Mobile web ancestry

Joe Celko has a nice new article on about how easy it is to write SQL queries that unconsciously adopt the idioms of sequential media, i.e. magnetic tape.

When you sit in a live theater, you cannot do a close-up, pan shot, zoom, dissolve or other effect that are common in movies today. Early silent films parked the camera in one position and mimicked a theater experience. This is a general systems principle that the new technology will first mimic the previous technology before it finds its own voice.

The mobile web has two immediate genetic parents: mobile apps and the desktop web. When a mobile website can tries to follow in the footsteps of either parent too closely, it feels wrong. Encountering a mobile website that locks your vertical viewport size and forces you to use a custom scrolling algorithm is just uncanny-valley weird; whereas a site full of great content and links that doesn’t enjoy the full depth and richness of the “main” site feels unsatisfying.

Remember, though, that we haven’t been using magnetic tape as a mainstream storage medium for databases for some time now, but the idioms are still ingrained. The “classic” web has been around for a scant 20 years, and is still evolving. Mobile apps, as introduced by the iPhone, are only 3 years old

The mobile web’s parents are a teen and a toddler. Is it any wonder that it hasn’t found its own feet yet? Right now, it’s an ugly duckling inside a cocoon. Some onlookers may expect to see it emerge as a swan or a butterfly, but I’m betting on something much more interesting and strange.