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Christian Heilmann: embrace openness for the web’s future

In a blog post based on his recent WebVisions Barcelona talk (available via YouTube), Mozilla developer evangelist Christian Heilmann has urged those in the web industry to “make space for the next users of the web”.

Heilmann said that the web industry needs a reminder of the original concept of the web, which was “fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability”. Now, though, instead of a “fiercely flexible” web, he argued too often that sites “overload users on the desktop with lots of widgets and an avalanche of content” and “we limit the mobile interfaces to the bare minimum, in many cases not even in a working fashion”. In the latter case, he reasoned companies often resort to mobile app doorslams to deal with the failure.

That the industry has in part lost its way seems surprising, given the range of courses and tools now available, but Heilmann suggested reasons why this has happened, including a tendency to fix things that are “not a problem yet”, and people working in areas they’re not well-versed in. He remarked you’ll too often hear designers responding with “just use a jQuery plugin” for a development problem, “rather than finding a much simpler, more scalable and easier to understand JavaScript solution”. Partnering, he suggested, was a smarter option.

He also thought people within the industry should communicate more, share more knowledge, and recognise the inherent hardware-agnostic nature of the web. Without doing so, he warned “the web as we know it will play a second role to closed systems”. As always, these would eventually fade away, but the diversion would be a “big waste to spend lots of money and effort when we already have something that works”—namely the open web.