Here are some thoughts on the state of web app development in late 2014.
The web is still the largest open platform of choice for both documents and interactive media (apps). It’s beating out native apps on desktop, on mobile it’s a second-class citizen.
The alternative, which is much less likely but no doubt still a possibility, is for browsers to include a nicer lower-level language (asm.js is their feeble attempt at this) for those who would rather not have their entire tech stack in JS, an unpredictable language hardly anyone actually understands but nonetheless is the de facto standard (I don’t actually mind that much, I like how casual it is sometimes, esp. with respect to objects/dicts). It’s very unlikely to happen; the fragmentation would be very costly.
On the note of browser innovation, I think sometime soon we’re going to see the concept of tabs fade away completely, and start to have the browser as more of a shared application runtime and sandbox (At least on the desktop, Apple has done a good job making sure Chrome is only an app in their iOS ecosystem) — the W3C has been doing some drafting of proposals around this since 2012.
One last thing, earlier I deliberately chose to refer to these web apps as interactive media. I think it’s important to remember that while we are occupied currently with our linear mostly-textual user interfaces on the web, future developments may completely change this. Virtual reality is stepping up as the next major thing (Oculus Rift, Magic Leap), presenting interfaces in 3D, rather than 2D as we are used to. I’ve noticed though, that out of our five basic senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste), smell and taste have yet to be seen at all in the digital world (digimonde?). This is apparently due to the difficulty of digitizing this information, but as history has shown, it’s not a matter of how but when…
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