As a class, developers have had a fantastic year in 2010.
We’ve made headlines, grabbed the limelight, been vilified and glorified beyond all reason and gotten paid pretty nicely along the way. And the bubble of consumer web apps just continues to swell, so there are no signs (yet) that 2011 will bring anything short of grandeur for the web and mobile development communities.
Looking ahead to what the coming year might hold, there are a few sure bets and a few speculations we’d like to offer. Some are, as noted, almost certainly bound to come true. Others are more along the lines of hopes and prayers than hard-and-fast predictions we’d stake money on.
With that in mind, here are 10 things we think the world of hacking will hold in 2011.
1. There Will Be a Need to Understand and Optimize for All Form Factors
Even the most brainless of “social media gurus” could tell you this one. With the surging popularity and newfound accessibility and affordability of smartphones — thanks in large part to the growth of the Android platform — we’ve had to optimize for the mobile web and learn about mobile applications a lot in the past year in particular.
Now, as tablets begin to creep into the market, we’re having to craft new experiences for those, as well. We’re constantly forced to consider form factor when creating new sites and apps. Will it run Flash? What about screen resolution? Font size?
Almost every developer worth his or her salt will have to become increasingly adept at developing for the myriad form factors set to dominate the gadget market in 2011.
2. There Will Be Breakout, Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools
With all the mobile growth that’s been occurring, especially given the current state of the iOS/Android market shares, the time has never been riper for a great mobile framework, SDK or IDE to enter the arena.
Hopefully, sometime in 2011, we’ll see a new group of flexible and robust tools that can facilitate app development for any number of operating systems — including tablet-specific or forked OSes. We’re talking more than WYSIWYG, DIY app-builders and more than iPhone-to-Android porting tools; we want to see serious, mobile-centric power tools in 2011.
3. Investment in Cloud-Based, Collaborative Development Tools
We’ve seen some interesting starts in community-based, online coding. There are a few collaborative code editing apps, some of them with real-time capabilities.
We’re looking forward to seeing more and better apps for cloud-based, collaborative coding in 2011 — something like a better Wave, created specifically with hackers in mind. This will allow for better and faster work to be generated by an increasingly decentralized hacker community. It’ll also pave the way for improved on-the-job learning and open-source hacking.
4. WYSIWYG Tools Get Better and Grow
While WYSIWYG tools of the past — and, who are we kidding, the present — often lead to spaghetti code of the ugliest variety, we just keep seeing more and more of them.
We’re going out on a limb and predicting (or hoping) that WYSIWYG and split-screen (WYSIWYG and code) developer tools become more sophisticated. Whether they get better or not, they’re definitely going to continue to proliferate, especially for the novice coder and the DIY non-coder markets. Still, we’re being told the code on the other side of the GUIs is getting better all the time.
Who knows? 2011 could be the year WYSIWYGs stop sucking.
5. We’ll Keep Building “Touchable,” App-like UIs
All that stuff we said earlier about form factors kind of applies here, too, but in reverse. Your sites will have to look better on mobile devices and tablets, yes; but also, they’ll continue to natively look and feel more like mobile and tablet apps.
Some folks, a couple of Mashable staffers included, aren’t happy about the app-itization of the entire Internet Call us old-fashioned, but we like our websites to be websites and our mobile apps to be mobile apps.
The average consumer, however, seems to delight in the shiny, touchable, magazine-like interfaces taking over the iPad and similar devices. Expect to be asked to make more and more app-like sites in 2011.
6. There Will Be a Higher Standard for Web and Mobile Security
The past year has been a bit of a horror show when it comes to web security. There have been a handful of high-profile hacks that exposed user data to the world; there was also much confusion on the user’s side of the screen as to how security works on a personal level.
We predict — nay, we dream — that in 2011, developers of consumer-facing apps will be extra careful with things like data encryption, user privacy controls and other security issues.
7. Third-Party App Development Will Plateau
We predict that developing these kinds of apps will plateau and even taper off in 2011. The web is glutted with third-party social media tools; many devs are beginning to realize there’s more money and more interesting challenges elsewhere. In the end, social networks will be more interesting to advertisers large and small than to independent and third-party developers.
8. Ruby Will Get Some Cool Optimizations and Tools
We’ve seen lots of cool tricks and optimization tweaks around Python and PHP ; 2011, however, will be the year for better Ruby tools.
The Ruby language is becoming extremely popular in developing consumer-facing web apps, and we’re sure to see some big-name companies release open-source tools and even improvements to the Ruby core — think along the lines of what Facebook did last year with HipHop or Google’s Unladen Swallow project.
9. NoSQL Technologies Will Stake Their Ground
We’ve seen and heard interesting things from the NoSQL corners of the web this year… and by “interesting,” we don’t necessarily mean “good.”
NoSQL technologies have had some high-profile hiccups this year (remember that MongoDB/Foursquare disaster?), but we’ve been assured that what doesn’t kill NoSQL only makes it stronger and more stable.
That being said, we’re not predicting the demise of MySQL any time soon. As one astute Twitter friend wrote, “Relational databases have their place, as do NoSQL solutions. To blindly choose one over the other is shortsighted.”
10. Open-Source Software Will See Unprecedented Growth
Open-sourcing interesting or unused tech is a trend we like to see from companies like Google and Facebook. In fact, we hope to see even more open-source contributions from proprietary software giants in 2011.
It’s not just the big players who are writing great open-source code. We know a lot of web startups are working on internal tools that’ll also be open-sourced in 2011. There are more youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) joining the ranks of hackers every year; many of them are being encouraged by sites like this one to make valuable contributions to the open-source community.
We predict more awesome open-source software than ever in 2011. Will it be a victory by Stallman‘s standards? Probably not, as it won’t be exclusive of proprietary software creation, sale and licensing. But the trend toward more FOSS is a good one, and one that we’ll continue to report on in the year to come.