Who will win the battle for control of the web?
In the 20 years since Tim Berners-Lee produced the first web browser, our expectations of what the internet can deliver have changed beyond all recognition.
However, the core experience of browsing of HTML-based pages has remained largely intact. Now that’s all set to change.
A series of critical breakthroughs – massively increased bandwidth, the demand for rich media, cloud computing, the advent of wireless connectivity and the rise of mobile devices – has created the foundations for the next generation of rich internet-based apps.
Each of the big three computing companies – Microsoft, Apple and Google – has its own radically different vision to promote, as does the world’s biggest creative software company, Adobe
Apps that won’t only be accessed via a desktop PC or laptop, but on smartphones, tablets, TVs and all manner of other internet-connected devices.
Control of this new evolution of the web is up for grabs. Each of the big three computing companies – Microsoft, Apple and Google – has its own radically different vision to promote, as does the world’s biggest creative software company, Adobe. And HTML itself is changing, too.
The stage is set for an enormous battle between these computing titans, and the value of the prize is incalculable: what price can you put on a company that holds the keys to the internet? It isn’t only an opportunity and challenge for these major players, however.
If you’re a web designer or developer, you need to understand the battleground, the strengths of the opposing armies, and what skills and tools you’ll need to get yourself a piece of the action.
One by one, we’re going to examine the case for each of the contenders in the war of the web and, with the help of industry experts, assess which – if any – is most likely to emerge as victor.
Adobe and Flash
The first contender to offer an all-encompassing vision for what it calls “the next chapter of the web” is Adobe. Its Flash technology began life as a way of adding bandwidth-efficient graphics to HTML pages.
Today, more than 75% of web video is delivered via Flash and more than 99% of internet-connected desktop computers can view Flash content, according to Adobe.
More than 75% of web video is delivered via Flash
Almost unnoticed, Flash has become a near-universal web runtime. Since taking over development from Macromedia, which it bought five years ago, Adobe has built Flash into the very heart of its print, web, video and e-learning applications – as have other software developers.
The days when the creation of Flash content was limited to Flash Professional are long gone. Now you can produce engaging, interactive Flash content directly from a host of applications including the two dominant professional publishing programs, QuarkXPress and InDesign. Meanwhile, the Adobe Flex SDK allows developers to create web apps based on Flash.
David Coletta is an example of the new breed of Flash/Flex-based developer. He was involved in the creation of Buzzword, “a word processor for the web”, which is now part of Adobe’s Acrobat.com range of online services.
Talking to PC Pro, he says he was looking for “three critical requirements: support for a very rich user interface, high enough performance to re-flow a wysiwyg document on every keystroke, and zero install,” when creating Buzzword. “Flash was the only choice,” he concluded.