Bray: The web moves too slowly
18:06, 23 May 2001 UTC | Eric van der Vlist

XML co-editor Tim Bray declared that the web moves too slowly - it's becoming boring and it's time to get XML in front of people.

Closing the first morning of conference sessions at XML Europe 2001, Tim Bray has suggested that, contrary to popular belief, the Web has not fundamentally changed since 1994 and that it's time to plan the next move.

The web architecture has remained based on clients sending URIs to servers and receiving back documents (HTML, Jpeg, etc.) through HTTP and its main strength is the standardization that has enabled its wide adoption.

The main innovation since 1994 has been XML, but even though XML is getting widely adopted on the server side and between servers (web services), there is nothing new in user interaction because the repartition of tasks between clients and servers is remaining too asymmetrical. The web architecture is, in this respect, a regression when compared to the client/server architecture that it has wiped out.

This leads to a frustrating experience for the users: the Web is slow, web sites look all the same, and the Web has become boring!

To change this, Bray suggested, XML and P2P are showing the way: we must get XML in front of people.

This is the bet made by, Bray's company that is developing rich graphical user interfaces that exploit, using Javascript in user agents, XML documents sent by servers. They focus on graphical representations of web resources as maps or 3D.

Bray did not approach the thorny question of the compatibility of such applications between user agents and devices.

Re: Bray: The web moves too slowly (Len Bullard - 16:22, 24 May 2001)

While XML was gelling, a VRML team built IrishSpace. What did we learn:

1. We could build a very compelling and entertaining piece using web technology of the time. We had to put it on a desktop. Worked great.

2. We could put it on the Internet but it would not get hits. Why? The audio files are very big. Should we have punted to scrolling text. No; it killed the experience to read and watch animation.

3. It was well-worth doing. We learned a lot about the genre of long-form 3D narration.

4. It has never been done again. It remains the sole example of the genre. Why? It took a team of fifteen people three months. It is expensive to do. Well, that doesn't stop it from begin done again. Why wasn't it? It takes enormously diverse talent and no one attempts such for no money unless they are crazy. We were crazy. It succeeded wildly on the desktop.

Key: it requires *talent*. That means, sing, dance, write well, think outrageous thoughts, understand what moves the human heart.

I watched adults sit through the piece and cry like babies at the end. Show me a web page in the web page hall of fame that can do that. Interface usuability teaches you NOTHING about how to evoke emotions, and that IS the difference between usuable and compelling. Too much Jakob Nielsen makes the web page BORING.

Curing boredom: being a smart geek won't do it. Geeks are for all their success and money, the most boring people this side of standardsWonks. They have no concept of going on to the edge to enthrall and they spend all their time trying to impress their peers who are also geeks. They don't know the first thing about entertainment. They don't know what thrills an audience, and frankly, are too scared to find out.

You want to entertain? Pick up an axe and cut heads with the best. Go where the Iron Crosses grow. The web is a weak medium. You might want to try standup, or solo in a restaurant, or really, just build all the way to the edge and beyond, do anything to build something stranger than the last thing even if it is the worst hog on the net and gets you in all the "worst of the web sites". Heck, it is better to be called that and be noticed than to stay in the background, safe, in step, and totally bland. Tell the geeks who tell you "it's too big to download" to go do what they do best: code small and think minimal. Art is about scaring the hell out of an audience, making them cry, making them laugh, and making them come again. That's entertainment.

To entertain, come on strong, stay long, talk loud and draw a crowd. Timid entertainers don't get on stage; they build fast downloading web pages that show all the meekness of their personality. Who cares....


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