Web “will last 500 years”

Web pages written today will still be readable in 500 years, according to Opera’s chief technology officer Hakon Wium Lie.


At an Opera event in Oslo, that firm’s CTO and so-called “father of CSS” noted his former colleague Sir Tim Berners-Lee predicted over a decade ago that HTML4 – the current web standard – would still be readable in 200 years.

In 500 years time, people are still going to be talking about web pages

“I’m going to up him,” said Wium Lie. “This is going to last 500 years. That’s not a random number, it’s very convenient number, as none of us are going to be around and you can’t come back and say hey, you were wrong.”

“In 500 years’ time, people are still going to be talking about web pages,” he claimed. “They’re still going be able to read the code we’ve written today.”

That longevity is because of the open standards that make up the backbone of the web, he said, noting Tim Berners-Lee’s project won out over commercial projects because it was free, open and based on standards.

“In order to make sure it is still legible, we need to make sure we use the standards and we agree on them, and that no single company can dominate here,” he said.

“We think that the web is even greater than us; it’s going to outlive us, so we should take great care of it,” he added.

He said the web is comparable to Gutenberg’s printing press, not only in its scope and ability to bring information to many people cheaply, but its longevity. “The printing press is the only invention we can really compare to the web,” he said. “The web’s going to have the same effect on the world as the printing press did on Europe.”

Web’s not dead

Wium Lie referenced a story in Wired earlier this year that suggested the web was dead. “As you can imagine, we disagree at Opera.”

He noted that the Wired article separated out video and web traffic. “I would argue that video is part of the web,” he said. “It’s embedded in pages. When people go to YouTube, they’re still on the web.”

“The web isn’t shrinking, the web is growing enormously,” he said. “Video may use more bits, it’s not really about using the most bits. At Opera we believe we should use as few bits as possible to make room for more people.”

The argument also suggested that apps would take over from web pages, a theory Wium Lie disagreed with. “We think native apps are a stop gap solution, and the web is going to provide the final answer,” he said. “The web is now becoming truly world wide. We reach more people on the web than on any other digital platform.”

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