Tony Patton offers a look back at Web development software updates and new products in 2008, with an eye toward 2009. He discusses SOA, mobile development, Silverlight, Visual Studio 2008, Python, and more.
It's hard to believe that another year has come to an end. It was a year filled with plenty of software updates and brand new products. Web developers continue to embrace standards with plenty of tools available to provide a boost. Here's my look back at 2008, with an eye toward 2009.
The service-oriented architecture (SOA) concept continued to flourish in 2008. While many developers built such services within their organizations, more public companies opened up their services for use.
Industry giants Google and Amazon continue to make certain features of their architecture available for outside use, which includes Google Code and Amazon Services. This allows developers to utilize existing features, such as a Google search or the Amazon book catalog, as opposed to building it. In addition, ChannelAdvisor and UPS are offering portions of their systems via Web services.
Social media sites continued to gain popularity. Basically, these sites promote information sharing and discussion via the Web. A key aspect of social media is that the content is created by actual users rather than a business.
Some of the more popular social media sites include MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I must admit that I did not foresee the rise in popularity of these types of sites, and the business integration was surprising as well. Companies take advantage of tools like Twitter to stay in touch with consumers, while MySpace and Facebook are used for product promotion. It will be interesting to see the evolution of social media through 2009.
The browser war has cooled down a bit since the early days of Web development, but updates and the struggle for consistency continues. The announcement that the yet-to-be-released Internet Explorer 8 passed the Acid2 test excited many developers; however, it remains to be seen if the final release of the browser truly embraces standards.
On the flip side, the much anticipated Firefox 3 was finally released providing faster page rendering as well as other improvements. Google entered the fray with its Chrome browser. Other developments included the Opera browser dropping licensing fees, thus making it freely available, and the Safari browser becoming available for the Windows platform.
Development platforms and tools
As usual, Microsoft introduced a variety of new products and version upgrades; this includes Visual Studio 2008, along with version 3.5 of the .NET Framework. The size of the Framework has grown to the point where it is beyond the capabilities of one person to know it all. On the backend, SQL Server 2008 is now available, and the SharePoint platform has been one of Microsoft's biggest money makers.
For Web developers, Microsoft is working hard on its Flash killer called Silverlight with version 3 coming this year. Also, the Expression line of developer tools allows you to work on every aspect of a Web project. The rise in popularity of the .NET platform has been surprising considering the level of frustration with Microsoft over the years within the IT community.
For those averse to Microsoft technologies, Java's evolution continued with the release of Java EE 6. Other ancillary languages like JRuby and Jython experienced rapid growth.
For me, one of the more surprising developments of 2008 was the rise of the Python language. This rise was greatly aided by Google and the shift of its focus from Java to Python. Google's infrastructure relies heavily on Python. To drive home the point, the Google App Engine includes a development environment that does not include Java. With the backing of an industry giant, it makes me wonder how far Python will go in 2009.
On the go
Cell phones have evolved from phones to handheld application platforms that support everything from playing music to browsing the Web. With that said, most Web applications are now available via mobile devices.
A couple of good examples include Twitter for communications and Google Maps for getting directions as you need them. Now, developing applications for these small devices still poses many challenges, but the market for mobile development tools continues to grow with platforms such as J2ME and Windows Mobile still having large shares.
Google takes over the world
Google has exploded from the de facto search site for the Web to a global company that continues to introduce products that we didn't know we needed but now have to use. Google Maps is a great example; it is hands down the best site for direction or location information.
In addition, Google now offers its own mail client, RSS reader, and an array of applications that rival Microsoft Office in terms of functionality. The Google Analytics and Trends applications provide sites with excellent tools for working with site statistics. The product list is much too long to include, and it continues to grow. It makes me wonder what Google Labs is working on now.
What does the future hold?
When it comes to the Web, I have never been very good at predicting the future. I often spend too much time working closely with Web applications, so I lose sight of the bigger picture. However, I do envision the growth of social media sites to continue, and SOA is here to stay. Also, the market for mobile applications and tools is huge, as usage continues to rise. I still wonder if the death of the landline will be realized within my lifetime.
What are your highlights from 2008? What trends do you see for 2009? Share your thoughts with the Web developer community.Get weekly development tips in your inbox Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic's free Web Developer newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically subscribe today!