Remember those “HD Ready” stickers you used to see stuck in the corner of a flat screen TV? Back then retailers thought it was important to tell you that the TV you were about to buy is future-proof (that is to say it would be capable of displaying high resolution imagery when the technology arrives).
I can see the same thing happening with computing, we currently have “retina” displays on mobile devices (including non-Apple products) capable of displaying high resolution graphical content. Where Apple calls something a retina display that can be expected as a given for all their future mobile products, you can bet other companies will follow suit. Another safe bet would be to count on Apple leading the way with retina display laptops and desktops1.
The early adopters of high definition TVs experienced standard definition broadcasts until high definition signals were broadcast to their TV set which then enhanced their experience. The signal we broadcast on the high definition web comes in the form of high resolution images, video and scalable vector graphics, and we already have a lot2 of devices in the wild that are ready to receive this content.
The key to serving high definition web pages to these devices is scalability. Unlike TVs displaying signals in a 16:9 format, we have screen orientation, an infinite canvas, connection speed and a number of other things to work with. We can serve the right layout to the end device using responsive web design and serve the right content using server-side techniques so no device is unfairly expected to download HD content when it is either unnecessary or incapable. The entire experience needs to scale appropriately, upwards and downwards.
We should start making use of this technology. Like the advances in technology that happened around modem speeds during the transition from dial up to broadband. The web benefitted from the speed increase and became a more immersive experience as a result of the media we were capable of showing on it. We pushed the web’s capabilities then and we should do the same now. We have the ability with the high definition web to help create an even richer experience3.
If you want to put a label to this phase in the web’s life cycle eg “Web 2.0” then “Web HD” has a nice ring to it. ↩