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The year that was

Bring on the Year of the Palindrome

Yes this is a year-end list...but there will be no predictions.

As The Economist wrote, 2001 was, in some many ways, not 2001.

In many ways, despite the lingering effects of the dot-com collapse, this was the year the Web regained some of its early potential. What follows are five themes that I feel encapsulated this medium’s year.

Weblogs

Blogging went mainstream in a big way this year. Despite the fancy new name, the blogs are a variation of the mid-nineties homepage. This time around, the tools are more transparent thanks to services like Blogger and Weblogger.

Throughout the year, blogs continued to prove themselves as a powerful means to share first-hand accounts of news as it happened—notably Seattle’s February earthquake and the events of September 11.

The personal was lost in the crassly commercial dot-com run-up year, and now, with the tables turned, I find myself reminded daily of what I liked about this medium.

Browser Wars

After almost five years, the fight between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator is over. While Microsoft won, in a way so did the entire Web—more on that later.

The Browser War—like the OS War before it—is giving way to the Platform War (which includes the Console War and the Wireless Wars—the latter encompassing PDAs, cellphones, tablets, Bluetooth, 802.11a, 802.11a; the former: Playstation 2, the GameCube and the Xbox).

Standards

The WaSP took a break because its three-year mission has been a success. As a result of their efforts (among others) and the fall-out from the Browser Wars, the 6.x edition browsers are among the first to display Web pages as they were intended.

There’s still a way to go (HTML editors, 100-percent standard compliance in the browsers), but ugly hacks (embedded tables and <img src="spacer.gif"> anyone?) are no longer necessary for most sites. Which is good for Web users and developers.

Diversification

Napster and ICQ can both be thanked for weening people off the Web. For too long, and for too many, the Web was the Net, but these two applications (and their bastard offspring) helped demonstrate the potential of TCP/IP beyond HTTP.

Entrenchment

Finally, this year saw the Web complete its transition to the mainstream. The Internet has been firmly fixed as the third media, resting confidently beside print and broadcast. No qualifications or “gee whizzes” necessary.