Is DHTML Dead?

    October 2, 2006

September 1997 saw the release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 4, an event which not only changed the face of web development but officially marked the start of the infamous ‘Browser Wars’.

Shipped with every version of Microsoft Windows (beginning with the final beta release of Windows 98), Internet Explorer soon became by far the most popular browser on the web.

Version 4 saw the introduction of Dynamic Hyper Text Markup Language (DHTML) support, combining aspects of scripting with Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) technology and thus allowing web developers the option of bringing far greater interactivity to their previously static HTML documents.

The industry was ecstatic; DHTML provided an effective solution to a large number of problems and seemed ready to lead the way into a new era of client-side web development.

Then came the browser wars of the late 1990s which saw intense conflict between Internet Explorer (compared by many to the Galactic Empire in Star Wars) and Netscape Navigator (The Rebel Alliance?) which caused DHTML’s quest for dominance to stall in the face of incompatible cross-browser DOM (Document Object Model) and CSS implementations.

Further hampered by many users’ refusal to upgrade, DHTML became a cutting-edge technology used by only a few developers due to its limited potential audience.

Indeed one might say that the fear of ‘Browser Backwards Compatibility’ issues (a sadly misguided attitude which plagues the web development industry to this day) is at least partly responsible for the eventual demise of DHTML.

Meanwhile, with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator unable to standardise parameters, a company called Macromedia quietly released a product called ‘Flash’ which managed to circumvent browser limitations and consequently cornered most of the market previously considered to be DHTML territory thus hammering another nail into the coffin.

Though many may argue that DHTML is alive and well, consider for a moment the fact that Microsoft’s .Net framework has all but made DHTML obsolete.

Whilst the industry’s acceptance of .Net was initially cautious, the system has proved its value during the past few years and is now seen by many (especially since the release of ASP.Net 2.0) as the future of the internet.

As .Net gathers more momentum we are likely to see a new phase in the internet’s evolution with even Flash’s position on the web threatened (especially in the face of its SEO issues) by the creation and expansion of new .Net applications.

So, DHTML is well and truly relegated to the obsolete technology orphanage or the bookshelf of web development nostalgia. Face it; few developers will employ the use of technology which cannot be trusted to function 100% accurately even between Windows platforms when there are other, far more stable alternatives out there.

The fact is that, at least for commercial and application development, DHTML really is dead.


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An accomplished copywriter, Sasch Mayer has been writing content for web and print for well over a decade.
He is currently living in the Republic of Cyprus and working under contract to IceGiant Web Design.