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9 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Jan. 19, 2016
Our coding crystal ball offers developers meaningful bets for the next five years -- but few guarantees given the rate of change for tech

Some scientists say time moves forward at a constant rate. The clever ones argue that everything changes near the speed of light. But none of this explains the increasing rate of change in the world of tech. It keeps accelerating a bit more every time you look.

If you’re wondering where to place your next development bet, looking five years out can seem like mere guesswork. Anticipating tech’s future is nearly impossible, much less the skills and tools that will be relevant given the impact of innovations to come. But there are inklings that can be gleaned from the tea leaves of today’s tech landscape -- glimmers of the future of programming through the fog.

Here we gather a list of projections for programming’s future based on today’s most intriguing evolutions in tech. Not all are guaranteed to come true; not all are even guaranteed to be new. Many are trends that started unfolding several years ago. And if you compare this list to our previous foray into prognostication, you might find a bit of backsliding. Despite this, these predictions offer a solid road map that will help us plan for the future as it unfolds before us, faster and faster.

Prediction No. 1: REST rules IoT -- at first

The REST protocol has taken over the Web and it’s bound to maintain this dominance, as every thermostat, doorknob, and kitchen doodad vies to become a full-fledged, packet-swapping member of the Internet. They don’t call it the SCSI, USB, or SATA of things, do they?

The reasons are obvious. Programmers love REST’s simplicity. Thanks to its basic architecture, REST is easy to understand and relatively simple to debug. There’s nothing quite like having all the data in text form to make it that much simpler to figure out what’s happening. Don’t be surprised when that new security camera, microwave oven, or rotary nose-hair clipper boots up with Nginx running on port 80, reporting all of the latest news of the device in HTML and CSS.

Prediction No. 2: Binary protocols rise again

Passing data back and forth in JSON packets with REST protocols may be simple, at least compared to the old world of XML data and its 90 percent payload of tags, but some superefficient programmers have been left to wonder why they must convert binary data into a string so that it can be represented correctly in JSON. After all, the other side is only going to parse the string and turn it back into bytes. Why not ship the bytes directly -- especially if the Internet of things is going to be phoning home all the time with only a few bytes of data?


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