10 Web Predictions for 2012

Welcome to 2012! The web has reached its third decade and it’s changing more rapidly than ever. I’m no Nostradamus but, unlike him, I’m prepared to make ten prophecies without resorting to ambiguous language or tenuous explanations. I do not claim to have mystical predictive powers but you’re welcome to gaze at my crystal ball … the mists are clearing

1. Chrome Will Overtake Internet Explorer

If current growth rates continue, Chrome will become the world’s most popular browser by the middle of 2012 and end IE’s 13-year reign. There will be much rejoicing followed by a sickly hangover when everyone realizes just how powerful Google has become.

2. But IE10 Will be Better Than You Expect

In response to Google’s dominance, Microsoft will release IE10 during the spring. It’ll be a wonderful browser with a slick interface, amazing speed and excellent W3C standards support. It’ll receive glowing reviews and everyone will humbly acknowledge the fine job Microsoft is doing.

We’ll subsequently return to our default browsers once we realize two-thirds of the world can’t install IE10.

3. Windows 8 and Windows Phone May Surprise You Too

Painful experiences of Windows Vista will be a distant memory by the time Windows 8 appears in the fall. It’ll be applauded by businesses, home users, gamers and developers alike. It’ll sell well even though the western economies are in meltdown. Web developers will also be able to leverage their skills and write native Windows applications using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

Similarly, devices running Windows Phone will become a viable alternative. Not everyone wants the geek of Android, the Apple-knows-what’s-best-for-you chic of the iPhone, or the best-for-business BS of Blackberry.

4. Tablets and Mobiles Will Begin to Influence Web Design

Everyone will be taking tablets in 2012. The Apple iPad and Kindle Fire are increasingly popular and, within a few months, tablets will be de rigueur for anyone attending a high-powered business meeting. They won’t be used or required, but they’ll make you look cool and important. Thousands of CEOs will consider tablets to be the future of IT and insist that all company web sites and applications are compatible. On their device. In portrait mode. At 480×800.

Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but web designers will almost certainly need to consider small screen devices. Mobiles currently account for 8% of all web access and it’s rising rapidly.

5. Responsive Design Will Go Mainstream

With the exception of a few major companies, media queries have mostly been used for technical websites and demonstrations. That will change in 2012 and everyone will want their site to work on desktops, tablets and smartphones.

My only reservation: is the industry ready for responsive layouts? I’ve worked with many graphic artists over the years but very few could make the psychological leap beyond fixed-width design. Fluid layouts have been with us since day one but the majority of the web remains steadfastly rigid. If you only have time to learn one skill in 2012, make sure it’s CSS3 media queries.

6. Many Mobile App Developers Will Switch to HTML5

The mobile market has become increasingly fragmented with differing versions of iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry OS, webOS, bada, Windows Phone, etc. Many companies make a good living producing apps for a single platform but it’s increasingly difficult to support multiple devices.

The sophistication of mobile browsers and APIs make HTML5 web apps an attractive cross-device proposition. It’s still possible to take advantage of app store advertising, distribution and monetization by creating small native wrappers which link to your online application.

7. Advertisers Will Discover HTML5

If you consider web advertising to be ugly and intrusive now, think how bad it’ll be when advertisers adopt HTML5! The advantages (for them) include:

  • Adverts can adapt to different devices and screen sizes using media queries and similar technologies.
  • File sizes can be reduced so advertisements appear faster.
  • An advert can interact with any part of the page — not just its own box.
  • HTML5 adverts will be more difficult to block.

HTML5 development tools may not be as sophisticated, but the supremacy of Flash advertising is beginning to wane.

8. But Flash Will Survive. Just.

Despite a rapidly-expanding market, Adobe has abandoned Flash on mobile devices. But the technology is far from dead. The main reason: HTML5 and its development tools are relatively new whereas designers have been using Flash for more than 15 years.

I won’t pretend that the future is rosy for Flash, Silverlight or any other plugin technology. They evolved to overcome the inherent omissions and slow progress of web standards, but HTML5 is catching up and legacy browsers will become less of an issue…

9. IE6 and IE7 Will Finally Die

In January 2012, the worldwide market share for IE6 was 1.8% and IE7 was 4.0% — and they’re dropping fast. In many cases, the development cost for supporting those browsers cannot be justified.

However, 5.8% of the market is a lot of people and they remain the default browsers for many large organizations and government departments. The web is device agnostic; there may be few economic reasons to test legacy browsers, but active prejudice against specific sectors of the community is a different matter.

Ideally, websites should remain operational in IE6, IE7 or any other web browser. The design need not be pixel-perfect — it can be downright ugly. It does not necessarily require all the graphics, effects, animation or media. You may even choose to disable all CSS and JavaScript. But there’s no reason why your content should not be available to all.

10. Average Page Sizes Will Reach 1MB

I hope this doesn’t come true but, if current trends continue, the average total weight for a single web page — including all CSS, JavaScript and media files — will be 1MB by the end of 2012. It’s ridiculous since HTML5 and CSS3 reduce the need for images and JavaScript. That won’t stop it happening, though.

If your pages are becoming bloated, do everyone a favor with a 2012 detox. Make it your New Year resolution. Who am I trying to fool? We’ll be stuffing our pages with tasty treats by February.

Do you agree with my mystic predictions? Have you experienced premonitions of what’s to come in 2012? Happy New Year!

Win an Annual Membership to Learnable,

SitePoint's Learning Platform

  • RobMoff

    I think these are all really safe predictions. In fact, I’d say that a few of these predictions (#4 in particular) have already been fulfilled. I’m going to have to disagree with #9 – working in both government and private industry, I have seen the glacial pace of government / corporate acceptance of new technology and the still-rampant ignorance of many users when it comes to browser options. I’m afraid that IE7 will be with us for a few years yet. This makes me sad.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      You’d have disagreed with me if I’d made unsafe predictions!

      I’m not convinced tablets have a heavy influence on design yet, otherwise everyone would have fluid or responsive designs which worked in portrait as well as landscape. The web is predominantly fixed-width; that’s a shame and it doesn’t exploit the medium.

      No browser ever really dies; I’m sure there are people out there still using IE3 or Netscape 2. But there are few reasons to make a site as functional in IE6 and 7 as all the other browsers. For example, you could be showing a nicely animated canvas-based graph to most users but a plain old HTML data table for those on legacy browsers.

  • http://expenses.co.in Abhishek Dilliwal

    +1 for all of them.. I just wish IE6 and IE7 die… and just like other developers am too concentrating on mobile and other media.. I am just worried of screen sizes :(

  • http://mikeritteronline.com Mike Ritter

    I naively enrolled in a web development program at Kaplan U about 3 years ago. Realized their curriculum was outdated about a year in. They focused EVERYTHING on Adobe, Flash and Actionscript. I advised over and over we should be working on HTML5, but there was no real bite. Nobody took me seriously. Now, we are at the crossroads and I am back to square 1. Your books and posts offer more insight than anything I learned.

    Please continue informing us of the trends in the industry.

    P.S., There seems to be a little conflict of interest with the IE sponsorship and your plug for Microsoft — not accusing you of bias, just pointing out the appearance of conflict. I’m actually looking forward to Win Mobile dev.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks Mike. Focusing on Flash seems a little bizarre for a web development course. Even if they weren’t directly teaching HTML5, HTML and CSS have been with us for years.

      Incidentally, these are all my opinions. Microsoft sponsor the SitePoint HTML5 dev center but I’m not a SitePoint or MS employee and neither am I paid to write articles biased in anyones favor (other than my own!) For the record, I think IE9 is a fast, capable browser but it’s beaten by most of its competitors. The signs for IE10 look good though.

  • http://www.pamhunterdesign.com Pam Hunter Design

    Well, that all sounds great…. so you predict we will still be here?! LOL

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      OK, I’m going to make a prediction that the human race will survive into 2013 and beyond. It’s a safe bet and I’ll never be accused of getting it wrong!

  • http://webeminence.com Web Eminence

    Good predictions. I wouldn’t say you’re taking any huge risks with these predictions. I’ve done my part for your #1 prediction of Chrome taking over. I think I’ve converted over 100 people in the last year to Chrome. I’ll be very interested to see Windows 8 and IE10.

  • http://www.cotsweb.com Mark

    Good predictions, but I think you may overstate the impact of HTML5. With 28% of users on IE8 or earlier plus another 5.5% on old versions of Firefox there is a big tail of browsers which can only cope with the most basic HTML5 features.

    I think item 10 may be partly because of this, you need to add a lot of stuff to a page to make it behave like an HTML5 page on older browsers. If we could just use HTML5 life would be much simpler and our webpages would be a lot slimmer.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      You can find shims to emulate almost any HTML5 feature in IE6, 7 and 8 but I’m not convinced that’s the main reason for page bulk. I think it’s more likely that developers don’t consider weight any more. Many are happy to mix and match code from different libraries without a thought for how efficient it will be.

  • http://goodwebsites.co.nz Erwin – Good Websites

    hehe… so true: tablets > ‘They won’t be used or required, but they’ll make you look cool and important.’

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I’ve heard several scare stories from friends in IT who suddenly have to make everything work on an iPad because the boss received one for Christmas!

  • http://logic52.com Shane Carmody

    Your thoughts about HTML5 and advertising scare me Craig. Seriously.

    Regarding IE – unfortunately, we are doomed. IE8 will be hanging around for years to come. Windows XP will still be heavily used over the next few years and IE8 will become the new IE6. Once again Microsoft have left us in a big steaming pile of poopy.

    By the 4th quarter of 2012 I think Flash will finally be dead and buried. Rejoice! Even Lee Brimelow seems to have done away with thFlashBlog.com.

    My only prediction – Browser wars on mobile devices ;)

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I agree with your concerns about IE8. It’s the next IE6 … admittedly, though, it’s far more capable. I still live in hope Microsoft will do something about it, but I think they’re hoping Windows 7/8 does enough to persuade XP users to upgrade.

      I think Flash will be with us for a while yet — even if it’s just used for IE8 adverts and videos. But its days are certainly numbered.

      Browser wars on mobile devices could be interesting although I think the range of devices and platforms is too diverse for anyone to gain too much power.

  • London Web Designer

    I wish chrome take over IE. I am not biggest fan of IE now as it made me a couple problems with cross browser errors . If they could implement web-kit in to IE … I am in heaven

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      You can use webkit in IE – install Chrome Frame.

  • mit

    Good funny reading :)

    The thing I’m most interested in is the part about responsive design.

    Responsive design didn’t actually appear with CSS3, but with JS a long time ago. CSS does a pretty good basic job even w/ media queries.

    So my prediction is that actually media queries will die and be replaced by the old basic CSS, floats and such, the new basic CSS, probably the new box model and mainly by modern JS implementations.

  • http://timgallantcreative.com Tim

    Sorry to say, I think you’re right about Chrome overtaking IE – we’re almost there already, after all.

    To me, it’s mystifying, in a way. People like to hate on MS because it’s a powerful mega-corporation. Er… what’s Google?

    Beyond that, the Webkit browsers may be ahead of IE in *some* web standards – but for basic legibility of text, I’ll take Internet Explorer any day. The joke is people are making such a big deal about e.g. @font-face, and then use Chrome, which by and large does a horrible job of rendering non-standard fonts. To me, it’s just anti-Microsoft hysteria. I’m not an MS fanboy by any stretch, but IMO the Chrome worship is at least equally bad.

    Re page size: I have to admit my page sizes have increased a bit… but one of the saving graces of the advent of mobile is that you have some restraint on getting too carried away. Although I’m now more tempted to offer a completely alternative simplified site for mobile rather than make everything equally usable everywhere.

  • Mike Barnetson

    “or the best-for-business BS of Blackberry.” – Is that their official slogan :-)

    I would agree regarding Windows Mobile. It is moving along in leaps and bounds and the next major version upgrade is due out in June 2012.

    I very much doubt web pages will be 1MB by end of next year – mobile data is still relatively expensive and slow so companies would be cutting out the every growing mobile market if they did this. If anything they should be making them smaller!

  • http://jeremybertel.com Jeremy Bertel

    I tend to agree with most of your predictions actually, but I reckon IE6 will live on for a while still – it’s like the zombie browser you can’t kill!
    I really think that Microsoft have turned over a new leaf the last couple of years, with IE9, Win 7, Win Phone 7 and the upcoming Win 8 and IE10 they seem to be doing things right. Much more light weight and stable than a lot of the previous things they’ve put out in the past. I’m a Win Phone user and have been really impressed with it’s ease of use and stability, bring on the 2012 advances!
    P.S. I’ve not been paid by MS, in fact I used to be pretty anti-MS but they’ve turned me around :)

  • http://dannybishopcreative.wordpress.com/ Danny Bishop

    Kind of agree with point 4, except that was already in play for 2011. It will certainly become a LOT more prevalent in 2012 though.

    I build a stand alone website for the Essendon Football Club in 2011 [ http://theflightplan.com.au ], and from day one it was designed around iPad dimensions and technology including HTML5 video. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, and I’m sure it will be common in the coming year.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Your design works on 1024 x 768 – which is a fairly standard screen size for desktops and tablets. However, it won’t work so well if the iPad is held in portrait mode. Media queries could solve that for you.

  • Rich Humphreys

    Most of your points on advertising are silly. All the good and bad points you mention have been available through Flash for many years.
    File sizes are a function of the internal media of the ad. If the HTML5 developer uses structural DOM elements, SVG and CSS3, the ads will be very small. If they choose canvas with a bunch of heavy sprite sheets for blitted animation, there will be more to download. If the designer mixes in video and audio tags; expect huge, unblockable advertising.
    These have been rules of good Flash work for a long time. The problem is the huge number of people who pay no attention to the best practices. Many ad servers are also stuck (for no good reason) using a version of Flash that is almost 8 years old. The speed, power, accessibility and browser interaction are not available there.

    As a Flash developer, I have found the new HTML5 (and related technologies) exciting. I also think it will not be long before they are as abused as Flash has been over the years. I expect to see dancing figures selling car insurance and “shoot the duck” style adds rolling out in all their canvas/svg goodness this year.

    I also expect that by the end of 2013 iOS users will be begging to have ads produced in Flash so they get turned automatically into little blue cubes again.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks Rich. What I was referring to is serving ads based on screen size, device capabilities or bandwidth. For example, if you’re using a smartphone, a small static image could be loaded rather than a large interactive Flash-based video. The advert inclusion code wouldn’t change – it would simply serve the most appropriate files.

  • http://www.becometheboss.net/ Philip Ramsey

    We started adding video presentations to our guest speakers’ details pages. A 15 minute HD video runs over 900 MB. Never really gave much thought to the Flash video file size. Guess I will be using standard definition from now on.

    I never did like IE and will never use it. In fact the only reason Windows is on my computers (as a virtual machine) is because there are no Canadian income tax software for Linux. Since switching to Linux, about four or five years ago, I have become more aware of the security issues of Windows – prone to being hacked into within minutes of connecting to the internet, susceptible to virus and other malware attacks, Blue Screen of Death. Linux is free, stable, secure and virtually immune to almost all malware.

    Why would anyone pay $100 – $300 for an operating system that is insecure, unstable, susceptible to malware etc. when there is a free alternative that is secure, stable and virtually free of malware? With Windows, you pay for the privilege to pay for poor quality software. With Linux 95% of all software are free (open source) and very high quality. The 5% of software for Linux that is not free are custom software created for large enterprises.

    I predict Microsoft and Windows will continue to loose ground to Linux and open source software. In fact Microsoft will start re-branding open source software and reselling it as their own. First up will be Apache will be re-branded as Internet Information Server (IIS), PHP will be re-branded as ASP.NET and MySQL will be re-branded as MS SQL. MS Office will be replaced by openoffice.org later in the year. Re-branding open source software is not new to Microsoft. Look at IE 7 and 8. They are actually Firefox, versions 0.9 and 2.0 respectively, re-branded as IE. So why pay Microsoft for open source software when you can get it from the most up-to-date version from the source for free?

  • http://www.accuvista.co.uk Michael Bullard

    The biggest problem with the different browser makes and versions is that many people don’t know or care which browser they run. They just fire up Google (really), type in the domain URL and go from there. And if you look at it from the user’s perspective, this works, so why bother…? They often don’t notice the Javascript errors or failures. Doesn’t help us developers, but thankfully later versions of IE seem to be more tolerant of mixing different JS libraries on the same page. Hopefully this trend will continue.

  • http://www.gate6.com David J. Pond

    I fully agree on Chrome. I started using Chrome because our company is utilizing Google Docs, GMail and Google+. I have been extremely happy with Chrome. I use it at work on a PC and at home on a Mac. I no longer use IE, FireFox, Safari or Opera trying to figure out which one I like better. Don’t get me wrong working in a web agency we have to pay attention to IE and other browsers. But my personal preference for the online world is Chrome for now.

    As for the mobile devices, I just know the line between web and mobile device is merging very rapidly. Tablets are definitely changing how we view the web and operate with web apps. Mobile has a way to go, but about 90% of my day to day work can be done on a tablet but I still would like to see more compatibility with some office apps.

    Flash can’t go away fast enough for me.

    If people would stop adding programming to new sites to make them view on legacy browser technology it would push people and companies to upgrade. (this is currently happening with the merging of mobile and web, less legacy code is being applied)

    Wireless connections on desktop and mobile devices dictates the page size, if it loads to slowly on a wireless device the user will be frustrated. Yes mobile devices are getting faster and wireless networks are getting faster, but it is good mobile computing design to make sure the content loads well using wireless speeds.

  • Suzanne

    I’m thrilled that you think Chrome will take over from IE, but what about Firefox and Safari?

  • http://internet-marketing-tubes.blogspot.com Khairul

    Thanks for the info. It seems that 2012 is the year for html5…hope you can share more on how entrepreneur can get benefit from this technology.

  • http://www.nitinkatkam.com/ Nitin Reddy

    There needs to be a way for web browsers to download and keep a cached copy of Javascript libraries stored in a repostory managed by the W3C so, for example, browsers will not have to download the jQuery library if it is being fetched from different sources.

    With a shift toward MVC, ASP.NET developers have more control over which Javascript libraries they use and many will gravitate toward jQuery simply because it is the most common and because Microsoft promotes jQuery too.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      jQuery, Microsoft and Google already offer free CDN for versions of jQuery. I’m not convinced we need any more than that.

      Besides, jQuery itself is a (compressed) 30KB file. It’s hardly a major contributer to overweight pages.

      • http://www.forextradingsignalservice.com pete m

        I partly agree that it’s not significant in size, yet I believe we should consider all these external source scripts we are including as it does add latency, due to the number of http requests made. These days I see websites including so many jquery libraries and point them to external servers rather than keep a copy locally.

        Also, thanks for your articles they are helping me to use html5. I have not been totally convinced with using it yet as I’m always concerned about compatability.

  • http://ecreations.mu ashvindx

    Let’s hope IE6 really dies (I mean becomes the least used), but we’re already stuck with IE7 like @RobMoff said. Microsoft may be at a stage where it has to deliver or it will lose its market share. And that’s one more reason why a lot of effort will go into the next IE.

    But I have to disagree with some points. Chrome has its share of problems compared to Firefox. It should not be your first choice to become the number. As a developer, there are things that do not work well in Chrome. It should not become another IE6.

    HTML5: It’s still too early to say that it will gain significant adoption. The one to stay is Javascript over CDN. More and more are going to start using CDN over cloud.

  • http://sheflipswebsites.com/ Beth

    I’ll accept adverts I can’t block as easily if it means the death of Flash, absolutely! Also, I’d argue that the death of Flash nears as a result of tablets and mobiles. Flash-blocking add-ons weren’t enough to do it, but devices everyone speaks about that lead trends straight up denying Flash at all? That will do it.

    I agree that Chrome is going to dominate the market in short order. IE 6 and 7 really do need to die and join their other friends and foes in Browser Valhalla. I can’t believe the share for IE6 is still 1.8% in 2012! That’s too high!

    Great post, thanks for the enjoyable read!

  • http://www.smartvirtualoffice.com Bill Ang

    On Prediction 3 that Windows 8 and Windows Phone May Surprise You Too
    Get real….

    Lets see the history of Windows
    Windows 95 Sucks
    Windows 2000 Good Stuff
    Windows Me Sucks
    Windows XP Good Stuff
    Windows Vista Sucks
    Windows 7 Good Stuff
    Windows 8 your guess and if you guess GOOD STUFF.. I think you deserve to have HDD failures and all that crap that comes with it..
    I have switched to UBUNTU and
    1. Its free
    2. I NEVER worry about licence
    3. Its good stuff all the way…..

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      That pattern looks interesting … although you’ve omitted Windows 98 (good) and Windows NT 4 (good) which blows the theory a little. XP was dire when it first appeared too.

      I use Ubuntu too. It’s great. Is it “good stuff all the way”? Is anything?