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12 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Feb. 4, 2014
If hitting a target is hard and hitting a moving target is even harder, then creating a new hit technology is next to impossible because the shape and nature of the target morphs as it moves. Think of building a swish new laptop just as laptops are heading out of favor, or a must-have mobile app just as smartphones plateau, or a dynamite tablet experience just as the wearable future takes hold.

The vast majority of open source companies distribute what might better be called a demonstration version under an open source license. Then some kind of secret sauce is kept locked away to give the programmers something to bargain with. It's the way of the world. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? The best open source projects will find a way to tighten the screws in a comfortable way without scaring away customers.

Future of programming prediction No. 7: WordPress Web apps will abound

The biggest mistake that the Obama administration made was trying to build its insurance exchange websites from scratch. No one does that any more. Why bother when you can add a plug-in to WordPress? If you're really picky, you could work with Joomla or Drupal. The point isn't really which platform, just the fact that there are fewer and fewer reasons to create your own Web apps because so much functionality is built into the dominant frameworks.

The game gets even more interesting when you start hacking the code. WordPress has its own editor built into it, so you can do your development inside WordPress, too. There's no debugger, but you can get around that. If WordPress adds a nice database browser like PHPMyAdmin and provides a bit of basic debugging tools, development will really accelerate.

Future of programming prediction No. 8: Plug-ins will replace full-fledged programs

Basic Web apps aren't the only ones riding the power of code snippets that can be plugged into a bigger framework. Photoshop used to be the dominant engine for reworking images, in part because of the fertile world of plug-ins. Now the newer apps like MagicHour have made plug-ins even simpler. MagicHour users, for instance, can share filters just like they share photos. Most major platforms offer a good plug-in API, and the ones with the best have fertile ecologies filled with thousands of modules, libraries, and plug-ins.

This burgeoning ecology for code means that programmers will write more snippets and fewer applications. The right bit of glue code can be a million times more powerful than a great, hand-built application with megabytes of binary file. A small snippet can leverage everything in the entire ecology. A big app must do everything on its own.

The savvy programmers will learn to leverage this by creating plug-ins, not programs. They'll learn the APIs for the host systems and string together parts. Very few will ever build anything from scratch. We'll all be part of the emerging Borg.

Future of programming prediction No. 9: Long live the command line

While it has become easier to click your way to a working app, a surprising amount of work is still done in text editors and terminal windows. So, contrary to what you might think, the command line will not be going away. In fact, more and more modern tools will work only with the command line.


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