The only way that the Realtime Web is going to happen is for the tech to be adopted by the browsers, and for application developers to stop worrying about the details of how to get bits from server to client and worry more about the applications they are creating. The technology to support a Realtime Web was developed in 1981. TCP/IP or “socket” connections are, in fact, what the Web is built on. We don’t need to invent a new protocol or innovative techniques, we just need to expose some APIs for what is already happening at a low level when you browse the Web.
We do need to invent new stuff. We need to invent common paradigms of how people interact in real-time. We need to make web applications more responsive and proactive. Perhaps presence and the threaded chat conversation are the blue underlined links of the Realtime Web, but I think that the world is ready for more.
Zac Bowling leads an interesting discussion using seesmic about the technologies used for real-time communication the Web. As I have said before, these are old technologies being used in a new way with more shared code via open source.
What I expect to happen next is for realtime applications (chat, push, etc.) to become so ubiquitous on the Web that it will be only natural for browsers and Web servers to expose APIs that support this next generation of applications. Just as people have come to expect professional applications on the Web to give immediate feedback without a full-page-refresh, so they will come to expect dynamic updates.
By 2015, the refresh button which figures so prominently in the Web browser today will be relegated to an obscure menu. In fact, I expect the browser to disappear from mainstream consciousness. Today most people are only vaguely aware of what a Web browser is or that they use one. They just surf the Web or read their mail. Whether they are using Hotmail or Outlook’s Web client or the Outlook desktop application is a minor technical detail. The folks who develop the technology need to catch up with that way of thinking. We’re getting there with interactive UI, but we’re only just beginning to create the kind of applications that people need and expect.