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10 Web Predictions for 2015

By Craig Buckler

Happy New Year! 2015 is 11111011111 in binary so it’s got to be a great year for technology! My 2014 predictions were half right so let’s see if I can do better in the coming year. The mists are clearing and there’s ectoplasm seeping from my keyboard…

1. Responsive Images Will be Usable!

It’s taken too long but we’ll finally have good responsive image support across several mainstream desktop and mobile browsers (other than just Chrome/Opera):

  • the img srcset attribute allows you to specify the same image at different resolutions according to the device’s screen capabilities
  • the picture element allows art direction. Different images can be presented based on the device’s size and orientation. For example, you might offer a photograph of a forest on a desktop but a couple of trees on mobile.

Use cases will differ but the important point is the browser decides which asset to use — you just provide the choices.

2. The Rise of Web Components

If Google are to be believed, Web Components are the future of the web platform. The technology comprises:

  1. HTML Templates — clone-able chunks of DOM
  2. The Shadow DOM — element and styling encapsulation
  3. Custom Elements — expanding HTML’s existing tag set
  4. HTML Imports — client-side includes

In essence, you can create reusable client-side components that are encapsulated and cannot clash with other code or parts of the page. Polymer provides a Web Components shim so you can use it today but widespread usage can only occur once we have native cross-browser support. 2015 is a little ambitious but interest in the technology will rise considerably during the year.

3. Node.js Will Go Mainstream

Node.js has been available for five years. It’s been used in high-profile systems from eBay, PayPal, Uber, Yahoo!, and Walmart but the JavaScript-based server-side technology remains a fairly niche option outside the cutting-edge tech community.

2015 will be a great year for Node.js. It may not dent PHP, Ruby, Java, or .NET significantly but we’ll see an exponential rise in usage and projects. It’s possible a fork such as JavaScript I/O or JXcore could do well but Node.js has early momentum.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside for all developers no matter what technology stack you use…

4. Framework Fatigue

The web has been inundated with thousands of useful HTML, CSS, JavaScript and server-side frameworks to cater for every development whim. This has generally been a good thing but, as Louis Lazaris mentioned in a recent SitePoint newsletter, is a backlash imminent?

New and shiny frameworks are great — until they’re updated. It’s difficult to improve a system without changing the API or working processes. Consider AngularJS. It’s one of the most popular client-side application frameworks, but version 2.0 is incompatible with version 1.x. There’s no simple upgrade path and developers have complained. (Perhaps it would have been preferable to create a separate project?)

The overwhelming number of frameworks can also lead to choice paralysis. It’s easy for developers to spend an inordinate amount of time researching the best option. Choosing the wrong option can be painful — in extreme cases, development has to be restarted with a different framework.

Fortunately, improvements in browser technology often make frameworks redundant. Today, the reasons to use jQuery have diminished and projects such as Polymer are designed to become obsolete.

Frameworks will never disappear but the days of monolithic catch-all solutions such as YUI are over. Developers will migrate to smaller, feature-specific components which can be dropped or replaced easily. The concept has already been embraced by the Node.js and Ruby communities.

5. It’ll be a Tough Year for Google

Let’s be clear: Google is incredibly successful and isn’t going anywhere but the company will face several challenges during 2015.

  • The rapid rise of small-screen mobile devices makes advertising more difficult.
  • Amazon is the outright winner in the ecommerce world. Relatively few people use Google to search for products.
  • Mozilla has switched Firefox’s default search away from Google in the US and some other territories.
  • Facebook is launching a YouTube competitor.
  • The company is attracting attention for the wrong reasons. Anti-trust complaints, privacy issues, and off-shore tax loopholes have all hit the headlines.
  • People no longer believe the “Don’t be evil” mantra (did they ever?)

Google’s success owes much to the failure of competitors, but those companies are beginning to hit back. The incredible growth cannot be sustained forever — although there is some good news for Google shareholders…

6. Chrome Will Exceed 50% Market Share on Desktop and Mobile

An easy win here. According to StatCounter, Chrome’s desktop browser stands at 48% at the end of 2014 — it will exceed one in every two web browser requests during the first quarter of 2015.

However, I predict the same will happen for Chrome on mobile which currently holds slightly under 30% of the market. It won’t happen until later in the year and depends on the death of the stock Android browser, but it has a good chance of succeeding.

The situation is less positive for other vendors…

7. IE Will Fall Below Firefox

Microsoft and Mozilla have been hit by Chrome’s success. Forget the history — both organizations create great browsers with features that match or exceed Google’s software. But they’re not better in all areas. Neither browser offers a compelling reason to switch from Chrome.

By the end of 2015, Firefox will have around 15% market share. IE is dropping faster and will fall slightly below that figure.

Apple’s desktop Safari browser is becoming increasingly irrelevant but it’ll be propped up on mobile devices by the continuing success of the iPhone and iPad. Speaking of mobile…

8. Mobile Device Usage will Hit 50%

It’s been predicted for many years, but the proportion of mobile web users will reach parity with those on desktop devices by the end of 2015. 2014 saw a rise from 20% to 34% and that trend will continue.

If your site and services don’t cater for a mobile audience, now is the time to start planning a new strategy because…

9. 2015 is The Year of Performance

We’ve concentrated on making sites respond to screen size. What we haven’t done is make them responsive to user interaction and bandwidth. The web has an amazing future but people often prefer native apps because they’re faster and, in some cases, offer a smaller installation package than a corresponding web page.

Average page weight has doubled during the past three years to reach an obese 2MB. Has your fixed and mobile bandwidth doubled during the same period? Are web sites and applications twice as good?

Performance has been highlighted by many in the industry but it’s yet to encroach on the general consciousness of web developers. The economy is partly to blame; building something quickly and cheaply is an attractive option. But it’s not cost effective if people refuse to use your cumbersome, resource-hogging application or demand native apps.

2015 is the year to re-evaluate and prioritize performance. Perhaps we need to return to the ideology of the dial-up internet days when developers would strive for efficiency. Let’s rediscover those lost skills.

10. Skype Translator Will Become a Transformative Technology

Is Microsoft breeding Babel fish? The promise of near-instant natural language translation via Skype will transform the world. The web has already shattered geographic boundaries but Skype could do the same for communication and co-operation. It will open new opportunities for businesses and freelancers everywhere.

Presuming it works, of course. I’d be surprised if Skype can translate the subtleties and nuances of all languages but, at the very least, it’ll help me understand those Australians at SitePoint HQ!

All the best for 2015!

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Comments
Mateus

Good one, Craig! I'll support most of your predictions, but I don't think it will be a tough year for Google. No year has ever been absolutely tough for Google.

I would also add one factor to your IE prediction. IE 8 will be OFFICIALLY deprecated. With new technologies popping up and upgrading each day, there will be no more space for supporting IE 8. Bootstrap and jQuery's newest versions don't support it anymore. So this may be another point for Firefox advancing over Internet Explorer.

Well let's see, the world has a little less than 365 days to do all that. Let's sit, work and wait.

PrakashNakrani

great post! I find it very useful because all i had seen from last two months on internet blogs is just about web trends prediction for 2015. This one is unique in idea and it's good to know as @mateus says IE 8 will be deprecated. Thanks for this.

Ophelie

[A]t the very least, it’ll help me understand those Australians at SitePoint HQ!

Listen, mate.

dojoVader

I don't know bout Polymer because i feel the framework was to allow google easily share their services, whichever the case I still prefer to stick to frameworks with stability e.g The Dojotoolkit I still work with Knockout, and Angular (which I don't like one bit). As long as there's browser incompatibility frameworks will always be here to stay.

ceeb

Thanks Mateus. Google's share price has been affected recently and there are calls from the EU for the company to be broken up. They'll still end the year with more money than they started but I suspect the glory days are over.

As for IE8, watch out for this month's Browser Trends report tomorrow!

ceeb

Thanks dojoVader. Actually, browsers are closer than they've ever been and you don't necessarily need to worry about incompatibilities if you adopt progressive enhancement. I think it's more a matter of development speed...

MattDiMu

Although I agree with many predictions, I strongly doubt, that web components will rise. Many things may be polyfilled by Polymer, but http2 cannot and without http2 every html import is an extra http request => massive performance issue. Furthermore web components and polymer are imo still too experimental to be used in production.

I also doubt, that less Frameworks will be used/created. The only trend I recognize is the modularization of frameworks. I agree, that huge monolithic frameworks are on the decline, but small modules as well as package managers to integrate these modules are on the rise. e.g. i believe that less people use sass-compass for everything, but more people use bourbon for the mixins, susy for the grid-layout, purecss for the base styling, etc.

psdslh

I have framework fatigue. I find they're usually trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. If the solution isn't going to be worked on by a bunch of developers with similar skillsets, why not take the best paradigms from frameworks you've worked with and make your own cut down framework? I did it for my tiny brochure site. Total MVC (relevant to my site only) for 2kb - although I've not made it compatible with IE8. Also, there are many ways to help performance. Using asynchronous loading where possible, using compression, minification, caching where possible. Use of local storage can help too. If you're interested, this is my site: http://web-dewd.com. Btw, happy to post unminified js if you'd like to see it.

ceeb

That's impressive and I totally agree. If you can write your own simple, fast, custom framework in 2Kb, why use some monolithic alternative? Frameworks can be great, but they're often very generic and you need to spend time learning, customising and updating it. Could that time be better spent?

ceeb

I agree 2015 may be a little premature for web components but they have a promising future. I'm not totally convinced Polymer will succeed - Google doesn't appear to be using it in many projects - but the library should become redundant over time.

More frameworks will be created - that's inevitable. My point was that monolithic frameworks will decline in favour of smaller modules and package managers ... which will be aided by web components.

livecontrol_net

I don't think I've ever used Amazon to search for products... I use Google exclusively.

Henri_Helvetica

Cool piece. But I though this was funny:

You say Google is set to have a very tough year, but in the very next paragraph, mention that Chrome is about to hit 1/2 of all browsers. You also mention FF moving to a Yahoo default search (which is 2 clicks from a change) but again contrasting that to Chrome's rise. And you also do remind us that Google has the top two search engines on the planet: Google and YouTube.
Google's biggest challenge will be growing - and they have footing in your home (Nest) which is where they'll prob feel the most push back. We'll see.

Frameworks are like Photoshop: mostly used well below capacity/capabilities. That's the main issue. I've discussed this long before, but ppl don't squeeze as much as they should from frameworks.

But I do love the idea of performance becoming a focus. Very happy I got into #webperf seriously in 2013 and love the academia involved. Watching a panel debate image optimization for 1hr+ has become so entertaining.

Wish you would have added accessibility. Between laws and the final realization that there's some real world issues emerging (low viz is the biggest one), we need to see changes, because some of your friends right now can't see what's written on these webpages - but are too embarrassed to say it. And the designers are mostly at fault.

ceeb

I think Google will have a tough year as a business and, as you say, they cannot expect exponential growth every year. Their share price has already been affected - it's down 20% on this time last year.

As for Chrome, it's not really a revenue-raising product. It helps indirectly but, again, usage is growing at a slower rate and I don't think it'll ever reach the IE-like 95%.

I'm not sure I agree that devs should squeeze more out of frameworks. Part of the problem is that overblown frameworks are adopted for relatively simple projects. Smaller, more focused libraries would benefit.

robert

Thanks for writing a great post ceeb,
I particularly like point 9, I see many websites adding very pretty effects yet failing to consider how they might affect performance, not only during loading but also during run-time. I hope at the very least that these developers, at the very least start concatenating the scripts and CSS they download, Very easy now with the built tools we have at our disposal.
As for run-time performance I hope to see developers writing more performant JavaScript, keeping a very special eye on DOM interaction, most of us know that repaints are costly but choose to ignore this. No animation is better than a choppy one. Lets get this fixed in 2015.

MattDiMu

You're right, that very often huge frameworks are used for small projects and smaller, more focused libraries would be better. I disagree, however, that this is a real problem.

If I work on different projects, I shouldn't reevaluate and pick new frameworks for each project. It makes sense to be consistent and stick with the ones already know, even if the (small) project doesn't require all of it (as long as the framework isn't going into the completely wrong direction).

IMO the outcome is better, if i use a not-perfectly-fitting framework right than if i use a better-fitting framework wrong.

bcs

Whats you take on Vue.js and Golang ?

Noppy

Google are beginning to scare the crap out of me. Read an interesting article about google misjudging social media and having to play catchup so are now buying into everything from pharmaceuticals to agriculture. You have a company that will/can be able to control everything we do and know when and how we are doing whatever it is we are doing. They have more money than a lot of countries and a lot more leverage.

Does it matter if google knows i am buying baked beans? yes if they can then affect the global market prices. When you have the power to advertise to billions of people you can make some big impacts.

Be interesting if they are forced to break up.

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