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Safari 5: the value of content

We get so used to the clutter and noise of many web sites that we only notice the stress they cause when the distractions are taken away. Such was the case the first time I used the new Safari 5 Reader. When the Safari 5 browser detects a large text, it displays a button which when clicked lets you see the main text as if in an e-book reader. It certainly makes for a much more comfortable and stress-freer reading experience. If the text continues on other web pages, the Safari Reader brings them together in a single text, doing away with the dictates of those who insist that web pages should never be more than the equivalent of one screen long. Another thing that is very useful with the Safari Reader is that you can post or print from it. So, for example, if you want to print only the text or send the text without all the other "stuff" around it on the page, the Safari Reader enables that. Looked at from a wider perspective, the Safari Reader gives back the importance to text that the evolution of many web pages took away, where navigation often took precedence over content, as did advertising. No wonder many web sites leave you feeling you’ve been cheated somehow: they contain little in terms of content and if they do it is hard to get at and difficult to concentrate on.

The only thing that is missing in the Safari Reader, for the moment, is the possibility to highlight or annotate a text. Personally, highlighting and annotating text are an essential part of my way of working with the web. Such an activity is possible in Apple’s iBooks where private annotations, highlighting and bookmarks are stored on the iBook Store, so presumably these will come in future versions. But in a connected world, many people will want to share their comments with others. I currently use DIIGO for that. A DIIGO extension to the Safari Reader would make sharing annotations possible.

As Daniel Eran Dilger pointed out in an article on Roughly Drafted, the Safari Reader has another effect: it enables users to read web pages without them being encumbered by advertisements. No doubt there are strategic commercial reasons to the removal of advertisements from the web. Beyond questions of turf wars, the move to provide a way to strip web pages of advertisements raises a question about our relationship to content. Advertisement has come to be the major way that many web sites earn money for their content. It could be said, as a result, that it is the advertisements on the page that have value, not so much the content. It is the advertisements that ensure the survival of certain sites, not the quality of their content. Obviously the quality of the content helps in that it is still the motivation for people to visit a particular site. How could that change if content were to become (once again) more important? Would we accept that that content should not necessarily be free (on the web)? Would we be prepared to pay small amounts to access content we consider valuable? If we did so, we would reinstate the value (perceived in the admittedly limited terms of what we are prepared to pay for) of content, whether it be text, films or music.


Safari 5,
Daniel Eran Dilger , Apple’s iOS WWDC strikes back after Google’s Android I/O, Roughly Drafted, retrieved 9 June 2010.

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Created: July 3rd, 2010 - Last up-dated: July 3rd, 2010