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Why has the Web become the Default Development Platform?

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Joe Walker, creator of Direct Web Remoting  (DWR) , has been summing up the reasons that as he thinks have lead the Web to become the default development platform over the last years. Easy of deployment, simple UI programming, simplicity of HTML and Openness made the Web become the most scalable system today.

Joe starts off by making his point about the Web being the default development platform:

10 years ago the default was probably VB6/Windows, these days it’s just the web.

Jeff Huber, Google’s vice president of engineering, has also advocated in the past that the Web is the dominant platform:

A lot that you have heard here is about platforms and who is going to win. That is Paleolithic thinking. The Web has already won. The web is the Platform.

Joe explains that the Web has (almost) none of the common installation issues:

Zero install saves time, builds trust, reduces clicks and confusion, saves space and is much easier to use.

He goes on by praising the simplicity of the Web UIs:

HTML makes it hard to create overlapping windows, complex dialogs, hidden options, deep menu structures - all the things that can make traditional applications harder to use. It's easy, when someone doesn't 'get' an application, to think that they've got a problem, and that they need a training course.

Joe continues with the notion of “Lazy Text”:

Lazy Text means that web pages are:

  • hackable. Which means advanced users can scrape, mash and plot, and normal users can embed YouTube videos in their blogs.
  • debuggable. When makes them easier to fix, even outside of the development environment.
  • learnable. Which means HTML can be taught in most schools.
  • Postel’s Law compliant. Which means they work. Postel’s Law makes browsers harder to write, can makes pages a mess and is a disaster for security, but there are no exceptions to Postel’s Law

The last quality that Joe finds in the Web Platform is its Openness:

Creating the development platform for the world is quite a responsibility. It would be a mistake to give it to Dr. Evil. There are degrees of openness, and while the web is not in the ideal position, it does appear that there are forces currently taking it in that direction.

Joe thinks that all these reasons have lead the Web to scale easily and this is the reason for it becoming the most widely used platform today:

Zero Install means that the web will scale to billions of pages.

Lazy Text means that the web will scale to millions of developers.

A Simple UI Model means that the web will scale to billions of users.

Openness means that the web will scale to thousands or millions of enablers (the creators of browsers, servers, development tools, etc)

For a reference as to how big the Web has become, the Google Index these days handles about 1 trillion unique URLs, from the 1 billion it handled at the start of the millennium:

We've known it for a long time: the web is big. The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. Over the last eight years, we've seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there. Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days -- when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

You can find more information on the Web and other Platforms right here on InfoQ.

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