Everyone loves thinking about the future, whether it’s simply planning a holiday for later in the year or wondering when personal jetpacks will finally be a viable mode of transport and if robots will take over the world once they crack the Turing test.
The only thing you can predict about the future is that it’s unpredictable, of course, but it’s still fun to do and it doesn’t stop articles appearing in various media outlets at the start of the year talking about what’s going to be big in the coming twelve months. And this one is no different. Of course, I wouldn’t dare assume that Star Trek Tricorders will be available in all mobile phones by the year, but given the current state of play with the Internet, maybe there are some trends in Web technology that can be spotted and will grow, hitting critical mass in the coming year. Here, we look at five such possible trends.
CSS3 & HTML5
The next evolutionary hop in the standard for styles and cascade has been around for a little while but could take off this year, along with HTML5.
Much lauded as the ‘Flash killer’, HTML5 is also an evolutionary hop in web standards, upgrading HTML to take into account current trends in web use, perhaps the most obvious being the built-in video element, which helps do away with the need of Flash video on a website. Flash tends to be one of those things that traditionally some developers love, some developers hate, and most end users couldn’t care less about. At least, not until the prevalence of mobile web access and the success Apple’s iPhone and iPad, because neither mobile web browsers or Apple like Flash much.
One of the great things about HTML5 is that, once fully supported across the web, it will allow to embed and playback audio and video content without the need of plugins, which makes it ideal for the mobile web.
This is just as well, because the mobile web is going to get bigger. Or should that be the web is going to get smaller as mobile web browsers and apps start to become the default way to consume content? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I logged in to Twitters website, using 3rd party API’s and apps instead.
As mobiles become more powerful, and less like phones and more like mobile computers, this is a trend that is bound to continue. As Wi-Fi and wireless signals of greater bandwidth get rolled out, streaming content to mobile devices is bound to continue as well. It’s already possible to stream music, films and TV shows to mobile devices, and soon games will go the same way.
Games on PCs and mobiles are nothing new, but have always been limited by the hardware. Anyone serious about their computer games has always had to pay a fortune for the hardware that is powerful enough to run their game(s) of choice – the processing power of Sony’s PlayStation 3 is legendary.
But with cloud computing becoming more popular and more people streaming music and film rather than ‘owning’ the media, games services are opening up and going the same way. It is now possible to sign up to game streaming services for a monthly fee and play whatever game you like no matter what your computer hardware is or how powerful it is. With all the games processing being done on the server, all you need is a decent internet connection to keep lag to a minimum.
Such services are sure to become popular with gamers if they can access the same game from their home PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phone, and not having to splash out on new, more powerful hardware every couple of years or so to be able to play the latest games.
With an ever greater number of devices becoming permanently connected to the internet IP addresses are running out. In fact the last set of addresses was allocated by ICANN in 2011. Hence IPv6 being created. Using hexadecimal numbering this network addressing system means that there are billions upon billions of possible addresses – 2128 compared to IPv4’s 232 – so every person on the planet could have several device permanently attached to the web and there would still be loads of addresses available. Some companies are rolling out this system now and 2012 could see it hit critical mass.
‘The Children are our Future’
In January 2012 the UK government announced that it was to overhaul the teaching of computing in schools. Combined with Raspberry Pi, the £16 computer, going into its first production run, we could soon see children enjoying computer programming again. It might not be the same as those giddy days of the 1980’s when children spent hours in front of ZX64’s and Commodore 64’s, but anything that means learning about IT is less about how to use MS Office and more about building web pages and simple algorithms for animations and game AI’s is sure to help the future of technology spring forward.
Maybe the next innovation won’t come from some angel-investor backed team of post-grad’s on the Silicon roundabout but a couple of twelve year olds in their bedroom. I hope so; kids have better imaginations.