18th December, 2007

The Saga of the Interwebs

Seven years into the new Millennium, an approximate 26,328 task forces, 3,402 unworking groups, and 5 fantasy comic book heroes are in existence on Earth. The unofficial and invented 2007 consensus of the interwebs discovered that of these 29,735 unworking groups, task forces and comic book heroes, the average working interweb developer was aware of two task forces, 1 working group and a full 5 comic book heroes, but still could not explain what any of them did.

The Fellowship of the W3 continued to thrive throughout this period of confusion, despite the onset of crippling apathy and increasing irrelevance. But how did we get to this pivotal stage in the saga of the interwebs, where the arse doth not know itself from the elbow? Your humble and confused author will seek to explain…

We pick up the tale a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Master Bruce of Lee - inventor of the interweb - was alarmed to find a bustle in his hedgerow. His early interweb was embraced not only by scientists and educational institutions, but also by the great entertainment factories of the day and also the peasants with access to home browsing devices called lenses. The browsing world was bored, and wanted ornate decoration, extraneous creativity and blink tags. In search of some semblance of order, the Fellowship of the W3 was formed. At this key stage, it is noted that the Fellowship’s intentions were good, but a corruption of lethargy did soon poison all best intentions.

Great advancements were made by a community of forward-thinking workers at the cutting edge, who did abandon potentially lucrative career paths in law, science, sports and bar work to drive forward this dynamic and powerful new medium. Many did make their fortunes, though many more became penniless and moved into management consultancy and daytime televisual appearances. After the initial gold rush the dust did settle, and a diehard core of genuinely ambitious and intelligent hard-working interweb workers were left to push on with the formation of a more responsible interweb.

From the beginning, the interwebs needed to be viewed using special lenses, called browsers. Initial manufacture of these lenses was clumsy, but effective. Over time, certain lens manufacturers reached an overwhelming market share, but in their pursuit of global domination their attention to usability declined, and a groundswell of disapproval did bring about a desire for change. Implementation of Howcome Norge’s inspirational Styling Sheets was initially poor, and much work was needed to bring lens manufacture up to speed.

At the turn of the last Millennium, the masses, led in their fight by forward thinking rebels, did march on the dictators, demanding a better and more workable system of implementation. Underground movements were spawned, key texts were produced and distributed and a number of like-minded approaches did take hold. For the first and last time in the history of the interwebs task forces had an impact, and a legacy of rebellion was born. The workers were making a difference - a difference that is still a cause for continued advances in the design of interweb solutions to this day. It was written that this movement be known as Interweb Standards, and it was likened to how a new washing machine doth fit just right in the space where the old one did go.

Everybody wanted a role in the unraveling saga. Barely a day went by without a new group of experts forming to place a flag in a methodology and claim it as their own for improvement. The Styling Sheet Discussion Group, The Working Group Task Force, The XHTML2 Book Club, The HTML5 Bandits, The Fantastic Four, Spiderpig and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all met in their own imaginations to procrastinate about whether or not ginger biscuits should replace custard creams during the refreshment break, or if skiffle musician Paul of Kintyre had really died in 1967. To this day, nobody on planet Earth has heard anything from any of them, save for the occasional postcard and a recent Ninja Turtles motion picture (the latter carrying little tangible information about the state of the interweb).

This passage of time is littered with imposed reform. Under Ruling 508 of the American Declaration of Unnovation, all sense of geographical boundaries were exploded once and for all. For the first time, interwebs developers from Pontefract to Paris were uncomfortably bound by US law in the eyes of over-zealous public sector tender authors. Across the globe interweb developers were shackled by seemingly border-less legislation. Volcanos burst and the skies went dark. A lucky few avoided the pyroclastic flow of bile, but some were buried deep in hot ash never to be seen again, except for occasional appearances at business technology conferences in the English West Midlands.

The second version of the Interweb Content Inaccessibility Guidebok was not easily decipherable, written as it was in an ancient form of Aramaic by the Macaque monkeys of Uluwatu Temple after a heavy day of masturbating in front of tourists. Compliance was difficult, seeing as nobody understood what any of it meant, save for a few scholars from Salford who did their best to simplify the monkeys’ doctrines for the masses. Across the seas, an eminent intellectual by the name Clark was proclaiming that the monkeys and their ejaculations should be sent “to hell”, and his vitriol did stick, achieving as it did a permanent second place in the hierarchy of King Googul when anybody sought out the guidebok using a searching lens.

Those failing any levels of compliance with the guidebok of the Macaques, The evil Ice Queen Cynthia or the horrors of Ruling 508 were often flogged in public squares, or pelted with stones. Anyone unable to cope with the harsh demands of the archaic Bobby Ewing system of validation were hung, drawn and quartered at the Gates of Mordor, or denied any further opportunity of work in the public sector.

The trials of the humble interweb worker were further compounded when their peers began turning on each other. That landmark of the Industrial revolution, the Validatron 3000 steam-powered elitism machine invented by Brunel’s top hat, that so many relied upon to ensure a base quality of craftmanship, was now being employed by rivals to trace imperfections, with any notable problems eagerly flagged up in discussion forums and the Styling Sheet showcase salons of impressionist Europe.

In bijou form, and put bluntly, the fundamental teachings of interweb standards remain true and powerful in the hearts of many. Yet despite the progress of the common workers of the interweb, the power and the influence is still the preserve of a masonic few who meet behind closed doors to discuss not the implementation of improved specifications for a stronger interweb, but instead the merits of novelty biscuits and recent city breaks to Prague - as far as we doth know.

Currently, numerous root-level groups still meet informally in the alehouses of many countries to drink warm bitter and discuss interweb standards, actually achieving more in an evening’s consumption of alcohol than any official task forces appear to have as yet, save for the inspirational grass roots groups of the early Millennium. This grass roots allegiance to a better world, in combination with the proactive work of the early standards groups ensures that a solid battle continues to be fought on most fronts.

The 29,735 unworking groups, task forces and comic book heroes continue to wield a promise so pregnant with potential that midwives the world over are on a perpetual purgatorial standby as yet unjustified. In turn, the ever-growing mass of confused and disappointed interweb workers remain utterly lost as to who is doing what, where, why, how and whether any of it matters any more. The third implementation of Howcome Norge’s styling sheets - known as Styling Sheets Three - has long been championed, not least by Briton Andrew of Clarke, yet remains unsupported by many key lens manufacturers.

Said lens manufacturers are once again engaged in the rhetoric of aggression and if rumours are true, there be a fight after school with much blooding of noses, not likely to end until either the fat lady sings or the Bill withers. Like all adolescent scuffles, it be equally likely that we’ll witness no more than a little gentle posturing before one of the aggressors slopes off to nurse bruised pride or public relations wounds.

Thus, seven years into the new Millennium, interweb developers continue to hit the same fork in the road, with many still taking the easier path to outdated construction, irresponsibility and opportunities for overpaid blue chip client work. Other, more forward-thinking workers of the interwebs continue to take the more intrepid road to enlightenment, their belief in a better world strong enough to drive them forward in the face of increasing misinformation and shifting sands. As the saga drags on, for many the choice they’ve made can rock their faith, and only the strong can navigate through the thorny brambles along the way.

Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. If, like this author, you remain utterly confused despite the lines of clarity drawn in this passage of text, then rest assured you be in good company.

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