HTML5: 10 Provocative Predictions For The Future

Guest author Todd Anglin is EVP Cross Platform Tools & Services at Telerik.

For HTML5 developers and decision makers, the most important technologies right now are HTML, JavaScript, CSS, mobile platforms and devices and evolving HTML platforms (browsers and operating systems). But what does that mean in the real world? It means these 10 things in 2013:  

1. Rise Of HTML5 Mobile Platforms

HTML5 has played an increasingly important role building cross-platform apps for mobile devices. So far that has primarily been done using native “wrappers,” such as Cordova, which allow HTML and JavaScript to power apps on other native platforms (such as iOS and Android). This technique is called “hybrid” app development.

This year, though, a wave of emerging platforms will support HTML5 apps as a first-class citizen - no wrapper required! The biggest players will be Chrome OS, which is about to get much more attention from Google; Firefox OS, already scheduled to start shipping on low-end ZTE and TCL devices in Europe; Tizen, a new HTML-focused platform backed by many industry heavyweights, including Intel and Samsung; Ubuntu Phone, which brings the most popular flavor of Linux to phones, again with a HTML-centered ap strategy; BlackBerry 10, which puts HTML and JavaScript at the center of its next-gen app strategy; and Windows 8, which introduced a new HTML and JavaScript development model for it’s “Windows 8 style” apps.   One (or more) of these platforms is bound to succeed in 2013. My money is on Chrome OS and Tizen. With the backing of Google, a revamped developer and consumer push, and the broadest platform strategy (spans mobile and desktop), Chrome OS is very well positioned.

Tizen, meanwhile, enjoys broad industry backing from Intel, Samsung, NEC, Panasonic, Sprint, Huawei and Vodafone (among many others), and engineering stewardship in The Linux Foundation. It shows the most potential to challenge Android as the “more open” (read: more customizable) open source device platform, which should appeal to device makers.  

2. Made For Chrome(kit)

A growing number of sites are once again buildiing Web apps tested to work in only one browser. Like the “Made for Internet Explorer” badges of the 1990s, developers are now proudly advertising “Made for Chrome” in their apps. Not using Chrome? No guarantees.   This trend is likely to accelerate in 2013.   With a rapidly evolving, highlycapable browser platform that is available on virtually every major operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and kinda iOS), and a Webkit foundation that helps deliver a little extra compatibility with other non-Chrome browsers (like Safari and BlackBerry browser), developers are likely to conclude that the “good outweighs the bad” when it comes to building exclusively for Chrome.   In exchange for potentially alienating some users, developers building for Chrome can more aggressively leverage HTML5 APIs and save valuable development and testing time.  

3. IE10 Euphoria - And Pain

Internet Explorer 10 is widely regarded as a huge step forward for the venerable Microsoft browser. With more support than ever for Web standards, IE10 goes a long way to put Microsoft’s browser in the modern HTML5 conversation.   But as fast-updating browsers like Chrome and Firefox race forward through 2013, IE will once again be left looking old and slow. There is a glimmer of hope that Microsoft will evolve IE more quickly: The Microsoft-owned HTML5 Labs, launched originally in the IE9 days, is continuing to publish new “experimental” improvements for IE10 that make it an even more capable HTML5 browser. Baby steps, but still a good sign.  

4. The Death Of IE6, IE7 & IE8

While IE10 will be in the spotlight, the long death march for Microsoft’s older IE versions will continue. Only the most stubborn corporate environments (and China) still require IE6 support, and much of the world skipped IE7 anyway. If you haven't already stopped supporting IE6 and IE7, 2013 is definitely your year.   Dropping IE8 is a bit more of a stretch, but the pressure is on. Not only does IE10’s release make IE8 two versions old (often used as a “clean” support cut-off justification), but jQuery 2.0 will join Google Apps in cutting-off IE8 in 2013. By the end of the year, most developers will conclude IE8 is not worth their time.  

5. The Death Of Android 2.x

Until recently, it looked like we had another IE6 on our hands with Android 2.x (Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread). According to Google’s own stats, as recently as mid-2012, these versions of Android (mostly 2.3.x) represented more than 90% of all Android devices in use, despite the fact that Google was already shipping Android 4+! Google was failing to keep its Android user base (and ecosystem) upgrading.   Fortunately, the 2012 holiday season seems to have broken the logjam. Usage of Android 4+ (Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean) surged to nearly 40% at the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, Android 2.x will likely account for less than 15% of the market, and Android developers will be able to shift focus to versions 4+.  

6. Responsive Design Goes Mainstream

So far, responsive design has remained on the fringes of Web development - something nice to do “if you have time."   That's about to change. With the lines between PCs and mobile devices increasingly blurred, developers will have no choice but to develop websites and apps that can dynamically adapt to an unpredictable array of screen sizes and resolutions.

(See also The New ReadWrite: Looking Good On Every Screen [Video].)

To ease the way, look for new techniques and defacto standards to also emerge, offering guidance for properly dealing with different device capabilities and form factors.  

7. Mobile Development Overtakes Desktop

It doesn’t take an expensive analyst to see the growth in phones and tablets while traditional PCs fade. Right now is the moment when developers will begin spending more time developing software for mobile devices than for traditional desktop PCs, extending from the consumer market to businesses of all sizes, for both internal and external audiences. If you’re not developing for devices in 2013, you’re either A) maintaining legacy software, or B) missing the boat.  

8. HTML On The Desktop

Just because mobile is on the rise, don’t start writing an obituary for desktop development. The traditional desktop form factor will remain critical for many information workers. But as the PC becomes one among many screens, developers will look for ways to write code that can be shared across the PC and mobile devices.   HTML and JavaScript are perfectly positioned to offer this capability, and platforms like Chrome Packaged Apps and Windows Store Style (WinJS) apps will make this possible. With both Microsoft and Google pushing HTML for desktop app development, developers will take notice and start embracing cross-platform desktop development with HTML and JavaScript.  

9. SPA Time

With the shift of desktop development and increasingly complex mobile apps to HTML and JavaScript, developers will recognize the need for new techniques to build maintainable cross-platform apps. The “Single Page Application” (or SPA) has been on the rise thanks to powerful frameworks like Backbone, Knockout and even Kendo UI. If “RIA” (Rich Internet Applications) was the buzzword in 2010, “SPA” will be the buzzword in 2013.   If you’re looking for the one new technology or concept to learn as an HTML and JavaScript developer in 2013, it's SPA architecture.  

10. HTML Gets Naked (Again)

Now that the W3C has “finalized” HTML5, public conversation and media coverage is going focus on what’s next for the Web standards platform. The W3C is already working on HTML 5.1, the next “snapshot” of the “living standards” work done within WHATWG, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group. But as we move past the “HTML5” bubble, we’ll once again settle-in to talking about HTML, sans version numbers. After all, who wants to talk or write about “HTML5.1” or “HTML5.3”?   Whatever it’s called, the next wave of HTML platform improvements will shift focus beyond the lower-level core at the center of HTML5 (DOM elements, CSS styles, Simple JavaScript APIs like Geolocation) and instead characterize improvements that are important to more robust application development (like ShadowDOM, Web Components, CSS layouts, speech recognition and more).

The HTML conversation (and technology) will continue to evolve, even if the version numbers don’t come along for the ride.

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.