Paul Ford on the software canon

Here’s a question Paul Ford poses, and of course, attempts to answer in The Great Works of Software:

Is it possible to propose a software canon? To enumerate great works of software that are deeply influential—that changed the nature of the code that followed?

The list he comes up with is very solid. I feel like relational databases should also be represented — but it’s hard to pick one product. Should it be Oracle? It’s the first commercial relational database, and is still going strong. Maybe MySQL? They put relational databases in the hands of the masses.

It’s also a bit of a shame that no Web browsers make the list. Again, the problem is choosing one in particular. Browsers are the closest we’ve ever come to a universal client for online resources. We all know about viewing Web pages, but browsers also radically affected how businesses create software. Browsers ate the client-server paradigm, and then when the power of JavaScript increased, became a platform for writing client-server applications. I don’t know which one you pick — maybe you draw a line from Mosaic to Netscape to Mozilla to Firefox, but the browser changed everything.

It’s an interesting question to think about.

One thought on “Paul Ford on the software canon

  1. The line from Mosaic to Firefox is extremely important, I agree so much, but right now for browsers I think WebKit. In part because of its KDE backgrounds, Apple and Google (and others certainly) collaborating for so long, and it still is so, so important on mobile.

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