The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sort of.
When Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first Web client, or browser editor, in 1990, his aim was to build a creative tool that would allow people using the nascent system to organize information and present it to others in a fun, dynamic way.
Fifteen years into the project, he and other experts closely involved with shaping the browsers legacy agree that fostering greater levels of user interaction remains their ultimate goal.
When you ask Berners-Lee what surprises him most about the development of browser technologies, its not that one company, Microsoft Corp., has been able to take control of an estimated 85 percent of the market for the software today. Rather, the inventor, who currently serves as the director of the W3C (World Wide Web consortium), said his greatest shock is that so many people have embraced the browser despite its overall rigidity.
For as much as Berners-Lee seems proud that the browser has come as far as it has, growing from an underground academic phenomenon to a vitally important tool in millions of peoples lives, he still believes browsers are too limiting in how they allow people to input and consume information.
For the browser to remain as relevant as it is today, he said, the applications will need to become more effective at letting people get the information they want faster, from wherever they want to get it.
"Here we are in 2005 and you see this craze around blogs and wikis, which anybody can edit," said Berners-Lee in a recent interview with eWeek.
"In a way that sort of ratifies my original assumption that anybody can edit and that people wanted to be creative and have the power to write as well as to read."
The W3C head said that hes encouraged by the new wave of interest in self-publishing technologies such as blogs, RSS feeds and wikis, as those interactive Web applications are closer to what hed originally imagined, versus a network of tightly-controlled browsers and sites largely owned by businesses.
As part of a tightrope act that people exchanging information online must learn how to balance better, he said, Web browsers and sites will need to become more adaptive in allowing users to manipulate information online, while also getting more secure and trustworthy.
"Theres more technology out there which is going to make both the reading and input of data much more powerful," Berners-Lee said.
"It would be a mistake to think that the browser is a static well-defined object as it is now, I think well see a lot more development in that area."