For an industry that hasn't yet seen its twentieth birthday, every year brings new changes to the web. And at the beginning of every year, people try to predict them. 2010 will surely bring significant new developments to the web, and here are my predictions for a few of them.
"Web 2.0" will be synthesized with traditional sites
The big buzzword a few years back was "Web 2.0", a new set of technologies that enabled users to interact with servers and each other through dynamic, real-time media. Embedded video, social networking sites and AJAX all helped to transform the web from a library of text and images that users passively viewed, to a collaborative sharing of information. However, for the most part these groundbreaking new technologies have been kept distinct from traditional methods, resulting in a partition between "Web 2.0 sites" and ordinary websites. However, the novelty of Web 2.0 is wearing off, and we are starting to get a handle on which of these new technologies will be useful and where. I predict that these trends will lead to a breakdown of these barriers as better tools, APIs and general understanding of the technologies allows more websites to provide Web 2.0 features, and existing Web 2.0 sites mature past the stage of using them as gimmicks to draw people in.
The mobile web will become commonplace
Fifteen years ago, cell phones were the toys of businessmen and the well-off.
Then, within just a few years, they became commonplace, to the point where a significant number of people don't even have land lines anymore. Today, a similar revolution is taking place in the move from cell phones to "smart" phones. As more people move toward phones that browse the web (and plans that support it), developing websites that work well on the limited hardware of mobile devices will become more important. Phone capabilities are echoing those of the personal computer in the 1990s, migrating from text and voice connectivity to full multimedia support.
Social sites like Twitter showed the viability of this model last year; this year I expect the mobile web to explode onto the eCommerce scene as people begin to make purchases with their phones. As usual, eCommerce websites will scramble to provide smooth, convenient purchase paths to take advantage of these "impulse buys".
Standardization will finally take a step forward
Developers have waited for years for the unfortunate legacy of early browsers to disappear. These old versions each displayed web pages according to their own interpretations, requiring the developer to write special code for each browser. Newer browsers are more standards compliant, all displaying web pages in the same standard manner. However, older browsers (especially Internet Explorer 6) have still contributed a significant percentage of visitors. Until now. A combination of the proliferation of browsers (especially the success of Firefox and Chrome), the favorable reception of Windows 7, and a concerted campaign to get rid of IE6 has cut its share of visitors in half last year, to a point where it is on the cusp of irrelevance. If that trend continues this year (and there's no reason to believe it won't), by next year we will see a web virtually without incompliant browsers, freeing developers to improve site performance and include standard features of the newer browsers.
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