Monday, March 2, 2015

Do We Still Need HTML?

The joke on Friday was that the frogs switched their website to NoHTML after switching their databases to NoSQL, which resulted in the last frame being completely blank. But does NoHTML mean no HTML? And does no HTML mean no content? Is NoHTML even a thing?

I'll try to answer those questions. First of all, what would NoHTML mean? It's clearly a play on NoSQL, which is a term for a class of databases that store things differently than the classic relational models. NoSQL is typically associated with Big Data and "web scale" and things like that. If NoSQL is the data storage for the Internet of a trillion people, then NoHTML should be the data visualization.

There is a real project called noHtml. And it is exactly what you might think it is - a way to build the DOM for a web page without any HTML. The page contents are created entirely by JavaScript. But this is just the most extreme example of what many of us have been doing for several years: dynamically adding and modifying the web page programmatically.

I write very little HTML these days. All of the HTML for Amphibian.com is generated either by JavaScript code that I write or by the Jade template engine. Individual comics are stored as JSON data and either applied to a template to create HTML (for the general viewer) or have DOM elements created directly by JavaScript (for my editor).

The popular "single page" web applications are pretty much doing this as well. Data comes from the server and content for display is generated by JavaScript, not by HTML. We may have already entered the post-HTML era. Web 3.0? Maybe just 2.5.

How am I doing on answering those questions?
  1. Does NoHTML mean no HTML? Not necessarily. You can completely avoid creating HTML yourself and yet still have a template engine produce it for you before giving the content to the browser. HTML still exists.
  2. Does no HTML mean no content? Certainly not. As exhibited by the noHtml project and my own comic editor, the DOM can be created without any markup language.
  3. Is NoHTML even a thing? It would appear that it is.
Welcome to the future.

Amphibian.com comic for 2 March 2015