The ‘Form’ Element Created the Modern Web. Was It a Big Mistake?

The web was born to publish documents — in particular, physics papers from CERNthe great laboratory where Tim Berners-Lee, the very first web developer, was employed to do smart information things. But technology evolves… Actually, forgive the digression, but technology doesn’t evolve. Everyone says it evolves, but true evolution includes a whole lot of death. Not all software survives, of course (I’m typing this in Google Docs, not on a Xerox Alto), but as anyone who has investigated the Windows control panels can tell you, there’s a lot of decades-old code in our systems. If people evolved like technology, you’d be 6,000 lizards, 30 chimps, and a couple Neanderthals all glued together with an anguished human face stretched across it as a “visual refresh.”

Anyway, the World Wide Web may be the most proudly agglutinative technology in history. After a few early tweaks and changes (eg, removing the tag), HTML has almost never thrown things away, so that every subsequent version of a browser can work with all the web pages that came before. In its earliest days it grew tags to become visual; it grew

tags to become tabular — and more than 25 years ago (version 2) it added the

element, making it interactive.

It is the

element, and the lesser elements that comprise the form, like and