In the late 1990's web developers were growing tired of combining every element - layout, design, and content - into a monolith of unmanageable code (in 2018, we're right back where we started, but more on that later). Updating even a few lines of content inside complex table layouts sometimes meant redesigning the entire site from scratch.
Eventual widespread adoption of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) separated design from layout, but content was still hard-coded into the layout. To address this issue, employees at Netscape created a web syndication standard known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), which allowed web developers to place content in a discrete document. Updating content no longer required altering the design or layout of a website. More importantly, subscribing to an RSS feed removes the need for visitors to manually check a website for new content.
That might sound silly today, in an era of centralized services (e.g. Facebook, Google) bombarding our inboxes, phones, and "feeds". As privacy and security breaches make headlines, we clamor for a decentralized internet. But less than twenty years ago, the internet was decentralized, when the human cycle of individualism versus collectivism was perfectly aligned with divergent expression. We've now spent the past decade attempting to build the perfect centralized web, only to realize its many faults. The cycle continues.
Published April 22, 2018 by Ethan F Grant