Technology

Story of Internet III: The "X factor" of the New Web!

A world where all contributed was conceived as more dynamic than where one held the key and others were just onlookers. This required a radically new architecture as well. If the site owner had to share her platform for an unframed creativity to be unleashed, frames of the past had to be done away with. That is what happened.

Earliest net experience was defined by web sites that were static and definitive. There were wars and arguments on how to define each element called tags in new language would work. As the dust settled on the new technology direction in the discussion list between Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen, text and images were shared with the world from a single server.

By early 1990s, various sites appeared. Static, unchanging but interesting and informative nevertheless. People were using services to create their own web pages at geocities.com and sharing their thoughts with the world creating a large reservoir of resources.

The new world, however, where everyone had a voice had to find ways to give the sites two main ingredients: Dynamic Updates and Interactive Content. The existing frames, HTML, and static pages were not enough. A new way of doing things was brought in. Good old HTML acquired an X-factor and was now known as XHTML. That X-factor was XML (Extensible Markup Language) – a new language that helped to differentiate the content from its layout and formatting (via the style sheets). Now every page needn’t be built individually. Dynamic page generation was made possible by the combination of XHTML and CSS (cascading style sheets).

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XML came with a syntax that freed information from the restrictions of peculiarities of various applications, users, and machines. Now, information was portable and dynamic. Not only could information be created dynamically, but it could also be shared dynamically between completely unrelated environments when it used XML formats called RSS -which has meant different things in different lives [Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91); RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0); Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)].

What used to be simple hand-built and styled pages gave way to weblogs or blogs. What was best shared via emails was now shared via auto-updated RSS feeds from those blogs and other dynamically created web site content.

This solved one piece of the data creation and dissemination challenge. The other challenge was creating an experience that was rich, interactive and real time. The technologies of the past era were controlled and tied to the one serving the information, so data and its dissemination was heavily tied to server-side. Control is also a euphemism for restriction and delay. In the new world where the consumer was an ally, this control had to be let go.

A step in that process was to create a way to not let the data exchange between the user and the site database be a prisoner of time. This was solved by divorcing the processing from transmission of data. Parts of data processing were moved to the user side which made the interaction faster.

This new framework was called AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

Over time most words in the acronym lost their capital status and several other formats found acceptance as ways to accomplish what this initial cocktail of Javascript and XML (XML for exchanging, transforming and displaying the data, XMLHttpRequest for the new way to communicate data, and Javascript for bringing it all together).

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All the pieces in place –dynamic information creation mechanism, information dissemination, universal formatting of sites, and interactive data communication techniques -the full power of Web 2.0 was finally available to the world.

Beauty of this world was that no matter which silo you lived in, you could be linked to the global community freely and perpetually.

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Desh Kapoor

The panache of a writer is proven by the creative pen he uses to transform the most mundane topic into a thrilling story. Desh - the author, critic and analyst uses the power of his pen to create thought-provoking pieces from ordinary topics of discussion. He writes on myriad interesting themes. Read the articles to know more about his views and "drishtikone".

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