Five Technologies That Will Keep Shaping the Web in 2010

As we’re coming to the end of this year, everyone starts to look towards the next one and there will no doubt be an upsurge of articles predicting the web trends of 2010 in the next days to come. However, in this article, we’ll be talking about what’s actuallydriving these trends now, and what they mean for the future of the internet.

Five Technologies That Will Keep Shaping the Web in 2010

1. CSS3, HTML5 and Fonts as a Service

CSS3, HTML5 and Fonts as a Service

CSS3, HTML5, and Fonts as a Service such as Typekit that cater to web browsers that already support the @font-face rule, are giving web designers the creative freedom that they have been coveting for a long time.

CSS3 is opening up various new options for styling content on the web, from multiple backgrounds on page elements, better ability to select and style elements with greater specificity, and color gradients without reliance on static graphics, to simpler aesthetical improvements such as support for rounded corners without the need for complicated sliding doors techniques or JavaScript.

HTML5 is slowly but surely changing the way we mark up our pages, bringing us closer to the holy grail of the semantic web, opening up native support for open format multimedia such as video and audio, and bringing us better ways to interoperate with the content of a website.

Another change that web designers have been wishing for is being able to use any font on a web page, without using static CSS background image replacement or relying on JavaScript and Flash. The development of tools like Typekit and greater support for the @font-face rule are enabling site builders to use a much wider range of fonts in their design.

So what will change?

These are all web technologies that are guaranteed to make the web a more aesthetically pleasing place. Of course, expect these new things to be misused by Sunday driver designers; there will be some horrible font choices and misemployed color gradients that will produce unreadable and tacky page designs, but it’s the opportunities that they open up for capable and creative designers that will be most interesting.

Some reading for you:

2. Ways we browse the web

Ways we browse the web

The browser landscape is alive and well, with better and faster web browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Web users today are provided with many choices that will surely drive competition and one-upping from these companies – stressful for their developers, but great for consumers.

The browser wars is in full force, and unlike the preceding browser wars where Internet Explorer dethroned other browsers to take hold of a majority browser share, IE is shaping up to being the “dethronee” this time around.

And changes in browsing the web aren’t just limited to the web browser competition, the way we digest content from the web is increasingly becoming removed from the traditional “sit in front of your desktop” way. Smart phones are becoming more common, TV’s are becoming web-enabled–and as are gaming consoles such as the PS3 and Netbooks and mobile devices such as the iPhone and the Droid are giving users an experience on a smaller screen than a traditional laptop.

Moreover, browsers themselves are changing. The launch of Google Chrome brought the WebKit engine, a layout engine that has a big portion of CSS3 and HTML5 specifications already implemented, to Windows-based computers better than Apple’s Safari port to Windows, and it may yet be a bigger milestone than many first thought. With Google aiming for a 10% share of the market over the next couple of years, a big push for users may well be coming. A large shift from the dominant web browser, Internet Explorer, is underway and may be successful next year. In Germany, Mozilla Firefox is close to overtaking IE’s market share as we speak.

These factors are revising the way we think about web design and accessibility. Do you have a mobile version of your site? What does it look like on a small screen? What does it look like on a large screen? What does it look like in a WebKit versus Gecko versus Trident browser layout rendering engine?

Attitudes towards viewing of websites across different media is changing as well, designers are increasingly becoming of the opinion that designs do not need to render the same everywhere, nor do they need to give the same user experience across all web browsers.

So what will it change?

There’s a good chance that you’ll start to see websites that don’t look the same in every browser. Techniques for progressive enhancement are more commonplace than before, giving users of modern web browsers a better web experience than those who will not or cannot use them. Furthermore, there’s already widespread acceptance towards foregoing support for antiquated browsers, putting the burden of getting users upgraded on the browser makers, and not the designers. This type of forward thinking will only grow in the upcoming year. What’s more, the changes in the way we view the web will shift focus to content, functionality and accessibility, but by no means at the expense of good, interesting and inspiring design.

3. Social media

Social media

No one can deny that 2009 has been a big year for social media: Twitter, for example, has become the buzzword in many a boardroom and office. It’s obvious that it will continue to a big part of the web in the future.

In many ways, the growth of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has led the web to be much more community-oriented. Big changes could happen within social media and, no doubt, will be led by monetization of the media.

One of the big questions revolves around how you measure the impact and value of social media and how to get that value back. How valuable are 1,000 twitter followers? Do you start charging for the service? Answering all these questions will lead to significant changes over the next year in the social media arena.

Along with these changes will come increased focus in getting information in real-time. Google is already discussing real-time search to leverage the immediate and breaking information that can be found on sites like Twitter. How these changes are integrated into the current web system, especially in terms of search engine technology, could precipitate into some interesting developments and innovation in the way we seek information online.

So what will it change?

With more people participating in the creation of information on the web, the way in which we obtain information will shift from being from a singular source, into a more community-created source. Looking for information about, say, a car repair shop will show you recent tweets and Facebook updates about that company instead of outdated and static information.

4. JavaScript

JavaScript

Whilst CSS3/HTML5 has started to step on the toes of JavaScript, JavaScript itself has started to inch into the territory of Flash. The growth of frameworks such as jQuery and has made rich client-side interaction and asynchronous/seamless user experiences a reality. This leads to easier deployments of web applications, which in turn, increases competition, which in turn, leads to innovation.

JavaScript is already stepping into what, in the past, we would associate as being Flash’s territory, such as interactive games (which can be used for training and distance-learning applications) and complex and interactive data visualization. It should also enable us to replicate rich interfaces and flash type experiences in a much more accessible way.

And very recently, 10 years after the last major revision, JavaScript (known as ECMAscript in web standards organizations) has just finished a major revision of its specifications for the language. Once browser companies adopt these standards, web developers will be provided with more tools to improve their capabilities in creating web applications.

So what will it change?

Because CSS3 and HTML5 will replace a lot of what JavaScript is doing now (i.e. complex element selections, dynamic rounded corners, handling real-time editable web pages), we will see a surge in JavaScript developing into being focused solely on handling programming logic of webapps on the client-side. With the news of the major revision on JS specifications, we will see a progression towards better web applications that can interoperate much better with other web apps (for example, a major goal for the new set of specs is the security of JSON objects).

5. Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service business models have been knocking around for years. Top-notch SaaS such as 37 Signals products and Google Enterprise are more commonplace now than ever before.

The competition is fierce; the technologies are becoming affordable and requiring little upfront costs, which gives the little guys a chance to compete with the bigger guys. In the next year, we’ll see this competition increase, and hopefully, the outcome is innovation in web apps.

So what will it change?

SaaS’s as a business model will continue to replace more traditional software that require you to install and run them on your desktop. With so much more people connected to the internet, the demand is on internet-enabled, interoperable applications. In 2010, we are in for some surprise improvements driven by a need to stand out from the crowd.

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