What To Do About The Sorry State Of Web Development
A commenter on previous article (The Sorry State Of Web Development) make a good point: I put out a lot of negativity without offering anything constructive in return. Well, Im going to make rectify that mistake.
Here is what I think needs to be done to improve the Web, as far as programming goes. I admit, much of it is rather unrealistic considering how much inertia the current way of doing things already has. But just as Microsoft (eventually) threw off the anchor of the 640 KB barrier for legacy code, we need to throw off the albatrosses around the neck of Web development.
HTTP is fine, but there needs to be a helper (or replacement) protocol. When HTTP was designed, the idea that anything but a connectionless, stateless protocol would be needed was not in mind. Too many people are laying stateful systems that need to maintain concurrency or two-way conversations on top of HTTP. This is madness. This applications (particularly within AJAX applications) would be much better served with something along the lines of telnet, which is designed to maintain a single, authenticated connection over the course of a two-way conversation.
HTML is a decent standard, but unfortunately, its implementation is rarely standard. Yeah, I know Firefox is great at it, but its penetration still "isnt there" yet. More importantly, while being extremely standard compliant, it is still just as tolerant of non-standard code as Internet Explorer is. If Internet Explorer and Firefox started simply rejecting non-standard HTML code, there is no way that a web developer could put out this junk code, because their customer or boss would not even be able to look at it. Why am I so big on HTML compliance? Because the less compliant HTML code is, the more difficult it is to write systems that consume it. Innovation is difficult when, instead of being able to rely upon a standard, you need to take into account a thousand potential permutations of that standard. This is my major beef with RSS; it allows all sorts of shenanigans on the content producers end of things, to make it "easy" for the code writers, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to consume it in a reliable way.
When developers are allowed to write code that adheres to no standard, or a very loose one, the content loses all meaning. An RSS feed (or HTML feed) that is poorly formed has no context, and therefore no meaning. All the client software can do is parse it like HTML and hope for the best.
Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.