The Web in 2036: Predictions on a Whim
I just finished reading Jeremy’s article “Today, the distant future”. It’s fascinating to read predictions about HTML and the web from fourteen years ago. Jeremy ends by asking:
So who else is looking forward to seeing what the World Wide Web is like in 2036?
🙋♂️ I am.
Given that I have little confidence in my ability to make predictions, I’m timeboxing myself in writing this post—hence the title.
So where do I see the web in another fourteen years?
I agree with Jonny Axelsson (who Jeremy quotes in his article) and his prediction from fourteen years ago:
The Web in 2022 will not be dramatically different from the Web in 2009. It will be less hot and it will be less cool. The Web is a project, and as it succeeds it will fade out of our attention and into the background.
I think that trend will continue such that the web in 2036 will not be that different from the web in 2022 or even the web in 2009—it will still be HTML, CSS, JS, URLs, browsers, etc.
Here’s my perception of how the web changed from 2008 to 2022:
- Less vanilla, more framework
- Less server-side, more client-side
In fact, Jeremy quotes Scott Gilbertson fourteen years ago as saying:
will HTML still be the dominant language of web?
However, I also think it’s possible—and dare I predict—to say we are peaking in our divergence and are now facing a convergence back towards building with the grain of the web and its native primitives.
Why do I say that? In our quest for progress, we explored so far beyond the standards-based platform that we came to appreciate the modesty of the approach “use the platform”.
In a similar vein, I find the ethos of Deno interesting because of its bet on being “webby”. Rather than create its own conventions and APIs that deviate from web standards, it is converging towards the idea of a single web platform with a unified set of APIs, no matter the environment or runtime. For example, eschew the variety of different APIs for doing async HTTP requests and instead standardized around the
fetch API everywhere. Fetch is fetch, whether on the client, on the server, on the edge, or anywhere else.
fetch: it’s everywhere you want to be.
I think new tools like this could be directionally indicative of where the web is headed (or headed back to).
Ultimately, I don’t think HTML is going anywhere. As Yehuda says:
HTML (especially when enhanced with ARIA) is humanity's best effort to create a single set of portable semantics for the interaction patterns in computing.
HTML has been around a long time and weathered many contenders. I don’t see its status being overtaken in a “mere” fourteen years. On the contrary, I am venturing to guess we double down on HTML and its uses over the next fourteen years.
Ok, I should stop there because I could be very wrong about all the above. But before I stop, there is one last prediction I would like to make.
This is a prediction that comes with more confidence than the above: this blog post will still be accessible via its originally published URL in 2036. That means however wrong I am about the web in 2036, this blog post will still be accessible and subject to ridicule with the perspective of hindsight. And you know what? If that’s the only thing I’m right about, I’ll be satisfied with my predictions.