Opera Talks: A whole new way to read on the web
By Anna RohlederAnnaMetro. Thursday, October 20, 2011 3:54:17 PM
Quick question: What's Paged Media? OK, that was actually more of a trick question than a quick question. Paged Media is a brand-spanking-new technology developed by Håkon Wium Lie. It's so fresh and new, in fact, that it was only released to the world in an experimental Opera Labs build yesterday. What is Paged Media? The short answer is that it's a whole new way of reading online. But for the full story, read more below...
Håkon, what is Paged Media and why do we need a new way to read online?
Paged Media is what we call native pages — a proof of concept (codenamed Opera Reader) that builds on top of CSS to allow us to split content into pages that can be "turned" in a natural manner through gestures rather than point and click. It's something that's been on my mind for a while. I've always loved books, especially beautiful books: the layout, the presentation, the whole experience. When you open a book, it's something incredible. Each time you turn the page it's an event.
I've always been interested in printing from the Web. Then, when tablets and readers started to come, especially the ones with with e-ink displays where they need to refresh, it just made sense to have the page format. But the layout is also so much nicer than the scrollbar, which cuts off text. Of course there's still a place for the scrollbar on the Web. Having the page-view format as an option is really just about one more way of adding content.
Where and what do people read online?
It makes sense on tablets but it also works on TV, where you don't have a scrollbar but you do have the Next button which is like a page. Whether it makes sense on desktop is still to be decided. Now, I don't see why you can't read books on the laptop. I take my laptop with me everywhere, so why should I have a special dedicated reader just to read? We should be able to do it in the browser. After all, the browser is your main window into the electronic world, so native support for this in the browser will make it easier for people to access information. As to the content itself, this also remains to be seen to a certain extent. The page format is suitable for fiction and newspapers but is it suitable for blogs and Twitter? That's why we want to publish builds and see what people can do with it.
I see this as a possibility to also rethink advertising on the Web. Now you have a way of setting aside a whole page for an advertisement in the middle of an article. When done right this can be both very effective and in good taste: it gives you more of the experience of reading a magazine.
Is having a native reader in the browser a reaction against the app-ification of all the things on the web?
I would say it's a positive response to app-ification! It's more like applying the aesthetics of book publishing to online content. Apps can be beautiful, but I don't think we want every book to be an app, just like not every author should need to be a programmer. One of the things that made the Web such a great place to begin with is the idea that it should be simple and easy to publish information.
The idea of a page-view reader is about the here and know, and how we can take the Gutenberg model of printing books and presenting them in a beautiful way on our screen. But I also think the Web pages we create today will be archived and readable 500 years from now. They will enter a digital domain where things can be preserved. Beyond that we really don't know where this will take us.
Video demonstration featuring Håkon Wium Lie showing of Paged Media from this year's Up North Web conference: