‘Stop Pushing the Web Forward’

Peter-Paul Koch, back on July 28 (this one has been sitting in my to-link-to queue for a while):

I don’t think this is a particularly good place to push the web forward to. Native apps will always be much better at native than a browser. Instead, we should focus on the web’s strengths: simplicity, URLs and reach.

The innovation machine is running at full speed in the wrong direction. We need a break. We need an opportunity to learn to the features we already have responsibly — without tools! Also, we need the time for a fundamental conversation about where we want to push the web forward to. A year-long moratorium on new features would buy us that time.

I agree with Koch’s argument here, strongly, but I don’t think the solution is a one-year moratorium on new browser features. The solution is for the entire browser/web development community to get it through their heads that the web will never out-native actual native apps. The reason the web “won” in the late ’90s — where by “won” I mean became the dominant platform for software development — wasn’t because web apps were native-like. Quite the opposite: the web became dominant despite the fact that the apps were rather crude from a UI perspective.

“Simplicity, URLs, and reach” — those are exactly the things the web community should focus on. Native apps can’t out-web the web, and web apps should embrace that.

As a side note, I think this is more or less what is happening, whether the web community likes it or not, because this largely seems to describe Safari/WebKit’s approach to moving forward — and Safari, because of iOS in particular — effectively gives Apple veto power over new web technologies. Apple can’t stop Google from adding new features to Chrome/Blink, but Apple can keep any such features from being something web developers can rely upon as being widely available. That implicit veto power is what drove this summer’s “Safari is the New IE” drama.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015