Interoperability anyone? Welcome to the Internet Stone Age

I spoke at the Untangle the Web event last night, which was good fun. I met some knew and interesting people, and got to talk about my beloved inclusive design. The audience were mostly tech newbies, so I dusted off my 10 Principles of Inclusive Design and wrote an 'introduction to...' sort of presentation, which seemed to go down quite well, but what dawned on me afterwards is that everyone working in the internet/digital/web/mobile/technology/whatever you want to call it industry is a newbie really.

I've been working in said industry now since 1999, when I joined the Internet bubble as COO of Wowgo, a teen girl's portal. I remember the agony of despair as developers caned £6mil of investors' funds on technology that never worked and then having to simply stand by as the dot com bubble burst in our faces. And until yesterday, I was of the opinion that the industry in the main had matured, but I was wrong. Sort of.

On the one hand, technology has evolved rapidly, in fact the trouble is that the proliferation of new technologies has been too fast, because on the other hand, there hasn't been enough time for any of the myriad of different technologies to take root. There is so much variation that it seems all anybody is doing is planting seeds, but nobody is tending the garden, to continue with my botanical metaphor. I mean, if we can't even get agreement on the HTML specification, which is the language that the whole darn tut interwebs relies on, then what hope is there for anything else? Moreover, if the foundation isn't stable, how on earth can these other technologies have a fighting chance?

I'm not championing one technology over another, for they all have their pros, and their cons. Of course HTML, CSS and JavaScript are a given, and in theory these are interoperable, but when you get down to the completely un-interoperable operating systems for the diverse desktop and mobile platforms and marry these with the many back-end programming languages and databases, along with the different approaches, such as inclusive design, accessibility, UX design, responsive design and suchlike, as well as the multifarious interpretations of these approaches and abstractions of the programming languages and you get code chaos.

What's my point, you ask? Well, I guess it's just a bit of a revisit of my own view. Sure. Technology has come a long way, but our industry is really just in its infancy and we've got a long way to go. I think in 100 years' time they'll look back and have a good giggle at what things were like in the Internet Stone Age.

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