By Raena Jackson Armitage

3 Must-Watch Topics in 2010

By Raena Jackson Armitage

Danger!What are you most looking forward to in 2010, and the future? There are a few areas I’m keen to keep an eye on — I suspect they’re going to be a huge part of our lives as developers in the coming years, and if you miss the boat, you’ll be missing out on some big opportunities …

Know Your Future Browsers

One of the easiest ways to get the jump on your fellow developers is to keep a close eye on upcoming versions of your favorite browsers. Here are three important browsers to watch:

  • In November we learned that the Internet Explorer team had started work on IE9, which is great news. In a blog post, the team revealed some sneak peeks at what’s inside the latest iteration of their browser: huge improvements in JavaScript performance, hardware acceleration for graphics (check out this nifty video from Channel 9), and some promising signs on the CSS3 support front. Chances are slim that IE9 will appear on desktops before 2011, but in the meantime, I’d hope that we can all look forward to plenty of updates from the IE team as they work on the latest version.
  • Firefox 3.6 beta is available to test right now, and it’s full of lovely new bells and whistles. According to the release notes, we can expect to see some great new ways to deal with background images and gradients, support for HTML 5’s local file access API, and improvements for Firefox add-on developers. Firefox 3.6 was originally slated for a late 2009 release, but has yet to reach release candidate status — so keep a close eye out.
  • Google Chrome Extensions are finally here. Will this help Chrome chip away at Firefox’s market share in 2010, especially among those of us who love our Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug? We put this to our Twitter friends and responses were mixed indeed: some people absolutely can’t wait, while other friends are fairly loyal to Firefox. One thing’s for sure — in 2010, as more extensions appear, there’ll be more incentive to try Chrome. (We reproduced selected tweets in last week’s Community Crier, if you want the full scoop.)

Mobile is Everywhere — Jump On Board Now!

In 2010, it’s definitely fair to say that any developer who wants to keep up to date needs to be concentrating on building their mobile development skills. Mobile web access is absolutely booming in popularity, and Mobile Safari (as used on the iPhone and iPod touch) garners a massive share of developers’ time and effort. Pundits are speculating like mad over what could appear in the next version of the iPhone … OLED screens? Embedded RFID chips? Front-facing cameras? And that’s nothing compared to the sneaky peeks and previews of the Google Phone, and Windows Mobile 7 should appear in late 2010 too.

Of interest to we web developers, though, is mobile web browsing, which is absolutely booming. If you’re yet to brush up on your mobile web development skills, now is a really great time to jump on board before you miss out on some amazing opportunities. Of course, Mobile Safari garners a great deal of coverage in blogs and the press, but if that’s all you’re concentrating on, you might want to broaden your horizons a little — there’s a lot to love in the latest beta of Opera Mobile version 10.

What’s interesting about Opera Mobile 10 is that it’s the first browser with the latest version of Presto 2.4. There’s a nice introduction to what’s inside Opera Mobile 10 on Dev.Opera, and it reveals that we can look forward to some slick new CSS3 treatments, remote debugging with Opera’s Dragonfly tools, and good use of @media rules for mobile-specific development.

Opera comprises over 40 million mobile web users, which is a huge slice of the market. It’s well worth looking into it now.

Social Media Will Rule the World

Okay, that heading might be a little bit of hyperbole. But if you’re out there in the market, you’d better have a good understanding of how you can best use social media and integrate that into your projects — because social media is a must-have element for anyone doing business online.

The good news is that major social networks make it stupendously easy to interact with their members, pull out tasty data, and create sweet widgets. Here’s a selection of interesting places to start:

Anything Else?

So these are three of my must-watch topics in 2010. What’s exciting to you in the coming year? What are some of the trends and issues that developers absolutely must get to know now?

Picture: freschje

  • madr

    So when will Sitepoint write a book about Mobile web development? “Build your first mobile site using HTML and CSS”? :)

  • Karen Tenterfield

    You can join 2 of those watch topics together to see Microsoft’s failed strategy.

    On the Internet Explorer 9 news, you’ll see that Microsoft is not going to support the worldwide web standard HTML 5, which Firefox and Safari will support. Instead, Microsoft will put proprietary technologies in Internet Explorer, making it somewhat incompatible with other browsers. Microsoft is playing hardball, trying to control the formats that underpin the web.

    The other news in Raena’s post is the release of Google’s phone, and the delay to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile phone platform.

    Google is doing well in the phone space with its Android operating system, as is Apple with its iPhone. Microsoft is failing with Windows Mobile which nobody buys.

    So we put 2 and 2 together. The market will soon be full of Apple iPhones and Google Android phones. The telephone handset will be the most popular method of accessing the internet (more popular than desktop and laptop computers). Most of the mobile web browsers are based on Webkit, such as Safari, Chrome and others. Therefore, Webkit will soon become the dominant browser, swamping Microsoft’s non-standards-compliant Internet Explorer.

    A lot of Microsoft’s online services, such as Bing Maps, are built around those same proprietary Microsoft technologies, such as Silverlight. When the world ditches Internet Explorer, and goes with the open-source Webkit, Microsoft’s other services will be in trouble, as they don’t work well, or not at all, in other browsers. Microsoft should have embraced worldwide standards in the first place!

  • Font embedding is only just starting to take off; I reckon it’s going to be even bigger next year.

  • Jasconius

    Social media, the SEO of the 2010’s. snake oil for the journeymen of the web.

  • davo0105

    Certainly lots to consider. I am finally in the web development profession, and despite me being quite involved and up-to-date with the latest technology I certainly have more interest now.

    I am fairly loyal to Firefox myself, however I am not against any other browser and obviously I have IE, Chrome, Opera and Safari all installed on my PC for testing purposes and I’d probably use any of those for personal browsing (except IE!).

  • arts-multimedia

    As mobiles progress, I do not think there is a need for web developers to give special attention to them. In most parts of the world, surfing on mobiles is incredibly expensive at this time of writing and it doesn’t like like it is going to change soon. Apart from that, I’ve tested loads of sites on 3G mobiles and generally, they look ok as long as they are semantically constructed, as a good site should. When you make a website accessible for the disabled, it looks wonderful on mobiles too. I agree, Flash often doesn’t work, but mobile makers should address that issue because Flash is there to stay. Javascript is still problematic but that can be addressed too.

    And to be honest, most clients are not prepared to pay a huge amount of money to have a separate mobile site because mobile users will be capable to surf comfortably when the bandwidth grows and the pricing goes down. It’s just a matter of time.

    Sometimes, you do more by doing less :-)

  • arts-multimedia

    I agree with Karen Tenterfield that Microsoft is losing it, but I shudder at the thought that mobiles would replace surfing on the net with laptops and computers. After all, watching a movie on a tiny screen is quite sad compared with a 24″, isn’t it? I realy don’t get it that people seriously want to view a video like a small thumbnail. It is also disrespectful towards the authors who take care of detail and sound and that includes gaming too. Why do we suddenly want to minimize everything?

  • Stevie D

    As mobiles progress, I do not think there is a need for web developers to give special attention to them.

    The special attention you need to give to mobiles is not so much about the construction of the HTML (as you say, a well constructed site will work well on a modern phone without any additional work), but about the purpose and interaction.

    You should bear in mind the limited ways that people can interact with the site when they don’t have a mouse or full keyboard – a site that requires lengthy typing or accurate “clicking” is going to be difficult to use even on a high-end mobile. Think about the limited amount of information people will have on the screen at any one time, and the fact that people will often not be using it in the sort of environment where they will be able to concentrate intensively for long periods of time as you can at a PC.

    Think about whether people accessing your site on a mobile are likely to have different aims or priorities to those at a PC. Are there particular areas of the site that people are likely to want to visit, or tasks that they are likely to want to carry out, when using a mobile? Give these a higher profile on the home page for mobile users and quicker routes in – eg, a store finder and opening hours will probably be of more interest to mobile users than corporate strategy.

  • hallodom

    What about 3D on the web???

  • arts-multimedia

    Stevie D, I think you have a point there. Thank you for that insight.

  • I hate following trends. In fact there are so many of them. He’s got a trend, she’s got a trend, I’ve got trends of my own you know…

  • I was listening to a podcast the other day, and they were quoting some stats as to what O/S people are using when browsing the internet. (Yes O/S, not browser). Mobile phone users are like 1%, and while that percentage might get larger in 2010, I’m not sure we are going to see a substantial change in the percentage of websites that accommodate mobile phone users. I’ve thought about detecting mobiles and creating a special experience for them, but from my stats I’d just be wasting my time.

  • @stunkbad
    Don’t spoil a good story with the facts!

  • NetNerd85

    Social media, the SEO of the 2010’s. snake oil for the journeymen of the web.

    LMAO, you said it, but they already got to it in 2009 with Twitter. Just leave alone! *cries*

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