The browser UI

The browser UI

Customizable interfaces, along with an advancement to the art prepares us for the ubiquity of well designed interfaces where functions are hidden until used, with user configurable themes at the application level. One way to do this is to use browser skin elements in the makeup of HTML content pages.

I think we fool ourselves into believing the web is for documents. Our browser requests a document from some webserver someplace, grabs it, then we read it on our computers, all these actions having been quite transparent to us as are the domain name machinations that go on in the background.

Frankly these kinds of transport mechanisms have been around before, what makes this one different is the ability of web browser to provide a programming platform that is device and operating system independent - which is a bigger deal that some people might think. In the 40 years I've programmed computers, a good half, if not more, of that time has been spent making software written for computer A work on computer B which is different - different CPU or different operating system. (Snide aside: lucky punks today, not everything I programmed even had an operating system).

Now, to be sure, the web is still one of the best ways to slurp down a document and view it on yout computer, but those of us who saw this as a programming platform at the beginning are now seeing the roll out of a de facto decentralized web operating system - it's a program loader and it manages our resources. Whether you use Amazons cloud or your own servers someplace, you're still relying on the web as operating system by now.

Anybody that's ever used a Bang and Olufson stereo immediately understands the principles of good interface design: hide it until you need it, while the more commercial of websites (and yes newspapers and tv networks I'm looking at you) suffer from egregious bling and bloat, we are finally beginning to see an almost delicate refined minimalism in the more tool based websites, the ones that act like more like application programs than documents. Facebook, Palpay, eBay, and so on.

Richard Sexton,
July 2010