The Fruits of Civilization (11-2-1) World Wide Web

 World Wide Web

Information on the Internet is subject to the same rules and regulations as conversation at a bar. ~ American pathologist George Lundberg

The most-trafficked part of the Internet is the World Wide Web, an open information space where documents and other resources are accessed.

The Web was conceived by English software scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. He wrote the first web browser in 1990, 9 years after he first proposed a hypertext document system.

In all that time, not Berners-Lee, nor any of the many pioneers that were aware of his early web work in the early 1990s, were savvy enough to figure out that a document-based system should have a decent page description language. What should have been obvious wasn’t. Berners-Lee’s feeble thought process never made it past working “toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities.”

So, what was foisted upon the world was html: a specification for network-based links coupled to a simple system of tags for notating paragraphs, headings, and list items – end of story. (html = HyperText Mark-up Language.) It was not until 1995 that html tags for rudimentary font styles were added, and even later that tables were even considered.

Berners-Lee had many good examples of how a page-based document system ought to be, but he lacked vision and technical expertise. It wasn’t until December 1992, when American programmer Marc Andreesen insisted upon having an image tag, that graphics were even considered to be supported by a web browser. Other early Web enthusiasts were not at all keen on the idea of supporting graphics.

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The Internet? We are not interested in it. ~ Bill Gates in 1993

In 1993, no large computer companies were interested in the Internet. They remained unconvinced that the Internet would be a success; seeing it instead as an academic project. Which it was at the moment. But good ideas, however gimped the implementation, grow legs that take them through time. So it was with the Web.

I see little commercial potential for the Internet for at least 10 years. ~ Bill Gates in October 1994

A few moons later, Gates was singing a different tune.

The Internet is crucial to every part of our business. ~ Bill Gates in May 1995

Consensus on turning html into a page-description language was stymied by the stupidity of the Web’s early developers. It never really happened. Instead, the door was opened for scripts to be run from web pages in 1996. A cacophony of scripting languages sprang up to cover web page design deficiencies that should have been obvious from the get-go. Now it is common for complex web pages not to load correctly because of wonky scripts.

Scripts afford surreptitious surveillance and malware. It was imbecility to allow scurrilous scripting to substitute for a decent description language as the basis for the Web pages.

 Adobe Flash

Internet video went to the whims of the network effect: the players most commonly used determined the formats most often employed. Flash won by dint of being first.

Flash was an animation player that Macromedia came out with in late 1996. 9 years later, Macromedia was gobbled up by Adobe.

Adobe had extensive experience with software standards, having tried to have its cake and eat it too by promoting supposedly open standard formats while having them work well only via their own proprietary software. This happened with fonts, then documents: the now universal pdf (portable document format). So too with Adobe Flash.

Adobe’s handling of its Flash player was irresponsible. Adobe never wrung the bugs out, and it let Flash act as a conduit for malware. Apple Computer was so disgusted as to not even allow Flash on its mobile devices.

Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch-based devices. Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements. ~ Steve Jobs in April 2010

Jobs has hit the nail on the head when describing the problems with Adobe, but not until after smashing his own thumb. Every criticism he makes of Adobe’s proprietary approach applies equally to Apple. ~ American programmer John Sullivan

In the 2010s, web browser makers gradually phased out support for Flash. Adobe will abandon Flash in 2020.

More generally, Adobe has long been criticized for its price-gouging practices, poor software quality, and even spying on customers of its products. Even the company’s flagship product, Acrobat, remains ridden with bugs.

Through carelessness, the company suffered a grievous security breach in 2013 that affected 152 million users. Adobe initially admitted to 2.9 million, then later confessed to 38 million users being affected.