Coding with Jesse

File formats of the future

After reading Tantek write about file formats, I've been thinking about what will happen to file formats in decades or centuries from now. Tantek says,

"I feel quite confident storing files in the following formats: ASCII / "plain text" / .txt / (UTF8 only if necessary), mbox, (X)HTML, JPEG, PNG, WAV, MP3, MPEG"

I agree, for the short term. But will JPEG be around in a hundred years? What about MP3?

I think we can make some assumptions about the future. For example, disk space will continue to grow and get cheaper, and bandwidth will get faster and cheaper as well. This leads me to think that compressed lossy formats will disappear. Why store in a JPEG when a PNG or even RAW format will do? Why store in MP3 when a WAV will do?

Okay, I don't think we will necessarily store in the least compressed format. I think we will use a format which uses lossless compression, so that the sound/image doesn't change at all. It won't make sense to lose quality to gain disk space anymore.

What about HTML? Oh, I don't know. This is a big question. The web is very new and it's not clear the direction it's moving in. We are using HTML, CSS and JavaScript in ways it was never intended to create desktop-style applications. I think application markup languages like XUL, XAML or even HTML 5 will take off where HTML leaves off, and we'll have no reason to continue abusing HTML the way we have been.

For hyperlinked documents, I believe (X)HTML will stay around for a very, very long time. CSS can grow and change and add display functionality on top of HTML. Put does HTML need to change? Do we need anything more than headers and paragraphs, with span or div tags together with classes to accomplish anything not built into HTML? I don't believe so.

It will be interesting to watch formats and standards evolve over the coming years and decades. I think one day, people will look back at these times with a smile on their faces, enjoying our naivety in these early years as we try to figure everything out.

Published on June 19th, 2006. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner

Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach & consultant. I teach web development teams how to scale up their server infrastructure, improve automated testing and monitoring, reduce costs, and modernize their legacy systems. I focus on empowering teams through customized training and coaching.

Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.