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
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.
10. Average Page Sizes Will Reach 1MB
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!
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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