Evolving Internet Technologies

It has only been 15 years since the internet really took off and already we’ve seen some dramatic changes in website style, code development, and how they compete for user traffic. The web faces many innovations every year, creating new business niches that are claimed very quickly. With such rapid evolution in internet technologies, try to imagine what the internet will look like in 50 or 100 years. It’s unfathomable. One thing for sure, it won’t be the internet as we know it today but will transform into the epitome of convenience and information.

Websites started off simple because of the limited bandwidth that was available in the 90s. So the few images that were on any user-friendly website had to be small. With the advent of dsl, website content swung to the other extreme. Image buttons substituted text links, and websites became very busy and cumbersome. It became popular to fit so much content on a page, it would make your head spin. Even on the hyped up 250k modem, your download speeds were always a very small fraction of that because of so many bandwidth bottlenecks between your modem and the routing servers. Today, it’s nice to see so many websites taking a step back in favor of quick page loading. Thank you Google for starting the trend. I noticed many new sites use a similar style of very little and well organized content on the important pages and big fonts, especially noticeable in the forms elements. No matter what site you’re visiting, it always feels good when websites get to the point fast.

Browser support and SEO pretty much dictate which technologies should be used. Flash, for example, has a very sleek look and feel, but search engines have a difficult time parsing out flash elements. You probably noticed already that most sites at the top of search results use flash sparingly. Google is making some progress, but is still months away from effectively analyzing toward flash content. Javascript used to be a big browser compatibility issue. Now it’s becoming the industry standard in web applications combined with ajax and php. In a few years, you will probably never have to reload your page for an entire session while using a website! That is the ultimate optimization when you only have to load new content. So redundant content like site navigation never has to be re-processed through a request.

The server side of a website is where all the application processing takes place. In the 90s dynamic websites used mostly Perl, which is largely based on C. Then came java, php, ruby, and .NET. Most commonly used are php and java. The main semantic difference between them is that java is object oriented, whereas php was mostly a scripting language. However, php is becoming increasingly object oriented. Aside from the differences in their libraries, php5 semantics have practically become java. Most hosting companies prefer to support php because it is open source and very easy to set up on an Apache server. You’d be lucky to find an inexpensive host that supports jsp. Java and .NET are still mostly used by businesses in enterprise level applications mostly because of the nice development tools they offer. It’s important to stay organized when you have many people working on a project and java/.NET integrated development environments (IDE) help a lot. A couple of free java IDEs are Eclipse (also for php) and NetBeans.