10 Web Predictions for 2015

Craig Buckler
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!