5 things about the web that we need to future-prove

The World Wide Web has been around for just some 25 years. And we are still struggling to find answers to basic yet fundamental questions regarding digital records management, says Steven Pemberton, a WWW pioneer, chair of several W3C working groups and researcher at The Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam.

Steven Pemberton speaking at Interaction14 on  The Computer as Extended Phenotype

Steven Pemberton speaking at Interaction14 on The Computer as Extended Phenotype

Will we for example still be able to read and access websites made today in 100 years time? Or will all our content be lost to future ages? What is needed to make the web age-tolerant? What do we want from the web in both the short and long term?

Reflections of a World Wide Web pioneer

Steven has spent his career researching issues related to the Web and to prepare for his keynote at the Boye Philadelphia 16 conference, he tasked himself with reflecting and finding answers to these questions.

In his opinion, we need to look at the following five issues if we want to future-prove the web for generations to come:

1) Content

Despite the use of style-sheets, the current web is almost completely visually-oriented. This locks the content into one particular representation, and makes it hard to re-purpose. What we need is a web that is primarily content-oriented, with a final phase of presentation; only in that way can content be repurposed in the same way that data can be. Design for the web should be like design for a house style. It has a general style that the content can flow into.

2) Multi-device

We don’t want to have to produce copies of our websites for each new type of platform or device. There needs to be a generic method of re-purposing content to the formfactor of the device accessing it.

3) Accessibility

Even when we are 80, we will still want and need to use the web. How can we make our 30-year-old selves sensitive to the problem of our less-abled

4) Authorability

With the arrival of HTML5, the web has stopped being about documents, and started being about programs. Now only programmers can produce modern web pages. What can be done to alleviate the problem?

5) Availability

HTTP, the protocol used for serving Web pages, has served us well for the last 25 years, but is beginning to show its age: it has become a single-point-of-failure for content. It enables DDoS attacks, makes it easy for governments and other agencies to censor sites and content, and just when a website becomes super-popular it can fail causing the website to crash and be unreachable.

How do we best approach the future of the web?