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Stay Tuned to the Web Browser!

When television became the primary media outlet in our homes educators grew incredibly concerned about “mass media” influence on their students. “Media Literacy” courses, ones which started out at the college level and quickly moved down toward the high school level in the 1960s, were all about teaching students to analyze and evaluate the messages all of us were passively absorbing from TV, radio, magazines and newspapers.

The definition of media literacy has morphed fairly dramatically over the last decade to embrace a new paradigm: the creation of media. Thank God because I’ve believed for years that we are media and certainly the explosion in social media, YouTube, Instagram and other online media outlets for all of us has proved to traditionalists that knowing how to create media is a skill all of us need.

Anyone paying attention knows that creating media has become incredibly easy and anyone under 30 years of age does it almost automatically. But it has become so easy that even a Doctor I know, a thought leader in ADHD for clinicians and anyone who has a child with it, is using video extensively to communicate with his audience on his site and his YouTube channel and they are incredibly well done. 

But a big reason why these tools have made it so simple is that our mobile devices — most of which use WebKit-based browsers — have been driving the capabilities within web browsers and the HTML5 standard. As such, the desktop browsers have also been delivering an accelerating set of capabilities which make media use and creation even better.

Yes, I realize that “media creation” is more than just video. It’s blogging, podcasting, online scrapbooking, telling stories (e.g., Storybird), social media-centric sites like Fresh Brain, and of course all of the iOS and Android apps like these for kids out there for creation. But if it wasn’t for the rapid growth in browser capability, most of these wouldn’t work very well.

Google Galaxy: An interactive 3D visualization by Google of over 100,000 stars using real data.

The power of HTML5 to do “Flash-like” things without a bloated plugin are accelerating. Google, Mozilla and others are supporting WebRTC which is essentially webcam video in a browser *without* a plugin (but is also an API for developers and its capabilities go beyond just webcam use).

Google is really pushing the HTML5 standard since they work hard at making Chrome a useable desktop application replacement (their early work on Gmail, and why geeks everywhere jumped on it, was a combination of app-like useability along with huge amounts of storage). But you really need to check out Google’s Chrome “experiments” on Google’s Chrome Experiments page. The “Explore the Galaxy” one is particularly awesome and will give you a pretty good idea of what sorts of things browsers can do going forward.

Back to the point of media creation though: there is a new, open source remixing tool from the gang at Mozilla (they make Firefox) called Popcorn Maker. When Google did their YouTube Video Editor in a browser that was neat but was YouTube-centric only, yet it pointed the way to in-browser video creation and editing.

Again focusing on videos for media literacy, do you really want your kids or students focusing on making cat videos? With all of this capability available to us at our fingertips, isn’t it better we focus on teaching our students (and employees) how to create good, watchable media? Media that communicates high value vision and complex concepts? I think so and the tools, like the web browser itself, are getting more capable and easier to use by the day.

So stay tuned to the web browser. I’m hoping we don’t see Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla all trying to one-up each other by embracing “standards” that the others don’t and try to gain competitive advantage. This is what happened in the 1990s and we’re still living with the horrible Internet Explorer issues from then as we all try to move toward the future. There are simply too many of us using mobile and desktop browsers to start the web browser wars all over again.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

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