With the rise of native apps and the Internet of Things (IoT), you might think we’re leaving the Web behind.
Other languages and approaches absolutely have their place, especially in the many environments where constraints matter more than connection, but the Web core is everywhere: in your phone, your apps, the kiosks you find in stores and museums. It lurks invisibly on corporate networks helping databases and messaging systems communicate.
That enormous set of Web-related possibilities includes more than a set of technologies, though. Tools and techniques are great, but applying them yields a richer set of sometimes happy and sometimes controversial conversations.
I’ll be exploring a core set of nine key themes over the next few months, but I’ve started with brief explanations below. These short tellings set the stage for deeper explorations of the Web’s potential for changing both computing and the broader world, as well as what you need to learn to join the fun.
Those pieces digging deeper will appear on this site, but you can also stay in the loop on our latest analysis and coverage through our weekly Web Platform newsletter.
“Web scale” is any size
When people selling performance and monitoring talk about “Web scale,” they usually mean the huge end of the spectrum. What will you do when a million people want to talk with you at once? Web tools and approaches offer many more scales, however:
- Create an internal application meant for 10 people.
- Program a container that designers can present and content creators can fill.
- Grow an application over time from a tiny core to many capabilities.
- Communicate with embedded devices over a network.
- Compete to cram a game into 1K or 10K of code.
- Distribute applications from servers to clients to peers.
The details may change with the scope of the application and the size of the organization, but Web culture and Web technology have phenomenal reach.
Cross-pollinating Web communities
Web projects are integration projects, combining skills from a number of disciplines. Lousy interfaces can obscure brilliant code, and ingeniously engineered back-end systems can still fail when they hit resource limits. “Content” lurks in many guises, requiring support not only from writers and illustrators but from video specialists, game designers, and many more. Marketers have built businesses on the Web, and influence conversations from design to analytics.
Web development models include far more than code. Designers and content creators are full members, driving tools that work for them. Tools like Git that originated in programming, meanwhile, are finding new homes among Web designers.
Explosion of Web tools and approaches
The result is massive growth in tools and choices:
- CSS applies declarative approaches that are becoming more important.
- Frameworks for MVC variants keep appearing and growing.
- Layout frameworks are becoming ordinary as well.
- Traditional Web layering still works, but single-page apps and isomorphic/hybrid approaches expand the range of architectural models for different use cases.
- Is it a site? An app? Just a service? The Web supports more and more delivery models.
- HTTP 2.0, WebSocket, and WebRTC expand the range of commonly available communications options from heavy client-server to light client-server to peer-to-peer.
The Web appears to be fractal, and diversity is sign of life.
Know a full stack, even if you don’t work it every day
A very few brave developers still customize every aspect of their sites and apps, from polishing interface design on the front end to optimizing database connections on the back end. Many more people choose standard sets of tools — the LAMP stack or MEAN stack — and hope that they can stay within the lines enough to get help. Building effective Web systems, though, means understanding how the layers of applications interact and their communications styles. At the very least, it means understanding the layers with which your work interacts.
Discipline is a choice
Building Web services and building on Web services
Cool mashups have become businesses foundations, making it easier to distribute responsibilities. The “stack” takes on new meaning when different people control different pieces of it. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) builds on Web foundations in the enterprise, and public services extend to the world. You don’t have to build the whole application yourself. Instead, you create your unique aspects and the glue you need to assemble services — payment, mapping, storage, and much more — others provide.
Web identity, privacy, and security: Keep me safe
Even credit-card data — just a few numbers! — is difficult to remember and forget appropriately. Identity, security, and privacy issues all orbit these questions, and interact in challenging ways. Each of those three words can have different meanings for different players on the Web. Openness and safety are also a complicated mix. Browser security and privacy settings remain finer-grained and more restrictive by default (when other things are working) than mobile OS security and privacy settings, too. That helps, but we know shockingly little about how to get this right.
Related: Read more about security on the Web.
Engaging in depth on the Web
Data drives the Web, the Web drives data
First, we were obsessed with how many visitors we had. Then, we were obsessed with where our site ranked with search engines. Today, we’re learning more and more about how visitors use Web sites and apps, and applying that data to better interfaces and more effective communications. We’re also building sites on other kinds of data, making the Web an interface for data and not just documents. Not everything has to be quantified, but things that can be quantified help.
In the months ahead I’ll take a deep dive into each of these themes through analysis, interviews, and ongoing coverage. These explorations work best when there’s an active feedback loop, so please share your thoughts through Twitter (@simonstl) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org).