Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hyper Text

Through a combination of work stuff and forum roleplay, I've been reminded of the existence of this strange thing the web is made of. Not quite a programming language, not quite just formatted text, it seems to have fallen by the wayside recently. Of course, web pages are still made of HTML and retrieved by HTTP, but the word "hypertext" is as dead as the prefix "cyber-", and these days professional websites are more Flash and scripting than anything. Meanwhile, the W3C has been quietly moving on (I found out the other day that the FONT tag is deprecated in favor of CSS -- what's with that?), and I have a feeling we're rapidly nearing an age where people have forgotten that you can do this on the web (though maybe that's better off forgotten).

I've never been particularly proficient in HTML, but I wanted to take a moment to think about what "hypertext" really meant. Back in the day, it was, as the name suggested, a new, innovative approach to text -- now your documents could have, not only pictures and formatting, but also these strange things called "hyperlinks", which connected them to other, related documents. I remember (this was a long time ago, okay?) envisioning it as a non-linear book, in which certain words might lead into completely different stories. It was an exciting concept at the time. These days, hyperlinks are pretty much the only surviving part of that vision; the box I'm typing this into, for instance, is mostly Javascript. It changed the world and then went its way, gracefully making way for the various languages that came after it. I like to think that its greatest legacy is that even now, most links are blue and underlined.


1 comment:

  1. Time for me to advertise my own blog on your blog! I haven't done this much...anyway:

    "My friend has a brief post up about html, and the very concept of hypertext is no longer central to the way we use the web.

    I think this has been part of the democratization of the web..."