Enter the Content Developer

By Deane Barker

A month ago, Blend gave every employee an iPad. We did this for two reasons. First, because it was just a fun thing to do. But second, we did it because it highlights a shift we’ve been seeing in our industry for a while: the shift away from the Web.

Now, I know, Wired explained this better than I ever did in their recent story, The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth taking a look. In it, they discuss the shift away from Web pages in a browser and toward Internet-enabled apps – thick clients, essentially, that have functionality designed around specific tasks and just use the Net as a data transport layer.

A decade ago, the ascent of the Web browser as the center of the computing world appeared inevitable. It seemed just a matter of time before the Web replaced PC application software and reduced operating systems to a “poorly debugged set of device drivers,” as Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen famously said.

[…] Those push concepts have now reappeared as APIs, apps, and the smartphone. And this time we have Apple and the iPhone/iPad juggernaut leading the way, with tens of millions of consumers already voting with their wallets for an app-led experience. This post-Web future now looks a lot more convincing. Indeed, it’s already here.

For the record, I’ve been thinking about this thing long before Wired published this story. In fact, I had a little epiphany a few months ago when watching a commercial for Microsoft’s Kin of all things. The Kin died about 10 minutes after they released it, but for some reason the commercial just resonated with me. I saw all these status updates and social media…nuggets, and I realized these things might never see the inside of a browser. They might live an die solely in the “Kin world.”

I know that Microsoft’s plans for the Kin (certainly their commercials) were a little overblown, but taken in conjunction with that Wired article, its really got my mind spinning about the possibilities of a post-HTML Internet. We’re not ones to sit around and say that the Web is going away anytime soon, but it’s undeniable that its influence is waning. A lot of functionality is drifting off into the land of apps.

Over the years, I’ve seen this with Gadgetopia. The fact is, Gadgetopia’s RSS channel is much more active than its HTML channel. I’d say there’s a really good chance you’re reading this in an RSS reader right now, in fact. The primary distribution channel has drifted away from HTML over the years, and towards RSS.

I wrote about this exact same thing a year ago in a post entitled Beyond Web-Centricity in Content Management.

[…] sometimes we (as Web developers) get too caught up in the “Web” part. Sometimes we get very Web-centric about our content, when we really should be looking at content from a completely presentation-free perspective.

[…] It strikes me that an “announcement” in the context of the enterprise doesn’t necessarily correlate to a Web page. It’s really a pure…nugget of information, uncorrupted by presentation. It has properties like a title, a body, an author, etc. that are universal. They transcend presentation. So, what do you call a piece of information, unencumbered by concerns about its final destination(s)?

I think you call this – gasp! – content.

Blend is a Web development firm, so we should be in a total panic right? Well, no, actually. Because we’ve taken a look at the future, and the future is…content. That’s the unifying thread that floats through everything. I don’t care if you have a Web site, an iPad app, or a carrier pigeon – you are delivering content to someone, somewhere, through some medium. And in this world, that content needs to be managed in a universal, channel-free method. And that’s what we do.

This has me thinking about job titles. Are we “Web developers,” or should we rename ourselves to reflect the fact that we’re just managing content, regardless of its final distribution?

This would make us…"content developers,” right? And Blend would become a “content development” firm? Right?

It’s worth thinking about.

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