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Happy Birthday, Dear Browser

I spent a few minutes this week reflecting upon my own past year’s accomplishments as I listened to my family’s deeds for the year during a very rare family get-together. Actually, they get together all the time. My life on the road means I don’t get together with them save for once or twice a year. So I was getting a full download of their year’s activities.

While listening to people whine about getting older, watching the world change around them, and how the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I remembered reading that this month, in fact on Christmas Day (December 25), the Internet browser was invented 15 years ago. If it could talk, what would it have to say about its accomplishments over the past 15 years?

Eweek reported on the “Interactive Nature of Browser Colors Past and Future” in their tribute to the 15 year old browser:

Fifteen years after the birth of the Web browser, development of the software is increasingly focused on provoking users to define their own ways of consuming information online.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sort of.

When Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first Web client, or browser editor, in 1990, his aim was to build a creative tool that would allow people using the nascent system to organize information and present it to others in a fun, dynamic way.

Fifteen years into the project, he and other experts closely involved with shaping the browser’s legacy agree that fostering greater levels of user interaction remains their ultimate goal.

When you ask Berners-Lee what surprises him most about the development of browser technologies, it’s not that one company, Microsoft Corp., has been able to take control of an estimated 85 percent of the market for the software today. Rather, the inventor, who currently serves as the director of the W3C (World Wide Web consortium), said his greatest shock is that so many people have embraced the browser despite its overall rigidity.

Thinking about the past 15 years, or even the most recent year, I’ve heard a lot of bitching and moaning about the inadequacies of web browsers and online tools – and yet this is still a brand new industry. It’s a baby in diapers compared to where it will be even 5 years from now. And what it has accomplished in the past 15 years is amazing.

Once, the Internet was limited to government agencies and universities, strictly for facts and figures and communication. Now, it is ablaze with colors, lights, and things that dance in the night, as well as facts, figures, and communication. There is hardly a person on the planet who hasn’t heard about the Internet and the power it puts under a user’s fingers to access tons of facts, figures, and information, as well as communication around the world in seconds.

Among my aged family members, who once shook their heads in wonder at the amount of time I spend in front of a computer, they are now talking flash drives, usb connections, digital cameras, uploading, downloading, file sharing, online games, email, blogs, bloggers, bluetooth, and WIFI. Ages 50 and above now can’t function without their cell phones, email and Internet news.

One family member, 74 years old, talked to me for almost an hour about his favorite political bloggers and columnists, about how he tended to listen to those with a more radical leaning view, but checked out a few ultra conservative bloggers “just to keep an eye on the enemy”. If I had told him about my website (a pre-blog blog) even three years ago, he would have shook his head and said, “Young people and their gadgets. Time wasters.”

Among all of the accomplishments the browser has achieved over the past 15 years, I’d have to admit that the most important one of all is the way it has brought everyone, of every age, race, language, and nation, together connected to a larger world. A world of information, potential, and possibilities. You can talk Web 2.0 all you want. I think getting a 70+ year old to willingly embrace high technology is one of the best accomplishments in the world. While age is making it harder for him to have the social and active life he once knew, he can still stay in touch with the world and argue politics with the best and worst of them.

For that alone, I thank you, Mr. Berners-Lee and the rest of the contributors to the success of the browser and Internet around the world.

Browsers of the Future

Berners-Lee talks about the popularity of blogs and online editing of wikis changing the way we relate and get news from the Internet, and then says something interesting about the future of the browser.

As part of a tightrope act that people exchanging information online must learn how to balance better, he said, Web browsers and sites will need to become more adaptive in allowing users to manipulate information online, while also getting more secure and trustworthy.

This is indeed a tightrope to walk the line between control and editing of information and security.

Firefox continues to get high ranks as one of the hottest browser to pay attention to in the future, with its versatile interface with tabs, privacy and content controls, and security. Other browsers are racing to catch up with some of their innovations, so we are clearly in a huge browser race, one that will benefit all of us users, hopefully.

The article continues with a prediction that wireless and mobile access to the Internet, along with Feeds, will clearly push the browser and access to the Internet in a new direction. People want pretty, but getting the information to them wherever they are, and just the information not necessarily the pretty, will be critical in the browser wars.

I gave my mother a handheld computer this year for the holidays. It has bluetooth and WIFI. She can now connect to the Internet through the WIFI system I set up for her and her husband a couple years ago and access the Internet via her new handheld computer while sitting by the fire downstairs from her office and computer, or even in the bath soaking. And when WIFI is out of range, she can connect via the bluetooth on her cell phone. Instead of waiting in doctor’s offices or long lines at the gas station or grocery store, she can quickly catch up on email or the news via her new mini-computer.

She was thrilled but overwhelmed – for about four minutes. A major fan of the local newspaper, she wanted to know right away how to write a scathing email to the editor of the newspaper about an article she had just read that morning. She didn’t even want to wait until she got up to the top floor (2 floors above) to her desk. She wanted to send it NOW.

Yes, the future of the Internet will indeed lie with wireless and mobile access. My mother is just one example of why.

Happy birthday, dear browser.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Internet Explorer is due to be upgraded soon and hopefully it mean that more people will discover RSS and other internet goodies. Not to mention the security advances that Microsoft keep promising.

    Thanks, Lorelle for your excellent post about the web browser! [...]

  2. [...] I recently wrote about the the 15th birthday of the Internet browser, mentioning the accomplishments of the browser over the past 15 years, and it got me thinking about what I’m thankful for because of access to the Internet through the browser. [...]

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