Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Shelly Palmer

Related Topics: Machine Learning , Open Source Cloud

Machine Learning : Article

AJAX and the Maturation of Web Development

From "View Source" to "Open Source"

I have always imagined the information space as something to which everyone has immediate and intuitive access, and not just to browse but to create." (Weaving the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee)

From the beginning, the World Wide Web that Tim Berners-Lee imagined was a place where the architecture of participation ruled. Berners-Lee's first application for accessing the information Web was both a browser and an editor, and throughout the early 1990s he worked diligently to encourage Web browser development groups to develop editors and servers as well as browsers. As early as the spring of 1992, the challenge was clear: "Although browsers were starting to spread, no one working on them tried to include writing and editing functions....As soon as developers got their client working as a browser and released it to the world, very few bothered to continue to develop it as an editor" (Weaving the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee).

Developers tended to defer the editing functionality for a number of reasons, mostly to compress development schedules and to get the browser out the door - because they felt many people, if they didn't need it, would at least use it - without the editor, which was more complex and useful to a smaller audience. Netscape Communicator 4.0, released in 1997, did finally include Netscape Composer, although its licensing terms only allowed free use for non-commercial purposes. Internet Explorer never contained an editor directly, though Microsoft acquired FrontPage from Vermeer in 1996; FrontPage 1.0 had been released in 1995 (www.seoconsultants.com/frontpage/history/).

It wasn't just the complexity of the editing functions themselves, of course, but also the fact that reading pages required a much simpler authorization model, in which the user either has access to the document or does not. In fact, the cluster of issues at hand - from version control of Web pages to multiple authors editing the same page, sometimes at the same time, to control over who should have access to change what pages - would busy the content management industry for the better part of the next decade.

While the early Web browser teams deferred creation of an HTML editor, they retained a key element of Sir Berners-Lee's original Web browser/editor:

The 'View Source' menu item migrated from Tim Berners-Lee's original browser, to Mosaic, and then on to Netscape Navigator and even Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Though no one thinks of HTML as an open source technology, its openness was absolutely key to the explosive spread of the Web. Barriers to entry for "amateurs" were low, because anyone could look "over the shoulder" of anyone else producing a Web page ("The Architecture of Participation" by Tim O'Reilly).

This "View Source" menu item, which was not buried in developer editions or professional versions but was part of the core browser, created a culture of easy access to knowledge.

As the complexity of presentation-tier Web development grew, with Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript, and DHTML in the mix, the View Source culture of Web development evolved into an open source culture of frameworks and libraries. It is this culture that enables the viability of current AJAX-based approaches to Web development.

The View Source Culture
From a narrow perspective, the decision to include a View Source option in the Web browser was an insignificant choice, perhaps useful for troubleshooting formatting issues, but of interest to a very small community. As Berners-Lee puts it, "I never intended HTML source code (the stuff with the angle brackets) to be seen by users. A browser/editor would let a user simply view or edit the language of a page of hypertext, as if he were using a word processor. The idea of asking people to write the angle brackets by hand was to me, and I assume to many, as unacceptable as asking one to prepare a Microsoft Word document by writing out its binary coded format" (Weaving the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee). What View Source did (and still does!) was let users who were interested in learning to create Web pages see what HTML source was delivered to the browser to produce the page currently being rendered. Perhaps because many of the early Web users were developers of one kind or another, it became an expectation that any reasonable browser would include the ability to View Source.

Viewed more broadly, however, the View Source command was nothing short of revolutionary. It set the expectation that users should be able to not only view the "rendered" document, but also the "code" that created it. Because early browsers often differed in their interpretation of HTML, this was critical. Significantly, though, the View Source option was not buried in a developer's edition but was part of the edition everyone used, which encouraged even neophyte users to view the source of pages, whereupon they would see the relative simplicity of (especially early) HTML. (An interesting discussion about the need for the View Source option can be found in this bug report: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=256213 - which was a request to move View Source into a developer build of Firefox, and was ultimately rejected.)

This same expectation - that users should be able to view the raw source of files served by Web servers in addition to the rendered effect - was later extended to Cascading Style Sheets (.css files) and JavaScript (.js). In order to be rendered and displayed, browsers would need to download HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, along with images and other binary files referenced in pages. However, the fact that the major browser developers chose to expose access to raw source as a first-level menu item was extraordinary. (In some cases accessing .css and .js files required a bit more ingenuity on the user's part, but nothing like the difficulty of accessing the source files in any other format such as Microsoft's Word or Adobe's PDF.)


More Stories By John Eckman

John Eckman is Senior Director of Optaros Labs. and has over a decade of experience designing and building web applications for organizations ranging from small non-profit organizations to Fortune 500 enterprises.

John blogs at OpenParenthesis and you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and many other social networks: all his online personas come together at JohnEckman.com.

His expertise includes user experience design, presentation-tier development, and software engineering. Prior to Optaros, he was Director of Development at PixelMEDIA, a web design and development firm in Portsmouth NH, focused on e-commerce, content management, and intranet applications. As Director of Development, he was responsible for managing the application development, creative services, project management, web development, and maintenance teams, as well as providing strategic leadership to teams on key client accounts, including Teradyne, I-Logix, and LogicaCMG.

Previously, John was a Principal Consultant with Molecular, a Watertown MA-based professional services and technology consulting firm. In this role he was responsible for leading technical and user experience teams for clients including JPMorgan Invest, Brown|Co, Knights of Columbus Insurance, and BlueCross and BlueShield of Massachusetts. Before becoming a Principal Consultant, he served in a number of other roles at Tvisions / Molecular, including various project lead roles as well as User Experience Manager and Director of Production.

John's technical background includes J2EE and .NET frameworks as well as scripting languages and presentation-tier development approaches, in addition to information architecture, usability testing, and project management. He received a BA from Boston University and a PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle; he completed an MS in Information Systems from Northeastern University in 2007. He lives with his wife and two cavalier spaniels in Newburyport, MA.

Contact John Eckman

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
AJAXWorld News Desk 11/30/06 01:56:02 AM EST

From the beginning, the World Wide Web that Tim Berners-Lee imagined was a place where the architecture of participation ruled. Berners-Lee's first application for accessing the information Web was both a browser and an editor, and throughout the early 1990s he worked diligently to encourage Web browser development groups to develop editors and servers as well as browsers. As early as the spring of 1992, the challenge was clear: 'Although browsers were starting to spread, no one working on them tried to include writing and editing functions....As soon as developers got their client working as a browser and released it to the world, very few bothered to continue to develop it as an editor' (Weaving the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee).

@CloudExpo Stories
In order to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s customers, companies are continually forced to redefine their business strategies in order to meet these needs, stay relevant and continue to see profitable growth. IoT deployment and development is integral in this transformation, and today businesses are increasingly seeing the value of investing their resources into IoT deployments. These technologies are able increase ROI through projects such as connecting supply chains or enabling sm...
Interested in leveling up on your Cloud Foundry skills? Join IBM for Cloud Foundry Days on June 7 at Cloud Expo New York at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Foundry Days is a free half day educational conference and networking event. Come find out why Cloud Foundry is the industry's fastest-growing and most adopted cloud application platform.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Carbonite will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Carbonite protects your entire IT footprint with the right level of protection for each workload, ensuring lower costs and dependable solutions with DoubleTake and Evault.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP Integration will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EARP Integration is a passionate software house. Since its inception in 2009 the company successfully delivers smart solutions for cities and factories that start their digital transformation. EARP provides bespoke solutions like, for example, advanced enterprise portals, business intelligence systems an...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assis...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Brad Winett, Senior Technologist for DDN Storage, will present several current, end-user environments that are using object storage at scale for cloud deployments including private cloud and cloud providers. Details on the top considerations of features and functions for selecting object storage will be included. Brad will also touch on recent developments in tiering technologies that deliver single solution and an end-user view of data across files and objects...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale, a global pure play Infrastructure as a Service provider and strategic partner of Dassault Systèmes, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2010, Outscale simplifies infrastructure complexities and boosts the business agility of its customers. Outscale delivers a secure, reliable and industrial strength solution for its customers, which i...
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
IBM helps FinTechs and financial services companies build and monetize cognitive-enabled financial services apps quickly and at scale. Hosted on IBM Bluemix, IBM’s platform builds in customer insights, regulatory compliance analytics and security to help reduce development time and testing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Tom Eck, Industry Platforms CTO at IBM Cloud, will discuss how these tools simplify the time-consuming tasks of selection, mapping and data integration, allowing developer...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...