There are those who relish the anarchy and the variety of the web, and those who see it as a ubiquitous front-end to an array of databases – in a nutshell, those who see the web as a way of conveying experience and those who see it as a vehicle for information.
Since HTML first became mainstream, with HTML version 2.0, has been a struggle between the structure of a document and its presentation. This battle is symptomatic of two competing visions for the web.
One web, two visions
Structuralists see the web as a vehicle for information: the web is a tool to simplify the lives of over-stressed human beings.
Structuralists believe that the presentation of a document is best left up to the individual user, browser or device. To them, HTML is a language for describing the structure of a document, and they view the future web as a universal any-device, any-where, any-time interface to databases, or as the database itself.
Presentationalists, on the other hand, believe that the web is for conveying experience – a medium for entertainment and artistic enrichment.
Because presentationalists want perfect control over their narratives, they think that HTML should be a language that can accurately present the web designer’s vision pixel-for-pixel, microsecond-to-microsecond, and interaction-to-interaction. The presentationalist sees the future web as a rich form of something akin to interactive super-television, but better.
Stuck in the middle with you
Of course, very few people are actually extremists. Structuralists accept that good presentation can enhance information, and presentationalists likewise accept that some structured information can enhance experience.
Most of us are realists who see the debate as largely academic until technology has caught up with theory. We are the would-be structuralists who still do page layouts with