Divya Manian

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This revolution needs new revolutionaries

In early 2000s, when the web was in its infancy, a great number of committed activists made Open Web Standards possible. They advocated, wrote the specifications, explained them to the masses, and contributed to the revolution of using W3C Specs on the web. I owe each of them my career as a Web Designer/developer.

Now, we are in the middle of another revolution. The web as we know it is changing significantly. The ways of doing, implementing and working with web pages have altered. Designing with the right semantic tags or using floats instead of tables are no longer the simple goals of a good web page. We need the pages to load quickly, use the faster newer CSS selectors and DOM APIs, and better ways to create animations, dynamic images, and dealing with how to design for a variety of devices that now have browsers.

The best way to be a part of the revolution is to BE the revolution, not talk ABOUT the revolution. A lot of recognized individuals seem to be doing the latter. To BE the revolution, you just need to look at what some of the people at the fore-front of it are doing: Paul Irish and Faruk Ateş have made the future accessible with Modernizr. Peter Beverloo created the “Last Week in…” series that has been re-adopted by W3C and WHATWG where you can keep up with the pace of creation and implementation of web specifications. Scott Jehl created Respond.js which lets older browsers understand media queries, Shi Chuan made designing for multiple devices easy by exhaustive research for HTML5 Mobile Boilerplate. Jon Neal made practical use of HTML5 elements easy with IE Print Protector. Lea Verou has been teaching web development and is the author of significant articles on web development. Jason Kiss has been documenting how HTML5 elements, ARIA work with different Screen readers without much fanfare. Nicolas Gallagher, Ryan Seddon, Mathias Bynens and several others have been doing similar practical investigations on how to use what’s new and awesome in real life scenarios.

But these are not the people who are known revolutionaries. Unfortunately, the people who seem to be recognized for pushing the envelope are people who talk ABOUT the change, those who split hairs on whether to call something “Responsive” or “Adaptive” or speak about HTML5/CSS3 but have very little code to show for their understanding of it.

Now is the time to get developers on board the new rush of web standards, not to promote litigation on the presence or absence of a single HTML attribute, or debate a merits of the name of a technique. What it does is to deflect attention from learning, instead directs developers to spend more time beating about the bush and not be fully engaged in what’s coming.

It is time to move on. I acknowledge all these past trail blazers, but they are not at the forefront today. Following their advocacy does not shed light on all the practical implementations that are possible while exploring new technology. People seem to know - but not use - the latest in web standards, and several are on the fence because they do not know how to work with new standards right now.

It is time for us to get new idols. Here is what my idols do:


They code. They have demos on their website or on Github.

They write. They write tutorials that are not browser-specific, and link back to specifications, have comments and update their posts with newer/better ideas from within the comments section.


They research and publish their findings. A lot of recommended practices are dogma and hearsay - creating practical examples to test such assertions and validate them would be cornerstone of their work.

They know what is new. Web standards keep changing. They should know what is new, what is relevant and what shouldn’t be promoted. They talk and respond to your queries and are not too busy to find time to write code that works.


They do not work in isolation, but get people together who can create projects that benefit the web.[Bonus!] They are available on mailing-lists, forums, or IRC channels to help n00bs when they can.

If you think it is hard to find these people, then you are not looking. All the people I mentioned earlier are people worthy of listening to. Look at who else they are talking to, or doing projects with, follow the trail.

The old revolution is dead, long live the revolution.