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11 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Jan. 10, 2017
Our coding crystal ball clues you into the twists and turns your programming career may take in the years ahead

The challenge is keeping track of it all. It’s hard enough to update the batteries in the smoke detectors every time the clocks change. But now we’ll have to wonder about our toaster oven, our clothes dryer, and pretty much everything in the house. Is the software up-to-date? Have all the security patches been applied? The number of devices is making it harder to do anything intelligent about monitoring the home network. There are more than 30 devices with IP addresses connected to my wireless router, and I know the identity of only 24 of them. If I wanted to maintain a smart firewall, I would go nuts opening up the right ports for the right smart things.

Giving these devices the chance to run arbitrary code is a blessing and a curse. If programmers want to perform clever tasks and let users have maximum flexibility, the platforms should be open. That’s how the maker revolution and open source creativity flourishes. But this also gives virus writers more opportunity than ever before. All they need to do is find one brand of widget that hasn’t updated a particular driver -- voilà, they’ve found millions of widgets primed to host bots.

Video will dominate the web in new ways

When the HTML standards committee started embedding video tags into HTML itself, they probably didn’t have grand plans of remaking entertainment. They probably only wanted to solve the glitches from plugins. But the basic video tags respond to JavaScript commands, and that makes them essentially programmable.

That is a big change. In the past, most videos have been consumed very passively. You sit down at the couch, push the play button, and see what the video’s editor decided you should see. Everyone watching that cat video sees the cats in the same sequence decided by the cat video’s creator. Sure, a few fast-forward but videos head to their conclusion with as much regularity as Swiss trains.

JavaScript’s control of video is limited, but the slickest web designers are figuring clever ways to integrate video with the rest of the web page in a seamless canvas. This opens up the possibility for the user to control how the narrative unfolds and interact with the video. No one can be sure what the writers, artists, and editors will imagine but they’ll require programming talent to make it happen.

Many of the slickest websites already have video tightly running in clever spots. Soon they’ll all want moving things. It won’t be enough to put an IMG tag with a JPEG file. You’ll need to grab video -- and deal with the standards issues that have fragmented the browser world.


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