The Top Five Web Trends and Technologies of 2010

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!

CSS Master, 3rd Edition