About one hundred and forty years, if you had told General Sherman that the world would become interconnected in the next century, he would have set you on fire — and believe me on this; the man burned his way through Atlanta. You do not mess with William Sherman and come out of it alive.
But the Internet “happened” anyway, didn’t it? Now, I can talk to my family across the world without having to worry about when the next messenger will stroll into town, or why the last one tripped his way into a rabbit-hole for all eternity. With all new things come methods of using them effectively, and the proliferation of such techniques. And then…there are innovations, breaks in the conveniently restrictive structured technological cycle of fixes, updates, and version releases.
In 1999, my brother was pondering about this new thing called Google, which 4th graders today can utilize with frightening alacrity. However, when I was in 4th grade and chattering about Google, my precocious comments really didn’t have much impact, other than the fact that I didn’t quite make the kickball team that day. Thanks a lot, guys.
And then the truth hit my unaware friends in the face, locomotive-style. Google was something new, but soon joined Pogs and Pacman in cultural popularity. This was something everyone was using; it was mainstream and loved for it. No technology company has yet had Google’s extraordinary success, although many have tried…and many others have been acquired. When staring innovation in the face, I’m reminded of one of my favorite novels, The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde — a story of how the most familiar things we know can contain something more than face value can offer. In this age of invention, of fads, of frenzy, we can pinpoint exactly how trends and innovations came about, and yet, we don’t know why we like them or why we hate them. Ultimately, instead of judging the Internet as a series of fan-followings, we can call it a social network and get away with it. A social network composed of design innovations? Allow me to explain:
The social evolution of design trends
In the beginning, there were rocks. Sometime shortly after the rocks, there came the Internet in a massive cosmic explosion that killed off the dinosaur actors from Jurassic Park. The first sites on the Internet were composed of text in various arrangements — text on the left, text on the right, text everywhere across the screen. Images and CSS, as always, came later. We will always remember the late 90’s for the proliferation of animated GIFs, image backgrounds, and brightly colored pages as well as the ideal that anyone could make a website. This frame of mind has, thankfully, survived into the present day.
Humanity takes the road well traveled; our creativity, while individual, is also part of our evolution. In the future, if it becomes popular to build houses out of cheese, you can always trace the initial idea to one person and watch others expand upon it. Where there were roads before, there are now links that might never have been invented if one person, however far back you want to look, had not had the initial idea to start the framework for a computer (Charles Babbage?).
Web 2.0 – respected, reproduced, and underestimated?
When we look at “Old Gloss and Gradients”, we assume it’s too pretty to be taken seriously, as if the substance is really something else hidden beneath the surface. The trademarks of Web 2.0 override any actual value the page has. If bright colors could speak sentences, designers in this style would be writing novels. But what if we look at it as something beyond eye-candy? As something the internet truly needs in order to expand?
The hallmark of the Web 2.0 phenomenon is communication. Blogging, as it is now, would be absolutely different if it weren’t for comments, trackbacks and RSS feeds. Those three parts alone say, “You contributed to the growth of the Internet; thank you, come again!” But we’ve blocked the road with bloated websites full of images, gradients, misused CSS, and excessive scripts. In response, we see more and more simple websites showing off their caliber — Accessites, Tantek, and Google, which is still very much the same — and proving that it doesn’t take beauty to maintain something truly great.
To conclude this section amiably, my friend Lisa details the necessity for simplicity in this very quotable quote: “You know a light fixture installation isn’t going well when it takes a brick, a hammer, a candle, and my aunt’s foot.”
Moral: Things are not what they appear
The widely accepted ideology that everyone is different is fundamentally wrong in one respect: we love the same things as an e-culture — beauty, simplicity, and great content — but it’s hard to find all three existing together. Thankfully, you have Devlounge and scores of other sites in the 9Rules network to showcase the best of the Internet while expanding communication across all varieties of people. The story of Jekyll and Hyde is of a man trying to separate the wicked in him from the good man he tried to be. If we can sift through the worst of what we see in designs and find the best parts of the Internet, we will come back richer for it. And that concludes my philosophical articles! If I try to write another one, come back and yell at me, please. Best of luck in the new year 😀