It’s Not All Doom And Gloom On The Web

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In this article I’d like to discuss the changes happening on the Web and argue that its future is not as problematic and endangered as a lot of people make it out to be. The article is based on the talk I’ve presented at the Smashing Conference1 a couple of days ago, and you can also see the slides2 and watch the screencast3 (see below).

I have been developing websites professionally for the greater part of the last 15 years, and written quite a few books and a lot of articles. Yet when I look around right now, I do feel incredibly… stupid and wonder if I should hang up my coat and do something else. Almost daily we see new tools, new best practices and systems to use, and a lot of them are very far removed from the original Web development technologies that are defined by the standards bodies.

I am also very confused about the message of doom and gloom we have right now about the Web. Many spokespeople look at the sales numbers of smartphones and call us out for not doing enough to keep developers interested and to get newcomers to start on the Web rather than somewhere else.

To me, not everything is doom and gloom, and the Web isn’t losing. I am actually very excited about what we are doing on the Web, and I see a lot of great things happening right now. I look back at what I had to work with in the past and see how professional and rich our development environments are now, and I am very happy indeed.

So, what happened? How come I am excited about the Web and its immediate future, while others feel an urge to protect it from certain doom?

Ubiquity And Speed Of Innovation

Two of the problems we see right now are ubiquity of technology and connectivity. The Web is not the cool new thing any longer. Instead, everybody seems to be on it and using it all the time — not like we did in the past with a desktop computer and browser, but through apps and short updates in social media.

Another issue is the speed of innovation. Almost monthly, something exciting comes out that makes the last big new thing seem boring and unwieldy.

One thing is that we perceive constant new demands from our end users and people who spend money on marketing in our environment. A lot of this is just people repeating things they’ve heard — suspension of disbelief. A video4 is going around of people being handed an iPhone 4S and being told it is the new iPhone 5. What did they think of it? Nearly all of them found something extraordinarily cool about it and said it is better than the last one — even people who owned the same version!

Of course, in getting excited about these cool new things, a lot of us say that everyone these days has these cool devices and new technologies and that we need to keep up. As Thomas Fuchs puts it5:

“Let’s put this in context: mobile Internet usage has doubled last year, and right now about 20% of all Web traffic in the US is from mobile devices. This means Retina screens will soon become the norm.”

It is a very myopic way of thinking, though. The Web is worldwide, and first of all, only a few of us can afford these devices. Secondly, a big chunk of us cannot get these devices where we live. Thirdly, people forget that when the initial investment hurts, people don’t want to replace their hardware a few months after. Not to mention that high-speed connectivity is not as ubiquitous as we consider it to be, especially for mobile devices.

Don’t Always Trust The Web

We seem to be not quite at ease with what we are doing at the moment, despite the fact that our job market being ridiculously good and that we get paid very well for a relatively easy job. Instead of considering this, we constantly measure ourselves against success stories that have been inflated by tech blogs that exist to inflate such stories. Or, as Steve Furtick puts it:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

At TechCrunch Disrupt, Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed, and in the immediate coverage by the tech press, he was quoted as saying that HTML5 was a big mistake. The quote that was repeated all over went like this:

“I think that the biggest mistake that we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native, because it just wasn’t there.”

The interesting bits, though, were ignored in the coverage:

“It’s not that HTML5 is bad. I’m actually long-term really excited about it. And one of the things that’s interesting is we have actually more people on a daily basis using mobile Web Facebook than we have using our iOS or Android apps combined. So, mobile Web is a big thing for us.”

It seems that the main failure was Facebook’s approach to and internal system for creating HTML5 apps — not the technology itself:

“But there’s no doubt that we went for this approach, we built this internal framework that we called Faceweb, which was basically this idea that we can take the infrastructure that we built out for pushing code everyday, not having to submit to an app store, building Web code on the Web stack that we have, and that we can translate that into mobile development. We just were never able to get the quality of it we wanted…”

It seems to me that the path to keeping your sanity in this world of ours is not to care about the shouting news outlets that need clicks to make money.

It’s All About Hardware

A few things are going wrong right now, and most of them are related to the fact that we emulate native apps and the practices of thick client development, rather than embracing the fact that the Web is a different challenge. Yes, it is software. No, it is not a defined platform with established processes.

There is a secret behind all of the failures of HTML5 in the mobile market, and it is actually very annoying: it is all about the hardware.

We can innovate HTML5 until we are blue in the face, and we can optimize browser performance to reach rocket ship-level speed, but if the hardware and operating system providers don’t allow us to be on their hardware or give early access, then there is no way browsers can perform as well as native code.

When you think about it, most of the money on mobile devices comes from app sales. And the Web gets in the way of app sales as they exist now. So, there is not really much incentive to make Web apps perform well or access all of the good parts in the hardware because then developers wouldn’t have to become part of a vendor’s program or pay to get access to their sales platform.

The lack of drivers that would enable apps written in Web technologies to access the whole hardware is the biggest issue. This even affects laptops and desktop machines — a lot of WebGL cannot even be used in brand new computers.

Firefox OS6
Firefox OS will be the first truly open operating system for mobile devices. Image credit7.

Mozilla is going full force right now to change this dilemma. Firefox OS will be the first truly open operating system for mobile devices. Underneath the hood of Firefox OS are the Web APIs8: open-source drivers with JavaScript interfaces to access all of the hardware of the phone.

The Beautiful Side Of The Web

But that is by the by. Let’s go back and see why the Web actually is a great idea for us to work with. Mozilla Webmaker129 (which I’m involved in) is an ongoing project to turn pure consumers of the Web into makers. We teach basic Web editing skills, how to publish and mix video with online content, and basic ways to keep safe and have a good time on the Web. Attending one of these events is not only humbling but incredible. It is amazing to see how things that we consider boring and “common knowledge” make people go crazy for creating and doing things they haven’t done before.

A lot of the frustration we see stems from people — us included — having forgotten the main principles that the Web is based on. I am right now reading New Model Army10 by Adam Roberts, a science-fiction book about a war in England between the traditional army and the New Model Army, a group of mercenaries organized via the Web and wikis.

Mozilla Webmaker11
Mozilla Webmaker129 is an ongoing project to turn pure consumers of the Web into makers.

The main difference of the NMA is that there is no hierarchy — everything is voted upon and decided on the spot. They are almost impossible to defeat because they move much faster as a result of not having to wait for orders from above. They are also professional soldiers, there to fight other soldiers without any ideological or national interference. All they defend is the right to be truly democratic in their decision-making.

The Starfish and the Spider13 is another book that talks about a principle that makes the Web what it is. It explains that organizations without a single point of failure are much more likely to succeed than those that have a massive hierarchy and are likely to be crushed by their own size. App markets are those things.

One of the main issues, though, is that the Web exists, driven by the open and free technologies that we advocate. It works, and it has outlived many of the other closed technologies that were always heralded as its end. But this is not at all a time to sit on our laurels. There is no doubt that the Web has lost a lot of its appeal to new people.

Partly this is because we’ve become mainstream. The Web is not the edgy cool new technology that we can play with any way we want. We have to consider that mainstream media is powering a lot of it with advertising and cross-promotion of real-world events and products. Thus, we should be in the productive phase of the hype cycle14, but somehow we’ve missed this point and are still struggling to find a way to turn over a lot of products without reinventing.

One big challenge is to rethink the tools we have. As Lea Verou put it15:

“I often think that command-line editors like Vi and Emacs were made by sadists who enjoy making people feel stupid, frustrated and helpless.”

Whenever we talk about the Web, sooner or later the talk is about text editors and writing a lot of code by hand. We should be better than that by now, and we should make it easier for anyone to create on the Web.

The success of other platforms with new developers is that they are simple to learn. You are in a fixed environment, you get a few Lego bricks to play with, and you can build your first thing.

Old Tales Of The Web

Instead of concentrating on being as fast on our feet, we keep boring people with the same old tales of how the Web came around and how HTML got better and we can add semantic value with microformats, and many other tales of yesterday. In a world where all browsers run the same incredibly forgiving parser, talk about the purity of HTML and semantics falls on the deaf ears of those just starting out, and it is actually a deterrent. We’ve failed to make semantics matter — microformats are a great idea, but when no browser does anything visible or useful with them and they don’t bring any benefit with search engines, then they are superfluous to people who just want to publish their work.

When HTML5 got defined, we should have been quicker to get our needs and demands in. If you think about it, the JavaScript part of HTML5 is incredibly powerful, but the semantics are not that amazing. We knew we wanted to move the Web from text to apps, but we failed to define the necessary widgets. Instead we got elements that were defined as a result of analyzing which classes people used in their HTML in the past. Most app-style widgets were created with JavaScript and had no classes at all because not many libraries enhanced progressively. Even now, we don’t help browser makers or demand better support for rich forms.

We’ve even failed to think about a packaged format for an HTML5 app. Portability means that we have installers and de-installers, instead of running an app in a browser. Right now we have no one-size-fits-all approach to that. The W3C widgets were not the right format, so Chrome, Mozilla and PhoneGap all came up with their own formats instead.

Outside the world of those who want to crack the app issue, we flee into a world of abstractions. We build preprocessors for CSS, and we build JavaScript libraries that make it easier but that also completely replace the syntax of JavaScript with their own, and we applaud all of these efforts and call them solutions without knowing whether they’ll be supported in future. A lot of them have come and gone without leaving much of a footprint. Maybe it is time to recognize that moving up levels in a building doesn’t mean that the water damage on the ground floor won’t be an issue sooner or later.

We’re always so proud of the portability of our Web technologies and that they are so easy to learn and use and that they adapt to whatever you throw at them. But when you look at it from an outsider’s point of view, a lot of what we do is not portable or reusable. Every single HTML slide system is a great example of that. Or try sending an HTML file to someone who doesn’t know HTML — they’ll open it in Word and everything will break.

And we don’t help the cause much. We repeat the mistake we’ve make in the past of building solutions for one browser or demanding that the end user turn on things and change their setup. Many open solutions demand that the user takes five steps where one installer would be the right thing, and we expect people to like setting up a lot of tools using the command line. This doesn’t help us win against closed technology.

Getting Out Of The Comfort Zone

How do we win back the hearts and minds of developers? I think we need to create new products and take different approaches than we have in the past. We should focus on making things easier for people, not striving for purity and delivering like we have in the past. We need to leave our comfort zone, because that is when the magic happens.

Bret Victor’s “Inventing on Principle16” talk is a great start for this. Bret’s big principle is to enable creation by making the step from creating to seeing the results as short as possible. He shows off a few tools that not only are WYSIWYG but that work in both directions. You write a game by playing and adjusting the position of the player along a timeline. Thus, your testing happens while you develop.


Bret Victor on “Inventing on Principle17“.

In-browser developer tools are a step towards a world like that. We create and change in the browser, rather than having to reload every time we change our code. Live reloading with editors works the same way. Having this immediacy where it happens makes a lot of sense, and we should be more vocal that every browser these days is also a creation tool.

Other big things I am very excited about are Web Components18 (which define the missing app widgets we need), X-Tag19 (which makes those available cross-browser) and the Mortar20 and WebGame stub21 systems. The last two enable any developer to start an app or game from building blocks and with a deployment script that uses GitHub as the host. You even create it offline, and the app will manifest for you. Watch out for this.

Another way to get people to think about the Web is not to make them think about it, but instead to use what they do already. Bananabread22 is a game demo written in C++ that uses Emscripten to run in JavaScript and WebGL. This is recycling as opposed to creating something new that might not be used.

In general, I think we need tools much, much more. A very interesting move was made by Adobe — yes, the Adobe behind the evil Flash — which released Brackets23, an editor that also ties into live rendering in the browser. It is pretty alpha, but the very important point here is that the company that makes all of its money from tools and that rules the graphics-creation market supreme is playing with open source. It wants developers to work with it and make Brackets better and see how it works for them. This is a good chance to work with a company that knows how to build good tools and get it to open up more.

“Today is the tomorrow you expected yesterday.”

The Lost Thing24 by Shaun Tan.

All in all, there is no doom and gloom here. But we should have a sense of urgency. We have an incredible amount of good things to share and talk about, but if we fail to do so, we’ll look like an outdated group of experts. Today is the day you can help the Web be sexy again.

Step One: Write And Share

The first step is simple. Write and share your wisdom. Do not do it in random places. Instead, join one of the open systems that already contain great content and make it better:

Step Two: Complain In Right Channels

The second step is to reconsider our ways of complaining. Yes, venting on Twitter or on our blogs when things are broken feels good, but that doesn’t give you the feedback you need. And you’re not reaching the people who can fix your problems. You’re merely advertising that the Web is not ready and that people are not even fixing the problems. And that is not true; when you file bugs and complain on channels where browser developers and standards makers are available, things do change for the better.

One thing that has come about in recent years is a massive amount of collaborative development tools that enable you to host a development issue and get it fixed by others with you directly there. Use them, because having an issue fixed with an immediate result works much faster than long-winded explanations about what can be done:

Step Three: Support Open Training Tools

Last but not least, support the open training and education tools that are mushrooming all over the Web right now. A lot of them are funded and need content. The earlier we get people to play with the Web, the harder it will be for them to get messed up again by traditional education. I’d wager that all of us came to the Web because of our interest and from tinkering with things, rather than by graduating from a course. Let’s make that the way in for new makers of the Web, too:

The Future Is Bright!

When you try to get people excited about the Web, remember to point out the good things about it. We are far too good at complaining openly about things that are broken, while failing to share our excitement. Let’s do that more.

Finding Nemo42 was never advertised like this:

“A movie in which a wife and all but one child in a family are brutally murdered. The last child gets kidnapped, and the father undertakes a desperate search to find it, his only ally being a mentally challenged woman.”

(al) (vf)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/09/18/smashing-conference-liveblog-day-2/
  2. 2 http://icant.co.uk/talks/h5/smashingconf.html
  3. 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=38udaIApS4M
  4. 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdIWKytq_q4
  5. 5 http://mir.aculo.us/2012/09/11/is-learning-to-make-your-website-or-app-retina-friendly-worth-your-time/
  6. 6 http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/b2g/
  7. 7 http://techsnafu.com/mobile/firefox-os-mobile-2013/
  8. 8 http://arewemobileyet.com
  9. 9 https://webmaker.org
  10. 10 http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Model-Army-Adam-Roberts/dp/0575083611
  11. 11 https://webmaker.org
  12. 12 https://webmaker.org
  13. 13 http://www.starfishandspider.com/
  14. 14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle
  15. 15 https://twitter.com/LeaVerou/status/246295024919252992
  16. 16 https://vimeo.com/36579366
  17. 17 http://vimeo.com/36579366
  18. 18 http://dvcs.w3.org/hg/webcomponents/raw-file/tip/explainer/index.html
  19. 19 https://wiki.mozilla.org/Apps/x-tag
  20. 20 https://github.com/mozilla/mortar
  21. 21 https://github.com/mozilla/webgamestub
  22. 22 https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/demos/detail/bananabread
  23. 23 http://brackets.io/
  24. 24 http://www.thelostthing.com/
  25. 25 http://developer.mozilla.org
  26. 26 http://www.html5rocks.com/en/
  27. 27 http://movethewebforward.org/
  28. 28 http://my.opera.com/ODIN/blog/
  29. 29 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/
  30. 30 http://dropbox.com
  31. 31 http://cloud9ide.com
  32. 32 http://jsbin.com
  33. 33 http://jsfiddle.net
  34. 34 http://codepen.io
  35. 35 http://dabblet.com/
  36. 36 http://tinker.io
  37. 37 https://thimble.webmaker.org/en-US/
  38. 38 http://www.udacity.com/
  39. 39 http://www.codecademy.com/
  40. 40 http://changedu.org/
  41. 41 http://www.khanacademy.org/
  42. 42 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Nemo

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An international Developer Evangelist working for Mozilla in the lovely town of London, England.

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  1. 1

    You missed Coursera.org. It has more quality courses than a lot of similar websites!

    • 2

      Ah yeah, I heard of them. there are a lot of startups in that area. Shame actually as it also means a lot of duplicated efforts.

  2. 3

    It’s not a bright future.. the web is dying in it’s current form is because

    1) Zero monetization aside from advertising
    2) Huge incompatibilities among browsers that will not go away
    3) Browser maker corporate politics and agendas behind them
    4) Performance and stale technology (like Javascript that hasn’t improved in 15 years)
    5) Internet Explorer and Microsoft
    6) Huge costs of development that are 3 times more expensive than any project/site that was done in Flash for example due to the need to deal with fallbacks, compatibilities and various browsers
    7) WHATWG and W3C not really working together anymore but developing at their own paces now that will cause even further fragmentation going forward

    Web 3.0 is about APIs, web services and cloud. Not front end. It’s all moving to apps with cloud/API support via internet. Making websites is going away.

    Not gonna say it’s gonna die completely out, that’s not gonna happen as long as we are using desktop computers, but web development will be less and less. The work and stuff we do now is going to be replaced with basically CMSs and frameworks that are turn-key for those who want websites, while the world, creativity, ideas and services shift to apps on mobile devices, tablets, TVs and other next gen consumer devices and will offer far more and advanced integration and experience to consumers as well as developers by closely tying into the lifestyle of users and their device APIs.

    This is the future. Mark knows it. Yeah, HTML5 is something we all wanted but we are years in and situation is not any better. Quite the opposite I would say. More and more statistics show us clearly that the future is in apps and mobile, not web.

    • 4

      1) I pay for web services I use, like Dropbox, S3, Flickr and Pinboard. If all you can think of is advertising as a means to make money you also build terrible $0.99 apps with ads in them. It is the lazy way out.
      2) Yes, as they won’t go away, don’t pretend you can make it happen but check what the browser can do before applying it. That way you will never be surprised by a new browser. This is what choice gives us – inconsistency, but that can also mean innovation. If you think you can make a web product look and work the same everywhere you are not using the web to its strengths. Users shouldn’t have to upgrade or buy different hardware.
      3) Not in Firefox, that’s the beauty of being created by a not-for-profit organisation, but I hear you.
      4) JavaScript and especially JavaScript engines have incredibly improved over the last years. This argument is simply and utterly wrong. Half the beneficial features of HTML5 only are possible because of richer JS.
      5) Quite a sweeping statement. MS and IE are also going interesting places. Granted, IE8 is a pain we have to deal with for a few years to come, but the same applies to the Android browser and Mobile Safari. Browsers that are tied to the OS are not nimble and updatable. It is a very bad idea.
      6) That shows that the project was planned on wrong assumptions. I’d also like to see real case studies there. For example the Financial Times found it much more worth while to build a web app than maintain an iOS and Android version.
      7) Both are open to suggestions, we can whine about that fact or make them do what they are supposed to do – define standards for use.

      Web 3.0 bla bla: I heard the same arguments when Cold Fusion came out, when Flash came out, When .NET got released and when Hibernate, Spring and and and came out. So far none of them managed to deliver the turn-key solution. And the reason is that they limit themselves to a predictable environment, which the web just is not. And about the cloud and APIs – these are both amazing but APIs die every single day right now. Ask anyone who relied on Twitter’s data…

    • 5

      Stopped reading after:

      “1) Zero monetization aside from advertising”

      … REALLY?!

      • 6

        David De Los Santos

        September 23, 2012 2:01 am

        I gave it a change and kept reading but he lost his argument the moment he said “Javascript that hasn’t improved in 15 years”, “Cost are more for the web” and “web 3.0…”. I’ve worked for a bunch of multi-media companies that support both web and apps. I also just started working for a company that wants to revamp it’s digital strategy and is moving away from apps and mobile and focusing more and more and web and mobile web. Christian is right, we moved away from apps because the web had so much more to offer. Why would going backwards make that any better? I’ve seen companies try that “app” route. I’ve worked first hand in that route and seen it for what its is and it is slowly dying out. The web isn’t dying, history is repeating itself and it’s the apps that are dying.

    • 7

      Out of curiosity—does anyone know of a smashingmagazine.com comment that has received more thumbs down?

    • 8

      Graphic design/Web Design = programming now.

    • 9
  3. 10

    I wonder if the web really needs to be “sexier”. It still feels like a fad, fueled by custom apps that all look different and are equally unusable. Remember back when desktops needed to be sexier and you could download desktop packs with Simpsons mouse pointers and feedback sounds … I’m glad that’s behind us.

    The web needs to be fast and useful. Many of the libraries and “best practices” are poorly constructed additions that make the web more flashy and appeal mostly to the people that know how difficult it is to pull it off (think the overly used and all-too-fugly turn-the-page effect). For others it’s just ugly and intrusive, standing in between them and the content they want to access.

    I definitely believe in the web and I think better toolsets are a necessity, but to get those we still need solid best practices to which those toolsets adhere. I feel these best practices in particular have declined greatly the past couple of years in favor of quick innovation and easy scoring, so rather than innovate just to come up with something new every month, we’d do better to finally think all those new technologies through, making sure what we have now at least works consistently and the way we want it to work.

    • 11

      The point about sexier was making it interesting for new starters as opposed to building native apps. I totally agree that we need less bells+whistles. That is a quick rush but nothing that gives us good results in the long run.

  4. 12

    Lovely article guys, The inventing on principle is a deffo good watch

  5. 13

    I think the main issue at the moment is the fact that a lot of programmers think like they did 10 or 20 years ago. They often design stuff themselves (often very user unfriendly) and a lot of companies don’t use proper documentation (what does the user actually want?) or make no documentation at all. They all want to invent the same thing over and over again and thats just not the way to go anymore.
    You need to make a good analysis and research, you need a proper functionality document, you need to find out what your users want, you need to design things to not only make them prettier, but also easier to use.

    The internet is currently being held back for the fact that a lot of people can’t or won’t move forward that quickly. Using older browsers is a big issue for compatibility (allthough you can work around that by setting up minimum requirements), old systems that need to be upgraded, programmers with a lot of knowlegde that is just fairly out of date and management that is pusing releases too damn fast. Its getting out of hand these days. Its starting to get all about the money, not about the people, hardware or deliveries.

    There are some good guys still out there and it will take a while for people to understand that they have to improve their skills and knowlegde, but i think we will manage it in the end. Currently the hardware is getting better, giving HTML5 apps a better chance to compete, but without an improvement on the tools we all use, we will fail miserably.

  6. 14

    I’m not sue why everyone is feeling like the web is all doom and gloom. I’ve been in the industry since the mid 90’s and to be honest I’ve never been more excited about changes to the web. There’s some really exciting things happening online:

    – Awesome Javascript libraries and Frameworks
    – Progression of new and old languages adopting better standards
    – A blossoming of new APIs that developers can tap into to do cool things
    – HTML finally has features we’ve all be pinning for!
    – What CSS can do is finally taking off
    – The integration of apps and web together
    – Mobile Web!
    – Apps!

    Honestly there’s so much cool stuff my head is spinning most of the time. I think a lot of us veteran developers (by that I mean people that remember tables etc) forget that all these cool things we hoped for years ago are finally coming to fruition. True the web may not longer be the new “hotness” but that also means it’s becoming more mature and robust in what it can do.

    For example take the JavaScript libraries being released. Now we longer have to toil away trying to fix browser bugs just to get a div to appear and disappear on all browsers. Libraries like jQuery, backbone etc… take the heavy lifting out of the equation and let us focus on building cool tools!

    Same goes for all these APIs and services being exposed. Instead of inventing evernote from scratch I can leverage their API and build a web based service on top of that! Isn’t this what everyone wanted? A way to focus on building great online products without all the toil of the fine details?

    And for those of you that thing apps will kill the web, I propose this. The web and apps will co-exist! I know it’s revolutionary and your head may explode at the concept, but I see apps and web as two sides of the same coin. They each are solutions to different problems.

    For those of you that remember the early days of the web you may recall that every time you visited a site you were prompted to download a different plugin. If apps are required to view anything online, will users really want to download a new app every time they want to get some simple information online? This argument has little to do with tech and more to do with human behavior. If we have to load our phones with apps just to move around the web, laziness will win out. (Another app download arrrrg! I just want to see the weather!)

    Does that mean apps suck and they shouldn’t be used? Not at all! Apps present a great opportunity to create cool products when it’s appropriate. Have an idea that can only be successful if you can access the phone’s geolocation? It’s probably time for an app. You can see the pattern. Another good application is creating an app for marketing purposes as a value added to your website. But the app has to present something unique that your website doesn’t, in short they have to co-exist.

    I think Apps are in the same place Flash was when it first came out. Everyone was excited and eager to try the new technology but not too sure how to use it. Lots of bad UX patterns emerged around flash (flash intros anyone?) but over time as people realized where flash was appropriate and what strengths it had. We learnt to leverage the platform properly. Did flash kill the HTML web? No it became a compliment to it.

    In short I think there’s lots to get excited about whether you’re an app developer, a web designer or a backend developer. We just need to stop complaining and realize how exciting a time it is to be in this industry!

  7. 15

    I have to respectfully disagree.
    I can’t help but feel that the web is just getting more and more fragmented – not less.

    It was a minor irritation back in the day, but now it’s just spreading across all the various platforms, OS’s, browsers, platforms, etc. As designers and coders we’re always having to ramp up to learn new dev requirements while always dealing with an expanding backlog of obsolete formats that must nevertheless be accounted for. There’s little to no conformity amongst the competing interests and very few of the decisions are being driven by what’s best, rather than what can be copyrighted or monetized or whatever. And all it takes is a decision by a major party (i.e. Apple omitting Flash), to fragment things even further.

    Look at the mess that the Android OS is becoming. A free, open system that rarely sees the light of day in it’s natural state because of all the squabbles of providers, handset makers and copyright feuds.

    It just gets wearying when you have to still provide a betamax solution for every VHS tape that you produce.

  8. 16

    You nailed it: “It seems to me that the path to keeping your sanity in this world of ours is not to care about the shouting news outlets that need clicks to make money.”

    It’s overwhelming to keep up with every new framework and language but they’re fun to read about, test and imagine working with. I love going to conferences and talking with popular developers or evangelists who admit they’re using a fairly traditional development stack when I always expected high profile companies to rely on latest headline languages and environments.

    I also agree that the future involves developer tools that are more visual and immediately gratifying. Dev software’s value could very well be measured by its ability to hide much of the computer science purity, algorithms and command line interfacing that current tools offer as core features.

    Standing on the shoulders of giants, clever beginners and business owners will move beyond creating their own websites to manifesting new systems that are improved by its users without costly spec documents, meetings and revisions. Smart people with the right tools but without the mental baggage of knowing what developers can’t or shouldn’t do, will invent surprisingly useful software.

  9. 17

    I personally don’t share the sentiment but being a little pedantic I couldn’t help but pick up on the following.

    “We seem to be not quite at ease with what we are doing at the moment, despite the fact that our job market being ridiculously good and that we get paid very well for a relatively easy job”

    I agree the job market is buoyant but i am always disappointed when developers refer to web development as easy. Sure it’s easy but only because you’ve been doing it for 15 years and have honed your craft over a very long period indeed.

  10. 18

    While the online courses mentioned are pretty much the current best of breed, they’re hardly what we ought to want. I’m going to point you right to Bret Victor’s Learnable Programming ( at http://worrydream.com/LearnableProgramming/ ).

    Heck, even watching the now-ancient Sussman/Ableson SICP lectures without access to the book or to a Scheme environment (and both SICP and Racket are free downloads) will teach you more about programming than the editor/console-widget “type what we tell you” sites — and that’s assuming that you’ll never actually use a Lisp in anger. It’s mostly about formalizing and evolving processes, and much less about syntax. Even if we aren’t using the wishful-thinking languages and programming environments of the future, actually visualizing the processes resulting from the code is the single most important thing you can learn along the way. Somebody who can play the part of both the programmer and computer, who can see how the process unfolds, will be able to make almost anything they can conceive. A master of syntax alone will spend a lot of time on forums asking for people to figure it out for them.

  11. 19

    This article wins the award for being the most pointless article on Smashing Magazine.

  12. 20

    cool this discussion on comments…hahaha, is a post-plus to me.

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