsers are dead - it's all native apps?

    Bollocks.

    I hardly ever use native apps, because, lets be honest, the hugely massively vast majority of websites out there need a browser to view them. It would be insane to expect every website to have their own native app.

    Or have I completely got the wrong end of the stick?

    1. Matt 21

      Re: Er what?

      I tend to agree with you. Most people seem to get a Smart-phone, download loads of programs and then gradually stop using them as the novelty wears off. True enough, some keep getting used but I don't think it's quite as bigger use as certain groups would have us believe.

      Perhaps another threat to the open Web is Facebook. Some Facebook nutters hardly look at the rest of the Web at all and I've seen that some shops only advertise their Facebook page. It reminds me of Compuserve from years ago.

      1. James 51

        Re: Er what?

        Compuserve, wasn't that buried under a crossroads with a stake throguh its heart?

      2. The BigYin

        Re: Er what?

        > Perhaps another threat to the open Web is Facebook.

        This. I find far too many clubs, societies, charities and companies that have all their actual stuff in Facebook, there web page is just a place holder that say "Look at our Facebook page".

        Depressing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Er what?

        I know apps are old hat because my company, the behemoth that thought they could scale up a noddy, campus sized patient administration system to national size, thinks they are a good idea. Experience tells me that this position almost certainly means the world has moved on.

        And common sense tells me that too - do you want an app for every website? Now that you have high resolution, fast mobile devices, do you even need apps any more? I use one or two for convenience, for everything else gets the browser (whose user-agent is customized to make me look like a desktop).

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Er what?

          "every website" or "every service"? They are not the same. If a service makes sense to be accessed and displayed/used through HTTP/HTML, a website makes sense. If a service is better accessed and displayed/used through a native interface, why should it be crammed into a "website"?

          For example, why should I use mail, messaging, or VoIP/VIdeo through a website? It doesn't make sense. Native apps are far better. Why should I use a GPS navigator through a web site? A local running app is far better. Sure, for news, and other information-consumption tasks, maybe used not so often, a website makes sense.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Er what?

            Webmail complements native apps when you're reading e-mail and you're not using your own device or don't want to install a local app with a permanent local copy of e-mail data (e.g. at work).

            Try https://appear.in/... everyone just points their browser to the same address and joins the video conference. Whereas native apps would limit the number of people you can talk to due to the app or the OS, none of that matters with the web browser.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Er what?

              It's just a matter of protocol interoperability. The issue with web apps it's they force their proprietary protocol because you can access the app everywhere, but still they force an app lock-in - a standard, interoperable protocol would allow for any kind of application being used.

    2. Colin Millar
      Boffin

      Re: Er what?

      No - right end of the stick. This is just another of those tech writer apocalyptic stories where they take a couple of out of context statistics (the raw quantity of data connections from mobile devices is about as meaningless a figure as you get) and predict the end of something (although this guy hedged his bets right at the end there) while giving an inaccurate pocket history of something familiar to build in a flavour of historical inevitability (which still sells quite well - the marxist fantasy seems to have a longer shelf life than its obit writers give it credit for).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er what?

      " hardly ever use native apps,"

      Ditto.

      Unless forced, eg Netflix on a phone, I will avoid them like a plague. I tend to use the website, and usually the desktop one. This is normally because the alternatives are a pita to use and hide a lot of functionality.

      What this has done, though, is show the lack of decent, (decent as in my definition of decent), web page flow and design. I am sick of animation still using flash, because I can't see it on my FF browser on Android. Some sites are unusable - flckr - I am looking at you and your meyeresque dystopian method of trying to ensure any viewed page on a mobile device is like trying to view an IE6 written site on something other than IE6.

      All I can see is more and more processor time taken up to display even less information. Some sites are analogous to trying to read a simple sentence written in the wingdings font.

      TBF - the Reg renders well and flows easily, which shows they know their target audience.

      Most others end up with the HTML 5 never ending scrolling page of doom. Usually with about 5 pictures for every letter on said page.

      And another thing.....[at this point this posts author was forcibly made to take his medication]

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Er what?

        You can install the Flash plugin for FF Android if you really want to...

        http://mzl.la/NOiydB

      2. James 51

        Re: Er what?

        This is a bugbear of mine. Can't watch lovefilm or netflix on my bb7 phone, playbook or linux laptop without resorting to WINE to get a windows version of a browser going. Amazon won't release an app for android cause it could kill the kindle fire.

      3. Anonymous Bullard

        Re: Er what?

        "Unless forced, eg Netflix on a phone, I will avoid them like a plague. I tend to use the website, and usually the desktop one"

        Where the Netflix "web" version is basically a native app, with a HTML wrapper.

        (not disagreeing with you, just pointing it out)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Er what?

        > TBF - the Reg renders well

        Urgh in Firefox on Android (on m.theregister.co.uk) I find the text of the articles and especially the comments way to small. If I zoom in the text does not reflow. If I try to change font size on the browser it has no effect on the page. How to fix this?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Er what?

          "Urgh in Firefox on Android...How to fix this?"

          Ditch Android, get a real phone.

        2. Abacus

          Re: Er what?

          Agree 100%

          I never use The Reg app these days, largely for the reason you so eloquently stated.

          m.theregister.co.uk is bookmarked in the browser(s) of every mobile device I use.

          1. James 51

            Re: Er what?

            Didn't even know there was a register app.

        3. Javapapa

          Re: Er what?

          No re-flow on Samsung Chrome browser either. Neither does main site when using pinch zoom. Double tap does expands a div to allow easier reading of the article text, but my old eyes work best with larger (zoomable) fonts. Also, you have to know to ask for the "m" pages, the "www" page doesn't indicate the option of a mobile friendly rendition. I also use the app sometimes. The modern HTML5 APIs (GeoLocation, LocalStorage, etc) should reduce the need for a specialized app for most sites.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er what?

      > It would be insane to expect every website to have their own native app.

      It would, but this is what seems to be happening. Rather than having a generic web browser to view sites, most now push their app at you. Who wants to install an app for every web site they use?

      Most apps are poorly written, grab too many permisions, run at start-up, steal god knows what info and drain your battery by waking the phone up every few mins to report in.

      Whilst not perfect the web browser has less access to your underlying phone, and stops endless services registering themselves on your phone. I run very few apps on my phone.

  5. E Haines

    This article is just factually wrong (not to mention poorly edited..."bread"?). When the iPhone was introduced, there were no native apps, aside from the included ones. You did everything via the web. Apparently the later introduction of the app store was so successful that it seems to have wiped everyone's memories of how things really were.

    Nevertheless, you have only to look at mobile web stats to see that web browsing is far from dead in that arena and access through native apps is limited. Despite dubious claims here that Safari is "bad", it was heralded as something of a revolution in mobile browsing, since it was actually usable on a phone (unlike previous attempts) and for the most part did not require crappy "mobile" versions of web sites to be functional.

    So yeah, I don't really buy this article's assertions. Yes, specialist apps exist, and maybe it's not too uncommon to use them for a few of the biggest sites, but that doesn't apply to the web in general.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Yes, there's no shortage of historical inaccuracies, omissions, and glosses here.

      - "Millions" of people used TBL's user agent (CERN www)? That seems unlikely.

      - No mention of WAIS, Gopher, Veronica, etc; an uninformed reader would get the idea that HTTP and the idea of linked documents went straight from Nelson to TBL with no other development. And no mention of the ancestry of HTML, of course.

      - For that matter, no mention of TBL's own ENQUIRE.

      - No mention of Viola or other early graphical user agents besides Mosaic.

      - No mention of other text-mode user agents.

      - No mention that IE came from Spyglass - it wasn't created from whole cloth by Microsoft.

      - No mention of the very widely used AOL browser.

      But more importantly, the emphasis on the user agent, and particularly on the user agent's rendering, is a dubious thesis that requires much stronger support. There are many other factors that were crucial in the growth of the WWW - like the opening of the former NSFNet backbone to commercial traffic, the introduction of SSL and explosion of b2c e-commerce, the introduction of edge caching and the growth of caching providers like Akamai, the success of new ISPs like AOL at getting casual users online, the growth of web services, and the introduction of XMLHttpRequest and growth of AJAX-based1 browser-hosted applications.

      Time to step back from that tree and take a glance at the forest.

      1A misnomer, since many didn't use XML; and really it was the combination of HTML 4, CSS, the DOM, ECMAScript improvements, and asynchronous requests with XHR that made the new breed of browser-hosted applications possible.

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The browser is the best place for almost anything

    It has a habit of highlighting the ignorance of some coders and the empire building activities of some companies but you can edit documents, manage calenders, design databases, design electronic circuits, do 3D designing, even edit sound.

    Its probably not as good as 'an app' can be but is often much better due to the universal availability of it.

    Anyone who says 'You cant do that in the browser' either means they dont know how to do it or they dont want you to know how to do it. Either way treat them with caution.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: The browser is the best place for almost anything

      Yes, you can also try to screw in a screw with a hammer, but it's not the way you would do it. Or you can store a database in an Excel worksheet or a text file. Or a ledgere in a word processor.

      Sure, today you can do a lot in a browser, and you can do a lot more faster and better in a native application.

      The whole concept of running an "application" into a "browser" (repeat it - "browser", it has a meaning) is stupid. It would be better if instead of a "browser" the OS would offer an "HTML/Javascript" VM designed to run "portable" applications - without all those features that are OK for a browser but useless or dangerous for an application - say the "page" metaphor, the "Back" button (back what? does it "undoes"? Or just it bring you back to a previous state that doesn't exist anymore?), the "history", local menu designed for "pages" etc etc.

      The fact it can be done doesn't mean it's the right way to do it.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    If you wish to experience the web now, you'll need a special app build for purpose.

    Part of me says that's very wrong and is annoyed. The older, wiser, part of me says "what goes around comes around". So we're moving back to dedicated applications for tasks. Meh. Eventually interoperability will matter again and the industry will move back to a generic solution.

    It's like processing and storage distribution. Dumb terminals talking to a big server gave way to a PC on every desk. Now we're looking at cloud computing and, yes, the terminals are no longer quite as dumb but it's a similar architecture. Give it another decade or two and everyone will start wanting a really powerful local processing unit with dedicated storage.

    By then I'll be retired and my intention is to smirk knowingly while drinking whisky :)

  8. Joe Drunk
    Unhappy

    I just saw the image of Windows 3.1 running in DOSBox and I thought...damn, I remember accessing the web in Windows 3.1 on a real PC with NCSA Mosaic and Trumpet Winsock just like that screenshot illustrates.

    Damn I'm old.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      I remember accessing it through a somewhat rare configuration of CompuServe and OS/2's WebExplorer and a 9600 USR modem. I liked that browser. The hierarchical history was particularly good.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Windows

        I raise you a Commodore Amiga, KA9Q, and Demon Internet.

  9. Toastan Buttar

    Use mobile-tuned websites, not apps.

    I have a fairly old and memory-limited Android phone. I use the browser 100% of the time to access things like El Reg, BBC News and Facebook. I've tried the Android app for FB, and it's pretty good, but it just uses too much of my on-board memory. Instead, when I use FB on my phone, I go to m.facebook.com and it's good enough for reading and posting comments until I get home and use the full-fat experience on a real browser (on a PC with a mouse, keyboard shortcuts and cursor keys).

    The same rule applies when visiting El Reg, the BBC, newspapers, etc.

    Take out the "www." , slot in the "m.". Job done, 90% of the time.

  10. LDS Silver badge

    There's an app for that.... and that's right.

    Both HTML and HTTP were designed for infomation search and presentation. They were never designed to be application-development tools. That perspective was introduced by the dotcom bubble, and by Google - which is now inventing silly protocols like "TCP over HTTP" (aka WebSocket) just because it needs to get all your data on its servers to sell them.

    The "Internet" is a network, and there are better ways to exploit if for different tasks. Mail protocols are far better to handle email than any "webmail" client. Voice and video work best on UDP without any need to try to fit it into an "HyperText Transfer Protocol" designed for different needs.

    Native applications are welcome when you need power (and local storage...) over "access everywhere" advantage of the Web. After all the web was born in an era where portable devices were not available - it was good to be able to access informations in a device-agnostic way on any system. But as soon *our* devices are always with us what's the need of worst "experience" because of a web application with a design often different from that of the OS we're using, and often awkard to use on different devices and/or limited? Far better to use the Internet just as the data transport, and have native applications on devices that can exploit the device capabilities fully, and offer the best UI and experience. Why should I attempt to read email on my phone through a web interface? It doesn't make sense. A mail client designed for the phone UI is far better, easier to use, and is faster because it has to transfer data only, not the whole code for UI and local data management. Same for a tablet and desktop. Let HTML and HTTP do what they were designed for. Information search and presentation.

  11. Neil Alexander

    The HTML Problem

    What's interesting though about the web vs. app debate though is the actual means in which we expose and transfer data. The typical webpage has just far too much presentational data woven in and therefore HTML is mostly meaningless to a computer. How is a computer supposed to know a news article from a weather report by just looking at HTML? (Hence the half-rising of "microformats", to try and allow computers to make sense of the kludge.) At least in an app-driven world, the web services are delivering structured data that is usually well-defined and exposed through somewhat organised APIs. We just need more of those to be open and well-documented instead of highly guarded commercial secrets.

    If we can standardise the APIs and web formats of the web once again (like what we did with e-mail all those years ago), then we can start delivering information in a way that is easier for computers to process for a variety of tasks, allow the "apps" of the world to handle how to make that information human-readable, and let people choose which web service providers they want to mix with their "apps".

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: The HTML Problem

      That's what was done for email, for example. The protocol didn't mess with content, and content structure has been well defined. You get an high level of interoperability among servers and clients.

      TBL designed HTML because he wanted to share document-like informations readable by humans. It added some "command" capabilities to enable searches within the same document UI, and probably that was a fatal error :) It was used to build applications on top of HTML, and that lead to the ugly mess of what an "HTML document" is today, an inestricable compound made of code, data, layout information without a clear separation and well-defined structure.

  12. wobblycogs

    This death of the PC story is starting to get tired. Yes, there will be a decline in PC usage but it's not going away any time soon. What do most of us sit in front of day in day out at work? A PC. Why? Because it's the most efficient way to get our work done and until a tablet / phone / whatever becomes more efficient the PC will still be here. That's not to say there won't be a decline in sales / usage though, mobile devices are just a better fit for some things (like mobile web access). It's not like bikes completely disappeared because someone invented the car.

  13. Jim 59

    Good article

    I enjoyed the first half if this article, giving us a history of the web. Firefox was build on Netscape - cool, I never knew that. Not sure why the author describes Microsoft as a 1995 startup though (!).

    After that, the article reverts into a pattern becoming familiar at El Reg, viz, to attract comments by making deliberately contentious statements, often on the form of unlikely predictions about the future. First out is an old favourite, the proposition that "phablets" and PCs cannot coexist, and PCs must die. This has been discussed to death all over the Internet, and a conclusion globally drawn that "phablets" and PCs will indeed coexist because they are different, as wobblycogs says.

    Comment magnet number 2 is more original, stating that apps will kill the browser. Of course Facebook, Linked in etc favour apps on the smartphone, because they can use the phone's GPS and other hardware to track and farm you more effectively than from a browser.

    Sorry for the cynicism. I know Reg needs comments for advertising and page impressions. And this allows us to consume great content for free, it is just that the tendentious-prediction thing gets a bit repetitive. Personally, I would happily pay for reading El Reg.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Good article

      I enjoyed the first half if this article, giving us a history of the web.

      Alas, a drastically incomplete and misleading one, per my previous post. One of my undergrads did much better in a fifteen-minute presentation a couple of weeks ago.

      Firefox was build on Netscape - cool, I never knew that.

      The code name for the original Netscape browser project was "Mozilla" - a portmanteau of Mosaic and Godzilla apparently coined by Jamie Zawinski. In many (all?) versions of Navigator, you could set a config option that would replace the page-loading button image with a fire-breathing Godzilla. When Netscape Communications Corp started a project, and later a foundation, to manage their open-source offerings, they used the Mozilla name. Mozilla.org, of course, is responsible for Firefox. (That code base also gives us the Gecko rendering engine used in various other browsers and applications.)

      Not sure why the author describes Microsoft as a 1995 startup though (!).

      You mean in the phrase "Fighting fit startup Microsoft saw the web as threat"? I have no idea what Clarke means by that.

  14. pacman7de

    Remember Netscape?

    "Microsoft saw the web as threat .. and responded with its own browser, Internet Explorer (IE) in 1995"

    After first trying to buyout Netscape and after trying to negotiate an exclusive license with NCSA and finally after licensing a browser from Spyglass. ref ref

    "While Microsoft essentially killed Netscape, it did normalise the web"

    You're kidding right ..

    "PSD needs to get serious about cloning Netscape. We must have a plan to clone all the features they have today, plus new ones they will add between now and our next release .. We will bind the shell to the Internet Explorer so that running any other browser is a jolting experience" ref ref

  15. Decade
    Unhappy

    What about Opera?

    I guess Opera is not as exciting because it's a private company in the wastelands of Norway, so it doesn't publish its internal workings. And now Opera is dead to me, because they've decided to stop developing Presto and become a thrall of Google Chrome for some reason.

    Back in the day, Opera was quite the innovative browser. Speed, size, tabs, good Javascript debugger, cross-platform. It showed that you didn't have to be like Netscape Communicator 6 (shudder) to be an alternative to IE.

  16. Nick Gibbins

    "hypertext, an idea dating from the 1950s and Ted Nelson"?

    Not quite - Nelson coined the term 'hypertext' in 1963, and didn't really start work on it until the late 1960s (with Xanadu, and also with Andries van Dam's HES/FRESS system from Brown University). Contemporary with this work was Engelbart's NLS, which brought us videoconferencing and the mouse as well as a fully-realised hypertext system.

    If you want to find the origins of hypertext, you first need to start two decades earlier with Vannevar Bush's Memex, and then arguably go further back to systems like Ostwald's Die Brücke or Otlet's Mundaneum.

    But hypertext in the 1950s? Not so much.

  17. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "As such, Berners-Lee was less interested in presentation and more interested by data – both storing it and discovering it. The story of the web, however, has been dominated by how it is presented – how web pages look."

    There's this little startup called Google who have made quite a splash with "discovering it", you know.

  18. Timo

    server-side

    It would be good to include some of the server-side business and politics in the story.

    For example, in the early days of the WWW, Netscape had a large market share in the web server market, and they did collect serious amounts of license fees. But... being an open standard, someone came along with a more open, more free webserver (Apache was one, may not have been the first.) And this probably cut off Netscape's revenue flows. Microsoft had one too that shipped with the OS's (IIS?), it helped enable things on the desktop but it was full of security holes IIRC. It would be interesting to know if Netscape made more revenues on the server or client side of the business.

    So the punchline is that the disruptors got disrupted. That trend continues to this day.

  19. gary27
    FAIL

    nonesense

    utter nonsense - apps are a passing fad - except maybe for toy games - I've had 4 ipads numerous iphones etc, i stopped loading apps 2 years ago they just get on my nerves, also hate the stupid messages asking me to download their crap app their so proud of.

    I'm on my ipad several hours a per day on standard websites - of which the reg is an excellent example - websites which try and look like apps such as the ft html5 version are also crap - i remember switching to standard ft site after getting annoyed by their html5 one and realising how much better and easier it was to navigate - was a breath of fresh air never went back.

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