While browsing through my list of feeds I read this article by John Oxton at Joshuaink which laments how the microformats site is, well, too technical. As I discovered a few years ago when first looking into XML, the basic idea is very simple but some people tend to overcomplicate it.

As John says, getting to the heart of the matter is the important bit. That’s when technology starts to make sense, where complex theory is replaced with simple ideas, where it starts to become second-nature. Maybe I’m just a simple kinda-guy, but if great people like John have the same problems then perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.

Out and about (13:34 pm)…

Spending any time in a garage makes one realise how unmasculine being a computer nerd is. First against the wall come the revolution, that’s me. Oh well.

Big Web Five, No. 3: JavaScript…

To be honest I’m only learning about JavaScript – at least the New Way of JavaScript – at the moment myself, so I am far from a well-qualified person to speak about it in depth. However, suffice to say that modern JavaScript scripting is really, really cool.

And not just cool, but the web world as a whole seems to have grown up, and have realised that the DOM really is a standard, and that JavaScript can be used while still maintaining web standards adherence. Which is a good thing.

In fact I would go as far to say that it’s only because of the recent (last few years) recognition of web standards that modern JavaScript has been able to happen at all. After all, people must have thought “If we’re getting rid of the extraneous code in pages, and abstracting out presentational information from content then surely we can do that with interactive scripting as well?” But these are web-heads we’re talking about, so they probably thought “Isn’t it time to go to the pub yet?”.

I won’t bore you with waffling on about the possibilities modern JavaScript affords us, you’ve all seen GMail and Google Maps and other shining lights of this technology. However one interesting thing I saw today got me thinking. Several people have mentioned the possibility of JavaScript/DOM being the new Flash. I’m unsure about that, but it does say reams about how people are thinking about the potential capabilities of modern scripting.

So, if you want to see all this in action, you could do worse than to look at this nifty application which interrogates information from Delicious. Fantastic use of JavaScript from Johnvey.

And, of course, as I’ve said about HTML and CSS so far, as JavaScript is executed on the client-side it can be generated by anything you want on the server-side – PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, ColdFusion, Perl, Python etc etc. And that, dear friends, is where the real power of this comes in, and when I must move onto – perhaps – the most juicy part of this tasty technology quintuplet, server-side scripting. Watch this space…


Not being one to pass up an opportunity to procrastinate, in this case leave it another day or two before I write something about JavaScript, I’ll draw your attention to this: a new web standards accessibility task force. Including many of the leading lights of the accessibility world, this looks to be an exciting development, and one that should lead to better understanding of what accessibility is, and how we as a web community can make it happen.

So congratulations and best wishes go to the Web Standards Project and their new team of Untouchables!

Big Web Five, No. 2: CSS…

Second on the list of the 5 technologies that web developers can use to change the world is CSS. This fantastic language offers unparalleled power over the presentation of HTML (and, incidentally, XML documents, too). While support for the current version, CSS2, is flimsy at the moment from certain popular browsers, the fact is that CSS will remain for a very long time the de-facto method for styling websites.

However ’twas not always so. Back in the bad old days of tag-soup, CSS was used to merely style fonts – frankly wasting the opportunities it presented. However, due to the tireless efforts of a few people, CSS and a more standardised approach to web designing and development is gaining much ground. In fact I would say that any web person who doesn’t use web standards is now looked down upon as being “old-skool”, and not in a good way. You know what geeks are like, always having to be on the cutting edge.

But the cutting edge is the place to be when it comes to CSS, and so many people are discovering the joys of messing with those funky curly braces that we’re constantly seeing amazing things being done with CSS alone. The future looks rosy, and with the advent of CSS3 and it’s new goodies.

But of course, bringing this back to the whole point of this little series, the CSS can be generated however you want. By your server-side script or JavaScript, and no doubt there are ways to get the web server itself to use CSS in some way. Just like many others, I have fallen in love with CSS. Try it, you might like it.