The rise of Progressive Web Apps
2016 was the year of the question “what are Progressive Web Apps”? Originally developed and coined by Google’s Chrome team, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a new form of mobile web development, where greater parity can occur between native and web. This brings together the organic discovery people like about the mobile web and the features of native apps users have come to rely on, like push notifications, offline support, and speed.
Gartner predicts that by 2019, 20% of brands will abandon their native mobile apps, so this year may be the time to give PWAs a try. Native apps will continue to be a part of our daily lives, but currently, mobile users spend 80% of the time on their devices using only their top three apps. On the other hand, a lot of organic discovery is happening on the mobile web, but users tend to spend less time on these mobile sites due to less than optimal browsing experiences. One strategy some companies have used is creating prompts for users to open their site in the native app. However, this comes with the cost of building and maintaining both a mobile site and a native app, and often these prompts simply annoy users.
Making the transition from native to progressive web apps brings many development concerns to the forefront, from accessibility and responsive design, to security and performance. There’s also the fact that PWAs are being built on technologies still in active development, such as service workers. Though it’s still early days, already major outlets and companies are adopting PWAs for their mobile web experiences, with two major examples being the Washington Post and Flipkart, India’s largest ecommerce site.
Stabilization and flexibility among web stacks
Functional programming and the web
With the rising popularity of React and Redux, it’s clear that developers are seeing the benefits of stateless applications. Redux is heavily influenced by Elm, and together with Immutable.js we’re seeing more functional programming coming to both the client and server-side web. Clearly, functional programming is nothing new, but it’s certainly a newer area for many frontend web developers.
New approaches to data fetching in modern web apps
While they are both very new technologies, the fact that they are in production at Netflix and Facebook is a good indication that more companies and teams will be adopting them for data management in large-scale applications.
Building and designing for artificial intelligence
Over the past year, many tech titans—including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook—have released new AI-focused products and platforms to the public. These companies certainly have an eye toward a future where humans interact seamlessly with their machines and with each other. With Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home becoming part of daily lives, technical skills for building and designing conversational systems are becoming ever more in demand.
In addition to hardware, we’ve also entered a new age of bots, with usage of messenger apps now surpassing social networks. From Twitter to Slack bots to infrastructure automation and banking bots, the bots movement brings together 21st-century technologies and capitalizes on two key aspects: context and convenience. At the heart of this movement, bot designers, builders, and implementers are aiming to give us technology that allows us to have frictionless interaction with the world around us. 2017 will continue to be a year of innovation and rapid development in terms of bots, conversational UI, and artificial intelligence on the web.