Ethan Marcotte now blogs at Unstoppable Robot Ninja.

Weblog entry:

Speaking of Opera…

Just came back from a talk given by Håkon Wium Lie, the co-inventor of CSS and current CTO of Opera Software. I don’t know if I’d hyped myself up a bit too much (expecting the keys to the web’s proverbial golden gates to be handed down during a Tuesday afternoon lecture), but I left the discussion a bit disappointed. Believe me, I’m in no place to criticize someone of Mr. Lie’s stature — the man practically thinks in CSS, and wrote up some sick style rules in rapid-fire fashion during the lecture’s Q&A section. I guess my beef with the lecture was that it largely smacked of an ad campaign. Lie gave high-level demos of Opera’s new (and self-proclaimed Powerpoint killer) OperaShow (kinda cool), and showed some of the CSS-driven small screen rendering technology (quite cool)…which, in all honesty, made the entire 90 minutes stick to the roof of one’s mouth like a marketing presentation. It didn’t help that the last slide in his overhead read Download Opera 7!. Those wacky Norwegians.

Lie also dropped a couple interesting bombs on the audience (and not those of the word-to-your-moms variety). He basically lowered the boom at XML and JavaScript as out-and-out "threats" toward the primacy of HTML/CSS as a presentation medium. Now, i’ll be the first to admit that the days of document.layers/document.all sniffers aren’t proud ones (and who’m I kidding? we’re still stuck in them, to a certain extent…), but stating that JavaScript’s only good for silly animations? If poorly implemented, sure — it’s as worthless as anything else. But I think it’s pretty extreme to dismiss a language’s usefulness based on a few animated clocks on some 133t hax0rs’ GeoCities sites.

As for XML, it seemed as though he was concerned with the language’s extensibility, citing its thin specification. Most of his objections seemed to be rooted in the extent to which XML didn’t explicitly serve the ontology of the web — or, more specifically, his version of it. It was actually a pretty admirable little formula: if the web was created for global document access and exchange, then languages not specifically created (coughXMLcough) for document markup and distribution were flashy, inefficient upstarts; the whole diatribe really sounded like some older, venerated web pioneed sitting on his porch in the fading sunlight, shaking his cane at the young upstart technology punks down the street. To assert, as Lie did, that HTML is going to be the de facto standard for the next 50 years seems a bit premature to me. I don’t know as XML has all the solutions, but it’s much closer to realizing the goals of the web — or, more importantly, its users — than HTML will ever be.

Found this via Lie’s website — pretty extraordinary interview with Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the MIT Media Labs. It’s amazing to look at some of his statements with a remove of over seven years between then and now…it’s great to think that less than a decade ago, the average reader of the Times [was] not online, and could be referred to as one of the digital homeless. It’s not a short article, but well worth the read.

This was also found on Lie’s website. Speechless am I.


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