This is a reformatted version of my comment on Christopher Detzi's post on Boxes and Arrows: The Content Conundrum

In some ways I think we still treat the design and production of Web-based systems the same as we do desktop applications (a safe conclusion given the explosive popularity of AJAX and the recent events around HTML 5). Since I began using the Web in 1994, I have watched us contort it almost beyond recognition into a signal-degraded mimic of what we have had on the desktop for the last three decades. It's almost as if everyone has missed the point.

The first half of the acronyms representing two of the three salient concepts of the Web are HT which stand for Hypertext, which enables us to convey information without having to spin the roulette wheel for the correct arrangement of concepts that pass the attrition test we call communication. The Web doesn't have content, the Web is content. Content as it has been for millennia with the addition of an eminently useful, newish form of punctuation known as the link. Given the state of the technology you'd think it was hyperbuttons, or hyperwidgets or something, not hypertext. Content is what gets sandwiched between the code and the lozenges; what supplants Lorem ipsum on Photoshop mockups. When it shows up, it is barely distinguishable from its printed counterpart. How exactly did this happen?

As Mr. Detzi underscores, content gets treated as orthogonal to programming and design (where design is defined as the production of the part that looks something between a magazine layout and an avionics panel). While I acknowledge that the engineering paradigm tends to dominate any knowledge product where executable code can be found, I wonder if the short-shrift situation of content has something to do with the way it is made.

We typically write content using tools designed primarily for the authoring of printed memoranda, and to a lesser extent, reports. Occasionally, we use tools designed for books, scientific papers or online help. With the possible exception of the very last, how closely do any of these targets resemble hypertext? Is it possible that the way that content is conceived and delivered compromises its potency?

Finally, it should be noted that code, interaction design and visual design can be spoken of in terms of content. Code is the principal way for programmers to tell one another what they are telling the computer. Interaction is a stochastic conversation between a person and a computation using what is ultimately a domain-specific language. Visual design emotes and implies what words can't reach. Rather than designating content as something that is plugged into a decorated shell, why not endeavour to put it at the centre?