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The year that was

For the second year, a look back on the last year…2002

Although a few days late for the end of the year, this is my now annual year-in-review. Unlike the radical changes of 2001, this past year was a quiet evolution. But the trends that emerged became more apparent: with the cleaver final separating presentation and structure, the power of the well-defined data became apparent.

Presentation and semantics

The year began with the creation of a quickly popular CSS mailing list run by Eric A. Meyer. Over the next 12 months the number of sites using heavily CSS grew exponentially, the most notable being Wired News’ fall redesign.

With the move to CSS, the importance of semantic mark-up became more clear as the year grew on. Web authors began discovering previously forgotten elements like abbr, cite, and headings.

The move to simplify Web pages is starting to move, thanks in a large part to blogging, from the realm of the geek to the mainstream as more CMS began adapting their outputs to create cleaner HTML styled using CSS (of course, this didn’t fix many of the URLs).

Accessibility

Mark Pilgrim’s comprehensive Dive Into Accessibility ignited an inferno of interest about this issue from the long burning embers of a once fringe community. His 30-day tutorial on making blogs more accessible help add Section 508 and WAI compliance to the regular round of validity tests.

The year was capped by the Joe Clark’s incredible (and still to be reviewed here) book, Building Accessible WebsitesWeb Affiliate. Where Pilgrim focused on blogs, Clark—a guru on this subject—explained how to make the entire medium accessible.

Coincidentally, accessibly Web sites tend to have rich semantic mark-up.

Browser bonanza

Although the Browser Wars are over, innovation is not. This year saw the open-source Mozilla browser release its much anticipated 1.0 version. That browser’ls engine was used in a new Netscape release (version 7), a new Macintosh browser (Chimera), and a new user-friendly one called Phoenix. Opera also unveiled its newest beta, another 7.x release. The result is all the latest browsers display pages almost identically—something unheard of since the release of Mosaic almost ten years ago.

Now, if only Microsoft would update the bugs in its 6.x Windows browser and 5.x Macintosh browser.

Multiple formats

Reworking content from one medium and shoving it into another medium was looked upon with disdain on the Web. Now, it’s embraced. The most popular method is the XML-based system developed by Netscape back in the Push Era: RSS. Over the intervening years its been adapted, modified, and implemented on tens of thousands of blogs and a number of mainstream sites.

Although some have argued the specs are incompatible, and that XHTML can be used just as successfully, RSS feeds have a vocal and growing fan base.

Mobile Internet

The cellphone-based mobile Internet continued to stall in North America. —partially due to the cost, but mainly to the small screen sizes mixed with the lack of viable content. With its latest browser Opera, though, is trying to remedy that as it fights one of the first battles of the Platform Wars.

WiFi, however, created tribes of WiBos who warchalked for the wardrivers. Despite the cutesy names, North Americans finally began experiencing the Web away from the desktop.

Intelligent links

Finally, the Web started getting smarter in 2002. As Google’s dominance grew, the meme of a reputation managing started spreading across the Web. Although long popular in e-commerce sites like Amazon, dynamic, almost two-way links were rare on content sites prior to 2002.

Not surprisingly, the already tightly knit blogging community embraced this the fastest: Movable Type introducing a TrackBack; and blogrolls built from the latest Weblog.com pings became more common.

That creaking sound is just Tim Berner-Lee’s Semantic Web easing into life.