By Craig Buckler

The Top Five Web Trends and Technologies of 2010

By Craig Buckler

Now that we’re at the end of 2010, it’s a good opportunity to look back at the interesting developments of the past year. Here are my top five web trends and technologies which changed the way we develop sites and applications in 2010. It’s my own opinion, but feel free to butt in with your own ideas and comments!

1. HTML5

Although HTML5 has been around a while, 2010 was the year which saw a rapid increase in adoption rates and an avalanche of media hype. There are a number of reasons why HTML5 became one of the most important web technologies:

  • The specifications are reaching maturity. They’re still draft, but all the browser vendors are backing HTML5 and you can use it today.
  • Microsoft announced HTML5 support in IE9 (and mistakenly gave the impression it was killing Silverlight). Whatever your opinion of Microsoft or their browsers, HTML5 would have been a non-starter had the majority of web users been unable to use the technology.
  • The development of JavaScript shims allowed developers to use HTML5 and retain support for IE6, 7 and 8.
  • “HTML5” has become a technology buzzword in the mainstream press. It doesn’t matter what technology you’re actually using — call it HTML5 and you’ll receive far more media attention.

HTML5 has a bright future.

2. Web Fonts

Font-embedding technology has been around for over a decade but was held back by copyright issues and browser compatibility. A year ago, you would have had a tough time finding a site which used a primary font other than Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Times New Roman or Georgia.

The situation improved in 2010 with the introduction of font foundries such as Google’s Font Directory and the W3C-backed Web Open Font Format (WOFF). Pick a few random sites today and you’ll see web fonts in action.

3. REST and RESTful APIs

The notion of Representational State Transfer was defined in 2000 by Roy Fielding. This year, REST become one of the most popular methods for sharing data between distributed applications.

In a nutshell, REST is used to implement a web service. A client sends an HTTP request using either a POST (create), GET (read), PUT (update), or DELETE (delete) method. The server analyzes the data, performs the appropriate action, and returns a message — typically in HTML, XML, JSON, or a graphic format.

Although there is no official standard, REST’s simplicity is its biggest strength. Unlike SOAP-based web services, there’s no need for complex libraries or XML translation. It’s ideal for web application APIs and companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Yahoo and Flickr have jumped on the REST bandwagon.

Perhaps it’s time you considered a REST API for your application?

4. Mobile Apps

Mobile apps were the success story of 2010. Smartphones have become a viable computing alternative to the PC, and many are predicting they will become the predominant web access device within a few years.

Apple’s iPhone and the App Store raised the profile of mobile applications. iOS apps written in Objective-C remain popular, but many companies are switching to web-based mobile applications. These often implement an iPhone-like interface using a library such as jQTouch.

In addition, tablet PCs are already beginning to influence the way web sites are designed. 2011 could be a big year for tablet-optimized web applications.

5. A Level Browser Playing Field

There were two major highlights this year — IE’s market share dropped below 50% and Chrome’s hit double-figures. But this is what’s really important: it doesn’t matter.

It may have taken 20 years but, in 2010, I finally believe we can stop worrying about which browsers our visitors are using. The web was always supposed to be device-agnostic, but that dream never materialized while browser vendors were actively competing to control the Internet.

Today, any of the main browsers is good enough to handle the features we throw at them. Sure there are differences and quirks, but most are minor or only affect newer cutting-edge technologies. It’s rare you’ll encounter an insurmountable problem.

As we start the next decade, let’s create sites and applications for the web — not browsers.

I wish you a happy 2011!

  • KeplerS

    Most definitely….mobile apps. Such an explosion!

  • The problem with a lot of these technologies is they don’t do anything we can’t do now — sure they make the developers life a bit easier when/if we SOMEDAY MIGHT be able to deploy them on production sites (and shame on those of you jumping the gun and doing so) — but for the end user there isn’t a whole lot that’s ‘revolutionary’ or even ‘evolutionary’… and much of it is just going to make things WORSE.

    Like the convoluted train wreck known as HTML5, which seems bound and determined to undo all the progress in coding of the past decade. I’m calling it “the new HTML 3.2” for a reason, and no that’s not a compliment. On top of the ‘new’ tags that are redundant to existing ones like audio and video (the type of thing that was taken OUT of 3.2 for 4 STRICT) we have dozens of new tags that are just there for the sake of having them, and 99.99% of end users will never see a difference.

    Web fonts just beg to dump a huge load on dozens of websites flushing the whole web with it… Not bad enough people bloat out pages for NOTHING with hundreds of K of javascripted garbage libraries, now we’ll have fonts (naturally in multiple formats) polluting the data stream at 30-50k a pop… all to make sure websites are even MORE illegible than the 12px and smaller garbage people use now. Sure it might be cute for headings and the like, but just because a font is ‘pretty’ doesn’t make it USEFUL for conveying TEXT. People kvetch about Arial but hey, at least I can smegging READ IT! (but to put that in perspective I have difficulty reading Tahoma and Verdana at anything less than 16px)

    Though at least CSS3 has some semi-useful stuff like border-image to make up for the absolute train wreck the various layout systems that are sitting there still in pre-draft ‘proposal’… which are sitting there not even hitting draft status because they are needlessly complex and in many cases WORSE than what we already have.

    Of course much of it is just marketspeak buzzwords like “REST”… which is so vague and ill defined it makes Web 2.0 sound legitimate.

    “Mobile apps” – Applications… on computers… who’d have thunk it! You make them small enough to fit in your hand, and people use programs on them. I’m shocked.

    Finally we have the browser share lie. Because of course 50% of 2.2 billion is less than 92% of 1 billion… Oh wait, NO IT ISN’T. To say there’s a level playing field isn’t exactly true when pretty much the same people who were using IE continue to do so. Other browsers have simply made inroads into markets the conventional desktop browsers has not.

    What, do you really think that over the top Firefox use in China is from people actually downloading the browser, or could it be all the illegal installs of “Tomato XP” that ripped out IE and put firefox in there? Smartphone market is taking off, so webkits numbers are climbing, but does that mean IE is less relevant on the desktop and less people are using it?

    That “less than 50%” number just pisses me off when you don’t include “percentage of what” and use it to propagate a lie — lies like “it doesn’t matter what browser the user is using”.

  • kaf

    The biggest thing for me was CSS3. For the first time I have started putting curved corners and other cool stuff in my templates without images. And it fails gracefully for anyone using a crappy browser.

    I think next year it will be html5. I am already getting contracts to do work with canvas, and I’ve started integrating into sites with a flash fail over.

    REST seems cool, haven’t tried it yet.

    Mobile apps have been around forever. The only difference has been stupid over the top marketing which (among other things) has resulted in apps that just display a single web page. WTF?! why would I want a separate app that just does what a browsers does but only for one site?! Stupid!

  • lojack

    @deathshadow60 Just to let you know in 2010 I deployed multiple corporate websites that utilize html5, web fonts, REST api’s, mobile apps, and no longer support IE6. This is actually the first year where any of this is true (sans mobile apps). End users might not care about these technologies, but the companies paying care about improved user experiences and reduced costs of development. If you have a problem with new technologies then you’ll soon find that your labor is obsolete and you’ve missed the bandwagon. Good luck.

    • @lojack – So in other words you completely missed the meaning of DRAFT?

      Do you have an ‘example’ of said work? It’s been my experience that websites built using HTML5 in it’s current “Work in progress NOT for use on production websites, for testing only” DRAFT STATUS are generally bloated garbage more akin to HTML 3.2 than HTML 4 STRICT — I know very few people who embraced separation of presentation from content, accessibility guidelines like the WCAG, or the use of STRICT that are the least bit interested in the bloated pointless/useless disaster that is the core markup part of HTML 5.

      Sure SOME of the associated technologies that have been thrown under the umbrella of HTML5, of which have NOTHING to do with actually marking up content (CANVAS, websockets, etc) will be nice the decade or so from now when they are real world deployable — but of the new tags and attributes only two or three do anything useful — the rest seems to be to placate the people who never got the point of HTML4 STRICT and/or XHTML 1.0 STRICT in the first place.

      As evident by the absurdly loose structural rules that make the entire specification nothing more than a over-glorified transitional – sending markup practices BACK a decade.

      I’d be shocked to see someone using HTML5 that isn’t a convoluted train wreck of OUTDATED coding techniques. The actual markup additions to it are pointless bloat undoing what HTML 4 was trying to accomplish! Things STRICT was doing like getting rid of redundant tags – APPLET, IFRAME and the proprietary EMBED and BGSOUND being redundant to OBJECT for example — and even IMG was supposed to be on the chopping block for the next version for the same reason… now EMBED is officially added and they bloat out the specification with the completely unneccessary AUDIO and VIDEO tags?!? MENU and DIR being deprecated in favor of UL, now MENU is back?

      When the future is the past, I’ll stay where we are… Just because something is newer doesn’t make it better (see XHTML 1.1) Especially when I’m willing to bet any sites built with that list of technologies you rattled off end up with CtC ratios in excess of 4:1 and PtC ratios in excess of 10:1. That’s Code to Content and Page to Content respectively — see the total disasters of half a megabyte pages broken into hundreds of separate files delivering single digit K of content! HELLO bounce rate AND absurd hosting costs per visitor… because of course four to eight times the code necessary to do the job is SO much easier to maintain. (as I’ve always said, the less code you use the less there is to BREAK)

      Give us a link to an example, prove me wrong!

  • Someone

    HTML5 = bunch of crappy new tags, lots of confusion, video tag, audio tag, licensing problems, lack of support. Really, I don’t see the point repeating yourself and always having to fallback to something like flash. Don’t tell me about boilerplate or other html5 tools. However, it’s OK only if you develop for iPhone only or for Android only or for Chrome only. It’s pointless for a normal web site

    CSS3&Webfonts = the best thing. Finally we can use fonts other than the standard ones. CSS3 is not really supported by all browsers, but at least there are some alternatives and hacks for IE (see pie). However, the biggets handicap for ie is the selectors

    REST API = ok, clean, nice concept. I’ve been doing this since 2000. Calling a URL with POST method, a parameter called action (which was read, add, edit, remove) and the data. I don’t really see the reason to be called a 2010 techonolgy. It’s just made this way as a response to the ever frustrating bloatware rpcs (soap)

    Mobile apps = this is the next bubble, it’s to overrated, and it will be seen, because they are only used by people who are bored to death and don’t have a job or anything to do. People already hate Android developement, iPhone developement and will ultimately rely on HTML5 and CSS3. Mobile apps are what was Macromedia Flash used for 10 years ago to build entierly-flash based, crappy and slow sites.

    • goldfidget

      I pretty much agree with all of this.

      * HTML5: cool, but can’t use it yet.
      * Web fonts: Work really well, ready for primetime.
      * CSS3, OK, but can’t use it properly yet.
      * REST, great, but not new.
      * Mobile apps: hmmm?

  • Mobile apps is what I feel as they have increased to next level, with really good features.

  • Egyptechno

    Great post, alot of valuable reviews !!
    and I agree CSS3 should have been added to the LIST !
    @badfellas, not good but effective
    Thanks for sharing

    • I considered CSS3 but felt that many of the more useful properties (rounded corners, shadows, etc.) had been in regular use before 2010. We have seen some newer developments — such as animations — but they’re certainly not viable cross-browser technologies yet. Perhaps they will be in 2011.

  • Great post. I see major traction in all 5 of these areas this year. I’ve been doing REST for a few years now – love it. CSS3 and Mobile apps suffer from the same problem – deep adoption depends on browser support. HTML5 is the least ready for prime time.

    2011 is going to be awesome.

  • ahallicks

    I personally love CSS3 and all it has to offer. But I think HTML5, and specifically canvas (merged with some awesome new javascript such as Web Sockets) will eventually have the biggest impact on the web because it could potentially do just about anything you want within the scope of the spec, which is pretty impressive.

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