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Cover image for From Classicism to Metamodernism — A Short History of Web Development

From Classicism to Metamodernism — A Short History of Web Development

fredericbonnet profile image Frédéric Bonnet ・2 min read

Cover image: A sketch of primate origins from Charles Darwin's notebook, dated 21 April 1868

This series of articles is not yet another "Stop using/doing XXX", "Why you should use/do YYY", "ZZZ considered harmful" rant/injunction. It is my personal and imperfect attempt at defining a periodization of web development trends in a way that mimics artistic eras and intellectual movements. It is not a glorification of the "good old days", a lament on the Paradise Lost, or a moral judgement on each school of thought. On the contrary, I see the web ecosystem as a successful example of natural evolution, and its corollary natural selection, where different strategies coexist, compete and cooperate to survive, bloom, die, and be born again.

Near the end I will try to expose my vision on how the current trends in web development are shaping a new movement that I call "the Metamodernist Web".

A rough timeline of web development trends

The history of ideas is a perpetual cycle of inception, development, decadence, oblivion, enlightenment, rediscovery and reinvention, each new trend reacting to its predecessors by rejecting or embracing existing ideas and introducing new ones. The web is no different. Actually, many of the periods overlap, most trends still cohabit and confront nowadays, and contemporary technologies may belong to or span several older trends. We, as web developers, are standing on the shoulders of giants. In the following parts, I will use the past tense for historical references, and the present tense to describe the core features of each trend so as not to give a false feeling of chronology, let alone progress which is a highly subjective matter.

My periodization of web development history uses a classic three-age system, each being divided into several periods. Like all periodizations, this is highly subjective, and there is no clear beginning or end date :

  • The First Age: Early Days, Classical period, Post-Classical period
  • The Second Age: First Browser War, Dark Ages, Renaissance period, Modernist period
  • The Third Age: Second Browser War, Postmodernist period, Neoclassical period, Metamodernist period

Discussion (1)

sirseanofloxley profile image
Sean Allin Newell • Edited

You got some mighty fine words there sir

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