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The World Wide Web Recap, February 2019

Each month, I send out a list of links from my research or around the web. Here’s the very best links I found in February.

Recreating the First Web Browser at CERN

After rebuilding the first ever website back in 2013, the CERN hack team came back together this year for an even more ambitious project: recreating the WorldWideWeb browser, the first web browser ever built by Tim Berners-Lee to demonstrate the networked hypertext capabilities of the web, a browser I’ve written about before. Over the course of a week in Geneva, they managed to hack a new version of the browser that, incidentally, runs entirely inside of the browser! It’s a massive achievement and a fun experiment, made doubly so by revealing the original intent of the web as a two-way street. The WorldWideWeb browser is a read and write browser, which allowed users to interact and shape the web as they viewed it, a vision that has been reversed quite a bit in the last 30 years. Another great artifact of the week? Jeremy Kieth’s fascinating collider timeline of the web’s pre-history.

Forget privacy: you’re terrible at targeting anyway

Avery Pennarun moves the privacy conversation beyond the sheer volume of data being harvested from each and every one of us to the next logical question, what do we do with all of that data? The answer, it seems, is not very much. As one engineer pointed out, “Everyone loves collecting data, but nobody loves analyzing it later.” It turns out (and as some of us likely already know) all that data being leaked out more and more each day may not even serve a useful purpose to those who collect it.

A Simpler Web: I Concur

The title on this one buries the lead a bit. Developer Bridget Stewart takes a trip through her own personal history of the web to not just argue for simpler approaches to web development, but to restate the case for progressive enhancement in a modern context. Stewart reinforces the idea that the web is a forgiving medium and that code bloat of websites filled to the brim with Javascript is just another case of history repeating itself. It may just be time for a bit of a course correction (she also comes to the defense of the Cascade in CSS, a position I personally think is undervalued and dismissed far too frequently, but hey, that’s another story).

Warp and Weft

This one from Paul Robert Lloyd is from late last year, but it’s already made it’s way onto my favorites list. Lloyd contrasts the commoditization and homogeneity of design and website publishing with many web creators innate desire to build something unique and fundamentally of the web. Ultimately, this push and pull will always drive us forward, but it is the way in which we interact with this dichotomy that can help us define the web’s future.

Tips and Tutorials by Tania Rascia

Tania bills her site as the “missing instruction manuals of the web,” which is a concept I quite like. She spent her early career as a chef, but transitioned to a full-time web developer about 5 years ago and since then has been focused on writing all about web development. Her tutorials are clear and easy to follow, and the topics range from Git to React. As an added bonus, the site has absolutely no advertising or sponsored posts, though you can support her directly if you find the tutorials useful.

Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana

Came across this bonkers quote from 1995 while doing a bit of research last week. It misses the mark so completely that it actually almost circles around to a good point. Anyway, it’s a good reminder that none of us are very good at predicting the future:

Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.