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96black Blog

Fresh Laundry

News from the web space

We’re already halfway through 2013. How did that happen? It’s been all hands on deck at 96black trying to keep on top of the ever-changing playing field that is the web. With the massive expansion of responsive design and cloud computing it’s about time we told you what they are! While there’s a lot of looking forward happening at the moment, we also got to do some looking back recently… way back, with CERN re-releasing the first ever website back onto the net.

The first website ever is back

Anyone with any interest in science knows about CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). They’re the guys behind the most powerful particle supercollider on the planet, who earlier this year confirmed they have discovered the Higgs Boson (the particle responsible for giving mass to all matter).

They’re famous for something else in the eyes of web developers though. They invented the web. While the ‘internet’ was around long before, the first true website was made by a CERN employee (Tim Berners-Lee) in 1989.

CERN have recently brought the website back on its original URL ( for nostalgia’s sake. It’s a glimpse into the past where the concept of the web was being born. The web has come a long way since then, but the core concept has stayed the same. It’s all about sharing information… and cat pictures.

Responsive sites

There has been a paradigm shift in web in the past couple of years that the industry is still adapting to. There used to be a rule where you would keep your site to 960 pixels wide maximum so that people with old computers and small screens could still view your site. This would cover 99% of your traffic safely.

But in a sudden explosion a few years ago, the world was awash with small screens… that’s right the iPhone. At the same time, computer screens were getting steadily bigger, like the arrival of the 27” iMac. This was showing very obviously that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to websites, and 960 pixels was not cutting it.

This is where the concept of responsive design comes in. A responsive site adapts itself to make the best use of the space available on the viewing medium.

Visiting a site on a big iMac may show large beautiful background images and many columns of text. If you view the same website on an iPhone the content will be rearranged into a single column, some unnecessary content may be hidden or truncated, the images scaled down to fit the view pane, and the text and buttons scaled up.

It’s all about making the information easily accessible. This isn’t to be scoffed at either. TradeMe announced that over one third of their web traffic now comes from mobile devices. Similar statistics are cropping up all over the web. What is particularly interesting is that in developing countries, mobile devices are spreading far faster than actual desktop and laptop computers.

Cloud computing – not just a buzz-word

When my mum rips out a buzz-word like ‘Web 2.0′ or ‘The Cloud’, it’s obvious she has no idea what these terms mean. To the average person ‘The Cloud’ seems to be some magical place where your data goes that makes it easy to share your data.

What is ‘The Cloud’? There isn’t one cloud. The most famous cloud service provider is Amazon (yes, the book people). Instead of having your own physical server in one place, your cloud provider has a pool of thousands of servers interconnected all over the planet. Instead of using each of these machines individually they are tied together to create virtual machines and exist across a mass of hardware. Because your server is a collection of many, this means that it won’t age, wear down, break, and fail.

So what?

This is relevant to us in two ways. Hardware is so cheap now that you can have a hard drive in the cloud (for example, Dropbox) that you can share across multiple devices. You may not realise but this is exactly the kind of thing that happens to keep your contacts in sync on your iPhone, or making a picture show up automatically on your computer when you take it on your phone.

The other factor that is relevant to us is web hosting. Now hosting providers can have servers dishing up websites located all over the planet, making your site fast anywhere. As all these servers are ‘elastic’ (meaning nothing is fixed,) if you start running out of hard drive space, or need some more grunt, this can be changed with a click of a button (or even automatically).

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the subject, but ‘The Cloud’ isn’t just a marketing buzz word. The cloud revolution has already happened. The web has moved into using the cloud infrastructure for just about everything. It’s up to us to make full use of its feature set.

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