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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

Building more binary protocols will be an uphill climb. The HTTP standards seem inherently textual. Many programmers have had bad experiences with proprietary binary protocols that can only be unpacked by proprietary libraries, which may or may not work as promised. The openness of JSON and REST has been winning, but that doesn’t mean an open approach to a binary protocol can’t bring efficiency to open standards. The Internet of things will generate more data than ever and many devices will use plenty of small packets that require tighter encoding. When that kind of performance is necessary, programmers will start looking for ways to add more binary efficiency to their packets.

Prediction No. 3: Video kills the HTML star

Once upon a time, we surfed the Web, jumping from website to website, grazing on text, and clicking through hyperlinks whenever we wanted to learn more. Now we binge watch for hours or even days, rising from the sofa groggy and lethargic when the episodes run out. If we touch the keyboard at all, it’s to search when the next “season” will be uploaded to Netflix. The Internet is morphing into television, and the video streams are paving over the interactive forking paths of text with a steady stream that does the thinking for us.

This isn’t completely true, and some even suggest the Internet is liberating television. People snack on television clips on some websites. I have no idea whether “Saturday Night Live” is still broadcast on Saturday night or if it’s ever really filmed before a live audience, but I do know that you can see each of the skits in a separate clip at a website. Does it still have an opening monologue? Is there still a guest host? Who knows?

But for all of this, there’s little for the couch potato to do except absorb moving images. There’s little clicking and barely any steering. Perhaps the next generation of video apps will add another layer and improve the tools that are already there. The death of Flash and the ascendance of HTML5 open up the possibilities to merge video clips with HTML. Maybe the programmers can take advantage of some of the opportunities. Until then, the users will be sitting there watching TV in much the same way that our grandparents did in the grainy old days, even if it is streaming from an Internet giant and not a three-letter national broadcasting company.

Prediction No. 4: Smartphones will do everything but phone calls

Does anyone talk on a smartphone anymore? We send text messages, read email, visit websites -- and that’s only the beginning. The little rectangular screens have been revolutionizing every part of our lives for more than a decade, and the changes are beginning to get interesting. As we add more sensors and find clever uses for the microphone, camera, and accelerometer, no business or hobby is safe.


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