Old versus new - there's another argument on the internet

Published December 8, 2011

This week, I caught sight of a public spat between Paul Irish and Jeffrey Zeldman - two heavyweights in web standards evangelism. I know of them both from a vague distance and I follow some of their work but I can’t pretend to know anything about web standards. I’m not even 100% sure what the argument is about and I certainly don’t know what a blue beanie is.

My opinion on the matter is pretty moot as I don’t know of the history between them or the big things they stand for other than skimming the surface of their output like I do. From my point of view, one party came out of the argument looking better than the other, and it’s not Paul’s podcast that I’ll be unsubscribing from. Of course it helps that he is cute as anything.

Regardless, what I really noticed from this is that it’s not the first conversation of its kind that I’ve seen lately. It got me to thinking. We’ve seen new media butting heads with old media in every form - books, music, moving pictures. Changing the way things are done on a large scale is hard and pushing forward will always leave behind those that don’t want to embrace that change.

That happened because things were transitioning to the internet - but what if the net is at an age where it is going to start butting heads with itself? The cyclical nature of neverending development now sees Zeldman - well respected, expert in his field - as the elder statesman, whilst Irish - reader voted .net Magazine Developer of the Year 2011 - as a new, and you might say funky, breed.

Have things moved on so far that there is an “old media” on the internet itself?

In terms of code, I’d probably be part of the old breed. I recently watched a video from Paul where he said you don’t have to start and end your HTML with the HTML tag. Wha? How untidy would that be? I felt very anxious just at the thought of it. But, then, that is why I gave up coding a long time ago and let fabulously energetic and engaging types like Paul do it instead. Then I just get to use the results. Win-win!

For those more resistent to change though, are we seeing another area where there will be arguments aplenty as technology continues to steamroll forward, and then in another decade or so, will Paul be the one fighting off change from the next group of charming geeks?

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