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Web trends: Emerging tech and the skills you’ll need this year

With technology one things for sure, it’s always progressing! So what does this year have in store for those of us in the tech community?

We caught up with Oli Ward, Founder and Instructor of digital trainers Develop Me to pick his brains, specifically focussing on what we can expect from web technology.

From 4G to 5G
One exciting area is 5G phone network rollout, with Ofcom auctioning the spectrum in 2016. But, as we’re unlikely to have decent coverage until 2018, we’ll leave that for now.

No, the two areas of real interest is a shift in the basic tools and languages we use to build on the web, and changes in online publishing models.

Web Technologies: New Languages, Frameworks and Features

Service Worker

An emerging browser feature that many don’t seem aware of, Service Workers will allow us to give more user-friendly offline experiences, use push notifications (like a mobile app!), and background data synchronization, for example a site can pre-fetch your daily news for that commute on the tube (also like a mobile app!).

Currently supported by Chrome, the newest version of Firefox and Opera, and (hopefully) coming soon to Edge (previously Internet Explorer) and Safari soon.

A service worker is a JavaScript script that is run by your browser when a user visits a site and acts as a proxy to the network, and therefore allows control over how a user’s resources are cached and served, and what to do if there is no network access.

HTTP/2
A major revision of the web’s fundamental protocol, much needed due to the significant evolution of how we use the web since HTTP/1.1 fifteen years ago.

This updated protocol should give speed and other performance improvements to web experiences.

JavaScript
I believe we’re going to see a shift in focus with JavaScript-based technologies becoming increasingly important for both front-end and back-end developers, and therefore developers with these skills will become more in-demand, and teams will look to re-train and re-tool.

This is driven by web experiences becoming increasingly application-like, whether on mobile or desktop, and users expecting fast and responsive experiences.

By ‘responsive’ I mean applications that update in real-time, and are able to update parts of the interface without needing to reload the entire page. Think about using Google Spreadsheet in the browser, or hitting “Follow” button on the Twitter app, you don’t see a page reload each time you do something.

This has led to the adoption of JavaScript frameworks like Angular.js and React.js, and will likely lead to greater development of browser-based applications, potentially with a move from native mobile applications on those platforms to maintaining apps built with web technologies.

There has also been a paradigm shift with Node.js, and truly, this is a time where that phrase is appropriate!

Node is an asynchronous, event-driven framework that allows fast and highly scalable data-driven applications to be built.

It is a significant shift in the way that interaction between a user’s browser or application communicates with a server, as well as allowing us to write server-side code in JavaScript!

All of this brought together represents a set of technologies using JavaScript, with the likely effect being developers will be writing more JavaScript as it becomes a major component of application, with less PHP and other, traditional server-side languages.

These languages will still play a role, but it will be the JavaScript developers who start to own online behavior and logic.

WordPress
And, to confirm that these trends are significant, the new WordPress.com codebase, codenamed “Calypso“, has moved WordPress.com away from MySQL and PHP, instead using Node.js on the server to build the initial web page and React.js to built the interface.

Ads: the final showdown
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what may be seen as a minor smartphone feature, but which signals a significant shift in how sites, especially news sites, monetise their audience.

Ad Blocking
There have long been users who use ad blocking software, to hide online advertisement from sites they visit, AdBlock being one of the most popular.

These users were very much in the minority, with an estimated 9% of users employing the technology.

That has started to change with Apple’s iPhone 6s shipping with a feature that allows you to install software to block ads, and there is even talk about ad blocking being done by ISPs.

Arguably this is a strategy by Apple to hobble their competitor Google, whose largest income comes from their advertising business, but the technology will have significant knock-on effects to the web.

This has led to the unsurprising escalation of the ad equivalent of the space race, as ad service providers and ad blockers each work to develop technology to bypass the other, with Forbes and even Yahoo! blocking visitors using ad blocking software until they disable the feature.

What this means is that businesses that make money from ads might need to rethink their model.

Of course online publishers have long experimented with how to monetise their audiences, especially newspapers who’ve seen readers cancel paid-for paper subscriptions to move to (free) online news consumption. There have been subscription paywalls, there have been ad-supported news sites, and even a number of interesting experiments around pay-per-read micro-payments.

Where we go next with an ad-supported web is anyone’s guess, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

For more on this I’d recommend Techdirt’s Adblocking Wouldn’t Be A Problem If Ads Didn’t Suck So Much podcast, and also a look at their free ‘opt out of ads’ approach, its motivations and a refreshingly honest discussion with their visitors.

 

For more information on Develop Me’s workshops for technical teams, including their 3 month junior developer training programme visit https://developme.training/fellowship/.