Web pages seen through Chrome tinted glasses

So, I'm sure by now most of you have taken at least a glance at Google's Chrome right?

I find it intriguing as it calls into question something very dear to my heart, namely the relationship between information and applications. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to wonder about this stuff out loud at XTech 2008. In my talk I expressed the view that web pages - as we know and love them - are really just snapshots into something much more interesting - web applications.

The web started out as pages - information - and slowly but surely the degree of dynamic behaviour behind those pages has increased to the point where the pages have disappeared in many cases. If pointing a browser at a URI causes a web server to run a program that generates a page and then throws away the page, then does the page really exist?

Even if a page really exist but consists of 95% Javascript which, when run, generates what the end-user sees, is it a page really? Isn't it an application in disguise? If you look at it that way, then Google's Chrome is an obvious evolutionary step. The original web was all pages. Pages are just a special case of applications. Therefore, lets move to a web of applications. It is the more general solution. We can do everything we could do before but now can do some much more too. What's not to like?

Call me an old fuddy-duddy but I think we will loose something important on the way. In a world of on-demand, just-in-time page generation, what does a URL really point to - a program or the result of running that program? If I spider and index a bunch of web "pages" that are 95% Javascript, what have I created in the index? An index to the content or an index of the programs that, when run, would generate the content?

Are we heading towards a world where we need a browser to "understand" pages for us because we don't carry Javascript interpreters between our ears? I suspect so. What will this mean for the not-yet-fully-formed-and-already-out-moded concept of a mashup for example? Life was so much simpler when the web was simply revolutionary. It is moving beyond that and I don't have a superlative that fits yet.

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