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Page author(s): Simon Harper
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Simple, Authoring Language, Rapid Development.
I contest that in the near future it will not be possible for an untrained author, to simply read a small specification of the language, open a text editor and create a page; simply uploading the result to the Web. Even the graphical tools which are supposed to simplify this process, such as “Dreamweaver”, have become bloated with features to accommodate increasingly complicated interplay of Web languages. Of course, simplified applications, such as “RapidWeaver”, “iWeb”, and Google “Sites”, have been established to hide this complexity. However, the freedom to use the tools one wishes, in the way one wishes, is rapidly becoming eroded. The reliance on complex language means that the Web is becoming increasingly restricted for the “Everyman” who help bring it to prominence. Although I see an accessibility problem here, I am not suggesting a “Luddite” like, return to the old days of Web authoring, but instead, am calling for a simplified all-in-one Web language (either declarative or meta) which can be learnt in a short amount of time, by untrained programmers, who can use a text editor as the creation tool. I realise that the complexities will need in some degree to be hidden, but assert that this trade-off will neither be missed or required by the majority of authors working predominantly in the “long tail”.
Web authoring is becoming an increasingly professionalised activity. What was once seen by programmers as being nothing more than a way of delivering information via a simple metalanguage has become an important platform for dynamic application development. We now see that there is a plethora of programmatic languages to make the Web more application like; browserless platforms, such as “Adobe AIR”, enable the mimicking of application interfaces and components while still using Web infrastructure; and, complex asynchronous communications and page updates have become the norm for industrial sites within the Alexa top 500. Indeed, the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) 5 draft specification implicitly acknowledge these changes by its focus on application programming. In this move to authoring professionalisation the key aspects of the Web which made its adoption so rapid have started to become neglected. Indeed, it is my contention that if development continues, by programmers—for programmers, unique aspects of the Web will become inaccessible to non-programmers and hobbyists, indeed the very people who made the Web of today. Certainly, it is not my intention to suggest that the professionalisation of Web authoring is negative across the board, indeed it is quite useful for a number of applications.
- Will higher level declarative or macro language (macros combining - html5+css3+js+ajax) which will remove some of this complexity (and build in accessibility from the start) and thereby make non-professional heterogeneous authoring viable again?
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