What Will Web Development Look Like in 5 Years

Developing applications for the web has changed significantly over the last 5 years. Since 2005 the term AJAX has been coined, Ruby on Rails is now an open source web application framework, jQuery was created and has subsequently revolutionized JavaScript development, and now HTML5 is the top buzzword of the day. I believe the next 5 years will hold just as many improvements for web developers.

I foresee a new framework will be created to make developing fully interactive AJAX applications as easy as it is to write current MVC applications. Current frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Symfony provide everything you need to develop a modern application without having to build plumbing infrastructure; however, they do not provide nice components for interactive applications. In addition to a robust server core, this new framework will have a client side JavaScript component that simplifies the process of building interactive web 2.0 applications. Some critical components would be:

  • Form Validation. Libraries do exist to validate forms in JavaScript, but they don’t integrate with the server side form validation. In this new framework you won’t have to write form validation code twice.
  • Paginated Lists. Almost all web applications have at least one page where data needs to be searched and listed with pagination. We need to have this same functionality in JavaScript to skip a full page reload and provide local caching of the results.
  • Animation Library. While script.aculo.us and jQuery have made simple animations and visual effects much easier to do, I believe we can go even farther. Web applications also need to gain that fluidity and soft animations that desktop applications such as Exposé have had for a couple of years.

I also see huge resources being directed towards mobile development because ALL current generation smart phones are built for an incredible web browsing experience. As home users have switched from desktop computers to laptop computers in the last few years, people will slowly start switching to hand-held devices for their primary communication and Internet needs. Most likely this will have one primary effect: web frameworks will have a mobile optimized version of the site done automatically. Little to none developer intervention will be required as only resolution, text sizes, and layouts will be modified for the mobile version.

Lastly I see tools and libraries around 2D and 3D drawing elements. Most likely these libraries would be rendering to a Canvas or a WebGL element but something better could be created. Both of these are young standards right now that show a lot of promise on delivering the ability to draw pixels directly in a native HTML web page. While they will be used first in simple computer games, I am very interested to see what libraries are created to facilitate these elements being used appropriately inside next generation web applications.

What do you think the next 5 years will bring?

Bash Basics

Bash is a shell scripting language included on most Linux and Mac computers. It’s useful for writing small scripts that don’t require another software language to be installed and are immediately portable. Good places to use bash scripts are when you want to write a cronjob, backup some files, or run an update task. Here are the basics to get you started.

Start your script with She-Bang header:
#!/bin/bash

Variables are assigned by a key-value pairing:
FILENAME="~/docs/input"

You can print to the console by using echo:
echo $FILENAME

An IF statement:
if [ ! -s $FILENAME ] ; then
  touch $FILENAME
fi

The bang ! negates the result, and the -s parameter checks if a file exists.

Example of a function:
function getFile
{
  # function contents here
  # the hash symbol makes the rest of this line a comment
}

Call this function by using its name:
getFile

You can pass a variable to a function:
getFile "/home/user/docs/file.txt"

And use it within the function by reference to $1
function getFile
{
  echo $1
}

HTTP Header to Force Browser Download

A content disposition header can be used to tell web browsers to ask the user where they want to save the file (and download it) instead of actually opening the file in a browser tab/window. Very handy if you want to have a download button.

Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="filename.mp3"

Tested in: Firefox, Safari, IE, Opera, and Google Chrome

PHP Session Sharing Among Subdomains

PHP supports sharing sessions among subdomains which can be very useful for sharing cookies and sessions among multiple web applications.

I wanted my users to remain logged in while navigating from www.example.com to site1.example.com. By default PHP will treat these domains as two separate sites and users would have to login to each subdomain.

All you have to do is to either set the following setting in your php.ini file:
session.cookie_domain = .example.com

Or, set it from within your code before you create your session:
ini_set("session.cookie_domain", ".example.com");
session_start();