My Three Web Wishes for 2011

Contributing Editor

Following my look back at The Top 5 Web Trends and Technologies of 2010, it’s time to look forward to 2011. If I was granted three realistic web wishes, this is what I’d ask for in the coming year…

1. Microsoft would release IE9 on Windows XP

Microsoft is obviously excited about HTML5. Their conferences, articles, and products are all pushing the technology as the next “big thing.”

So why produce an HTML5-aware browser which can’t be installed by 60% of their users?

HTML5 could be held back years if Microsoft do not release a compatible browser for their most successful and widespread OS. The main arguments for not releasing IE9 on XP are:

  1. IE9 uses Windows Vista/7 rendering technology. I don’t doubt it, but there’s no fundamental reason why it can’t be ported to XP. Isn’t DirectX supposed to be a solution which solves OS and hardware incompatibilities? Besides, all the other browser vendors support XP without whining — and several offer IE9-like video acceleration. If others have the resources to support XP, Microsoft certainly does.
  2. XP is a ten year-old OS and support is being phased out. That’s true, but it’s currently Microsoft’s most popular OS. If they were really serious about scrapping XP, they could stop selling the OS and release Vista/7-only versions of Office!

If you think IE6 development is tough now, consider how bad it’ll be supporting IE8 in 2018.

2. Widespread availability of server-side JavaScript

Desktop application developers have it easy. They pick a single development language and perhaps add a sprinkling of SQL for complex systems. However, a half-decent web developer must learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript, a server-side language such as PHP, SQL and possibly XML for good measure.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could use JavaScript on the server and reduce the workload? node.js may be the best solution, but it’s yet to achieve the widespread appeal and is dwarfed by the availability of PHP and ASP.NET. Perhaps that will change in 2011?

3. Web developers would backtrack on bandwidth-hogging websites

There’s an annoying web development trend which considers bandwidth to be unimportant. Why do some sites insist on multi-megabyte pages? Why is the total file size larger than the browser used to render it?

I have some sympathy for those developing complex web applications, although there are few excuses. Google and other vendors can provide full online office suites in a few hundred Kb, so there’s rarely a need for larger applications.

But it’s an entirely different matter for content-only websites. Bandwidth is not necessarily cheap or unlimited — especially for those using mobile devices. Trim that bulk or have your web development license revoked!

Fantasy Wishes…

That’s my realistic wish list. Here are the unrealistic ones that are unlikely to happen in 2011 or any other year…

  1. Free open wi-fi becomes available everywhere on the planet.
  2. SEO cowboys find their conscience.
  3. PHP6 is released with full Unicode support.

And finally, graphic designers and web developers would put aside their differences and have a big hug!

Happy New Year — see you in 2011!

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  • mezmo

    It seems to me that number 1 is the biggest fantasy wish. DirectX isn’t supposed to mask any OS differences, only hardware ones. I’m not saying they couldn’t do it, but face it, from a marketing standpoint DX11/IE8 being on the latest OS only is an inducement, a carrot say, for moving forward.

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

      DirectX provides a consistent API for graphic manipulation — and it’s available on XP. If MS are stating that consistency isn’t possible, it undermines the whole point of the technology.

      A bigger carrot would be to stop selling XP (it’s still available on new netbooks and as a downgrade CD) and produce Vista/7-only versions of Office. That would be a far larger incentive. Few people will seriously consider upgrading their OS just because IE9 is available.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Craig,

    Nice post. :)

    I’m curious about what exactly an “SEO Cowboy” is. I’m guessing those are the guys selling SEO services with false claims?

    I just purchased the SEO Business Guide to gain a better understanding about best practices which will hopefully compliment what I have already learned from experience.

    I wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous new year.

    Regards,
    Mark

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

      Perhaps conman/woman is a better term than “cowboy”. Typically, they’re the companies who sell “SEO services” for $500 per month to unsuspecting clients who don’t understand what they’re getting and never see an increase in sales. Or there are the ones who masquerade as Google employees to sell #1 positions in the search engine ($300 for $20 worth of AdWords).

      There are a lot of companies selling SEO snake oil. How many other industries could get away with selling a magic secret that they can’t possibly reveal? It’s also strange that they never offer free trial periods, change content on the target website, or provide proof of traffic growth.

      That’s not to say there aren’t good SEO companies out there. Can you name any?!

      • kaf

        I completely agree with you on this point craig. I personally cannot name one good SEO company and I don’t think they can exist. SEO should be a byproduct of a good web design and marketing strategy.

        My personal experience with an SEO company is when a client of mine hired a third party to analyse their site from an SEO perspective. I then got a call asking me to fix some markup in the site because it was invalid and could affect ranking. This particular problem with my markup was that I was not closing all of my tags ( br / ) I then explained that my doctype specifies html 4.01 so it was not needed. He didn’t seem to get it, I believe he just had some software that scanned websites and spat out ‘issues’. He clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. I then get an angry call from the client saying that they got a call from the seo company saying that I was being uncooperative and that I am affecting their sales.

        I now get regular calls asking me to re-teach them how to change the keywords and page titles through the cms (it seems they have never used one before).

        My understanding is that the client spent thousands of dollars for this and that they are on some kind of seo support contact where they pay so much per year for this company to keep their website ‘optimised’ and ‘current’.

        SEO snake oil indeed.

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    I would love to see IE9 available for XP. I popped into the local computer store up the road and sure enough they had brand new packages of Windows XP stacked beside the stack of Windows 7. Regardless of how great W7 is a lot of people still want XP.

    I think #2 is a fantasy although I too would like see widespread availability of JavaScript on the server. Perhaps if SS JavaScript were strongly supported ten years ago there would be a chance but PHP/.NET have massive support and in my experience developers are happy to work with the tools they know and love.

    #3 is one I agree with as well but it is becoming more difficult to produce lean html/css when the demands for embedded multimedia and desktop-like UI’s ramp up. As long as clients wants treatments that require bandwidth or a JavaScript library and CPU cycles, then we’re obliged to provide the goods.

    That’s not to say we don’t have a duty to refine the results so that it runs smoothly and efficiently but particularly in this past year (2010) I’ve spent a great deal of time inside jQuery writing or modifying extensions that as a result increase bandwidth and/or cpu load to provide more UI magic.

    And then there’s the E6 support factor which can add a few lines of JS or CSS :’(

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

      Thanks awasson.

      I personally use Windows 7, but I’m in the minority and know many people who are more than happy with XP. W7 may be prettier and offer a few nice touches, but it won’t dramatically change your life or productivity.

      Actually, server-side JS was around 10 years ago. Netscape had LiveWire and even classic ASP had JScript (like me, most developers used VBScript, but I regret that a little). There were also a few CMS-type systems such as LiveLink with SSJS. PHP/.NET are fine, but SSJS would save time and I’d love to see higher adoption rates.

  • NetNerd85

    PHP6 is surely a bit more likely than IE9 on XP?

    Why do you want free open wi-fi? sounds dangerous.

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

      The last I heard, PHP6 has been all but abandoned — but PHP 5.4 may offer many of the proposed features. I suspect you’re right about it being more likely than IE9 on XP, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some clever developer managed to port the browser.

      Open wi-fi would be great! Sure, you’d need to be careful about online banking etc, but it’s no less risky than paying for access at an airport.

    • Calvin

      Why does free open wifi sound dangerous? Bruce Schneier (you may have heard of him) runs a free open wifi network at home. The advantages of having ubiquitous open wifi access (even if just nation-wide) would far outweigh any drawbacks. There are hosts of wifi applications/appliances that simply won’t work unless there’s nationwide wifi coverage. Not to mention, people using WEP or WPA with TKIP for their wifi encryption are really more vulnerable than someone using open wifi since WEP/WPA[TKIP] gives the user a false sense of security, whereas the open wifi user knows they should be using HTTPS when they’re sending sensitive data over the network.

  • Badotz

    I have been using JavaScript on the server for over a decade. Am I the only person doing this? I cannot believe that.

    Over the years, I have developed a small client-side library that is essentially a front-end to the server-side components: database access; textfile manipulation; cryptography; XML support; get/set session vars.

    Anything I want to hide from prying eyes, I simply use ajax to hit the server and send back the results.

    Granted, mine is a small-scale operation, and I depend on IIs, but still… it ain’t rocket science.

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

      Thanks Badotz.

      No, you’re not the only person but certainly in a minority when compared to PHP and .NET.

  • ChrisCD

    I know some folks who provide SEO services and are more then willing to help with general info on forums. They don’t seem like snake-oil type people to me. I have always been a DIY type so haven’t hired anyone, but I certainly know a few I would consider if I moved in that direction.

    You say you don’t know any good SEO companies, but yet someone there wrote a book on best practices. So obviously you don’t believe in not making money on SEO stuff.

    I don’t believe there is anything wrong with specialization either. Yes good design should take certain SEO principles into account, but some items take a lot of time (keyword research, link building, content marketing) and I don’t believe this anything wrong with using a reputable person/company to do it.

    I agree with hoping many who perform such services will get a conscience because I get about 10 emails a week from those that don’t have one, but you seemed to to lump all such people in a bad light.

    I too wish IE9 would be ported to XP. We still use XP because of legacy programs and if it ain’t broke…

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

      I’m not saying that all SEO companies are bad or SEO specialisation is wrong. However, I’m regularly bombarded by companies who offer utterly diabolical services. At best they’re technically incompetent. At worst, they can damage a business.

      For example I was contacted by a client who runs a 10 bedroom hotel. He was about to pay $3,000 plus $500 per month for SEO services. My first question: is your hotel full most of the year? It was. Next question: are you expanding the hotel or buying new premises? He wasn’t.

      Ultimately, he didn’t need additional marketing and couldn’t have coped with more enquiries. Yet the SEO company didn’t consider that. They were happy to blind him with technical BS, charge a ridiculous fee and hinder a successful business.

      Then there was another SEO company who simply added links to all their clients from every client site. Great — except most of their customers sold viagra or dodgy loans. It didn’t look good on the reputable shop I looked at.

      Then there are the companies who call with “Hey there, I’m Bob from Google and we’re happy to sell you position #1″. Or the ones who offer inclusion in a crappy listings directory and can’t provide usage statistics.

      SEO should be part of good website development yet it’s often sold as an expensive secret magical service.

  • http://www.lbrbsolutions.com Dorsey

    I share the view on SEO “experts” – paraphrasing a securities industries maxim – those who don’t know SEO are doing all the talking, and those who do, aren’t. I’m waiting with bated breath for a site review of a recent complex project of mine that I KNOW is not SEO-friendly (not my doing) to see how they solve the problems of constantly changing user-generated content in multiple categories, and that is presented with little structure (H1, H2, etc.).
    As for bandwidth hogs – what about all of that duplex AJAX server interaction? It’s not just huge images that are taking up bandwidth and server cycles. At least with images, you might count on browser or edge server caching, but that’s obviously not possible with AJAX. I love AJAX, but it is what it is and (I believe) is used without much consideration of bandwidth or server load.
    I just upgraded a laptop from Vista to W7 out of necessity (Vista simply died on me), but I’m still a fan of XP, and have been for years. In my experience, it was a stable platform that went weeks between reboots, and then only because rebooting was required following an upgrade or installation. I have a home server running XP now that hasn’t been rebooted in two months. XP is the Energizer Bunny of operating systems.

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

      Thank Dorsey.

      Let us know how the SEO review goes. In my experience, most SEO “experts” wouldn’t know HTML from HRT — and few make any changes to the site’s structure, mark-up or content.

  • http://www.talking-poker.com BrianOConnell

    I’m with you on the bandwidth hogging sites. I’ll bet many developers would cite increased connections speeds for the average users as an excuse but what they may forget is faster download speeds mean people will download a large file, view a video and browse a site all at the same time which means that site won’t open as quickly as the developers may expect.

    As an asp.net developer I have one other concern and thats Microsoft’s increasing use of script without making it unobtrusive. I keep seeing tutorials that result in sites that simply don’t work with script off. When they endorsed jquery they forgot to pay attention to the unobtrusive ethos that tends to go with it. My wish is that they realise the error of their ways so maybe that should go under fantasy wish.

  • Paul McKeown

    Craig,

    What is it that you would suggest that SSJS offers that other server side scripting/programming languages do not?

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

      Reuse and consistency.

      PHP, .NET etc. can do everything you want — but in another language. Wouldn’t it be great if, say, your form validation code worked on the client and the server?

      • Paul McKeown

        Hmmm!

        Can’t say that the prospect overwhelms me. Naturally I use js on a daily basis, but having used perhaps a dozen or more other programming languages, I’m far from convinced that js is anywhere close to being the best, it’s just all we have to use in the browser client. Anyway, it would need to be supported by a large set of libraries, as it doesn’t provide anything near to what is necessary for functioning server code. It would also need proper development, debugging, profiling and testing tools and environments, which it currently lacks. I would need to be convinced that the server implementations were sufficiently bug free (workarounds or failures on the client are a lot less worrying than on the server), secure, robust and scaleable. And finally, it would inevitably cause confusion on occasion as to whether code applied to the browser or the server.

        Not saying that php is a particularly good programming language either, though, just that it is more suitable than js for the server.

        I’m sure all of this is rather academic, SSJS seems unlikely to take off!

        Your other suggestions though I agree with. Can’t stand the thought of still having to develop to IE8 long past 2015.

      • Paul McKeown

        As for the suggestion that form validation should use one set of code for both client and server, I would suggest that that is fundamentally wrong. There will usually be information available to the server that cannot be tested against on the client. And having two code bases means that cyberburglars need to find the holes in at least one code base which is completely hidden to them. Sharing the code would give too much away.

      • http://www.EarthChronicle.com/ Chroniclemaster1

        Paul, I think you bring up an interesting point about client-side code having to do fundamentally different things than the server which is backed up by an entire architecture of DBs, codebases, etc. I’m not sure that is an insurmountable problem however. I regularly have to cope with a website in several different environments (e.g. testing, staging, production, etc.) and there are a number of techniques to deal with this. Building your code modularly would be a key issue for reasonable code reuse.

        I disagree with you on cyberburglary though. By that theory all open source code if fundamentally flawed because it’s available to hackers. While that’s one more thing you can do, I don’t believe that using code which isn’t publicly viewable is a major security advantage.

  • ChristsApostle

    I agree, Microsoft should keep everything oriented for XP, especially since it will support XP through 2014 and it still dominates the industry. really the should just keep updating XP and put it on a DVD or good size Flash drive.
    There really isn’t any need for new OS, especially every year. That is part of the extreme waste that has become part of the computer industry.

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

      Actually, I think XP’s success is partly down to the 5 year wait for Vista and then another few years for Windows 7 to sort out Vista’s issues.

      I have no problem with Microsoft abandoning XP. It’s their OS and it’s 10 years’ old. However, it still makes a lot of money so they keep selling it and compatible software. Dropping XP support from IE9 is a marketing ploy — not a technical justification. Again, I’ve got nothing against them doing that, but why didn’t they drop XP support for Office, Visual Studio, or other products?

  • http://www.EarthChronicle.com/ Chroniclemaster1

    I think there are key reasons why SSJS died out in favor of C-family OO languages like Java and C# (and PHP has worked hard to support similar functionality). I’m a UX designer so I have to work in both client- and server-side development, and while SSJS would be nice, I think it would be even more attractive to have a client-side Java or C#.

  • LazyAndroid

    Fantasy wish number 1 is actually a nightmare; if it finally turns out that it’s true that Wi-Fi kills trees.