The web in 2045

On August 6 1991, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put the world's first website online. It's been 27 years since that first website has been reachable via the world wide web. With the massive progression we've seen throughout the web's lifetime, I can't help but wonder what will happen in the next 27 years, what the web will look like in 2045.

A brief history

What better way to know the future, than to look at the past? There's an excellent blog called "The History Of The Web". Thanks to Jay Hoffman, the writer of the blog, I've been fascinated by the roots of the web.

On August 6, 1991 Tim Berners-Lee puts the first website online. A few months later, on October 29 of the same year, the first HTML draft is posted on the www-talk mailing list.

Three years went by until Netscape Navigator, the most popular browser at the time, was released on October 13, 1994. It took Microsoft almost a year longer to release their own Internet Explorer 1 on August 15 of 1995. In December of 1996, the first iteration for CSS was conceptualised.

Mozilla released Firefox more than ten years after the beginning of the web in 2004. Only a few years later, Apple flipped the web to its mobile side by presenting the very first iPhone on January 8, 2007.

Twenty-three years after the first mention of HTML modern websites found their identity as we know it today, when HTML5 was made the formal recommendation by the W3C on October 28, 2014.

It's amazing to see how the web has evolved in less than three decades. Not only its technical boundaries were pushed; people also kept finding innovating ways for what the technology was used for. Think about sites like GeoCities or NeoPets; the first blog post written in 1997; or some recent examples like /r/place on Reddit and an experience beyond words crafted by SB Nation.

Today

While the web's primary focus was to distribute content, its users have shaped it into a completely different, broader platform.

It's only in more recent years that we've been able to observe – and be part of – the unique phenomenon of the JavaScript world. While the language has been around since the nineties, it were frameworks like Ember, Backbone and Angular that opened a whole new area the web could grow in.

It's impossible to pinpoint an exact date on when people started looking at JavaScript as something more than a simple scripting language. But there are a few milestones worth mentioning.

Especially with the modern frameworks, better syntax was required; and projects like Babel came into view. This is where it starts to get real interesting: JavaScript in the browser becoming a compilation target, for other languages and supersets.

Gary Bernhardt, a well known public speaker; said that, in order for JavaScript to become as successful as it is today, it had to really suck. It's only then that people start investing in alternatives. And when JavaScript is the only thing that runs in the browsers, people are really forced to think out of the box.

With the arrival of frontend frameworks in JavaScript, people needed to start investing in performance. On the one hand, browser vendors are doing amazing things with their JavaScript engines. On the other hand, one of the most creative, out of the box thinking solutions; must have been asm.js.

Here you have an optimised subset of JavaScript; being able to run, for example, a 3D game engine—in the browser. With asm.js, and Web Assembly following; web technologies can be used for yet another, completely different goal.

It begs the question: "what is the web?"

The technologies the web was built upon: HTTP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript, became technologies to make applications and games; some of the programs we use to build the web, are built on these same technologies themselves.

Does "the web today" refer to all these technologies and creations, or just a collection of connected documents, built on top of the same technologies? Is the browser's goal still just that: browsing documents; or has it become a platform for all kinds of things, whatever we can imagine?

This is where the ad would go. I get it, they are stupid. But to be honest, they actually make a difference. So maybe you'd consider whitelisting this blog?

2045

With the web advancing so fast, one can only wonder what it will look like a few decades from now.

One of the key changes could be the sandbox we're all using today: the browser. Will applications stay confined to that browser window, or will they break free and live as first-class programs on your operating system?

The mobile world is already moving in this direction with progressive web apps. Chrome OS was completely built on top of the web, independent of the browser. But, some might argue, it was too ahead of its time.

Imagine a world where web apps can be "installed" via an app store; where you don't need bookmarks or URLs anymore, but simply open an app, like we open the browser today. Obviously, being built on top of the web; these apps don't need to be installed, they just work, everywhere.

Imagine JavaScript and DOM engines baked into operating systems. No more Electron or Java for easy cross-platform programming. All programs can be shared, everything will be interconnected.

And once all that is achieved, someone will come along, claiming a new invention: a simple web app for browsing and sharing content…


Hi, thanks for reading! What's your view for the web in 2045? Feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter or via e-mail, I'd love to chat!

And if you're reading this in 2045: what's your opinion on this blog post, looking back? Where will the web be in, say, another 27 years?