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Trends

Though bandwidth is getting steadily better, latencies are not. Packets move at pretty close to the speed of light right now, and that’s not going to improve. This means that an exchange of a thousand small packets takes an amount of time proportional to distance. So geography still matters, and always will.

To compensate for the latencies inherent in the Internet, there is a trend toward pushing things out towards users in advance of their requests. Static content has been distributed to servers around the country and the world by companies like Akamai for some time now. A logical next step is to distribute the page-generation applications themselves.

Finally, I can foresee moving dynamic page generation to the browser itself. In fact, this has already happened to some degree, since the latest browsers can cache XSL and images and update and reformat XML data fragments within a single “page” by clever use of the emerging DOM standard for data structures within the browser and JavaScript to modify those structures. It has been possible for some time to request a fragment of a web document with the HTTP Byterange request, which most web servers support. The problem has been getting the browser to integrate that new fragment into a web page already cached in the browser. These things are already possible with applets, but would require a huge amount of custom work. With DOM, it is far easi....


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