Development has certainly come a long way since the early days of the internet. A lot can happen in 15 years, and in 2004 computing was an entirely different ballgame – not only were smartphones yet to exist, but Internet Explorer was the browser of choice and Ask Jeeves was yet to take his retirement.
Much has changed thanks to the onset of the digital age and cloud computing; our demands from computers have shifted from “bigger and better” to “smaller, faster and simpler to use”. In this time, we have seen the emergence and mass-adoption of smart devices, as our relationship with computers changed and along with our expectations.
The socialisation of the web
Inevitably, the socialisation of the internet and the unprecedented rise of mobile has resulted in the transformation of web development, with new frameworks taking a heavy focus on fluid user experience (UX) that is friendly on devices of different shapes and sizes.
Whether it’s a mobile app or a web-based platform, UX really is make or break. Users want simplicity; they expect apps to be intuitive to their needs and allow them to perform its intended purpose with no fuss or delay. Building an application that responds to the user and is easy to navigate is the crux of coding today. Naturally, programmers feel mounting pressure to squeeze as much power out of programming to keep users satisfied and meet our ever-growing demands.
A good use case example of this would be Twitter, an application that was written in Ruby on Rails but used MySQL database as its backend. While these frameworks were able to support the site in its early days, their developers were forced to explore more scalable technologies as the site’s usage grew exponentially – a trend which is continuing to this day.
With the explosion of social media and our growing expectations as consumers with regard to speed of use, Twitter began to switch to Scala in some places and adopted Lucene in favour of MySQL to handle higher search volumes. The more we ask from a program, the more power we need behind it, the more pressure a developer is under to create a seamless experience.
The evolution of programming languages
Fortunately, languages now handle most of the grunt work of the system. Just as our own languages have had to evolve to account for the new concepts born from the development and growth of civilisation, programming languages have changed as our technological capabilities have progressed to meet the growing demands that we have of computers.
In the early days of computer programming, innovation was born from a desire to push the boundaries. Languages were in a constant state of flux; the spotlight was not fixed on “what the consumer wants or expects” but discovering what the computer could be capable of. In the early days of programming, we were effectively engineers who needed to have an in-depth understanding of the complex workings of the technology at hand in order to confidently use low-level languages to manipulate systems with ease.
But things began to change, and the more elaborate our needs became, the more the focus on development shifted to making computing easier. Innovation became guided by consumer demands and so boundaries were pushed in the name of creating better user experiences.
The future of programming language design
HTML5 became the industry standard almost five years ago, but it too is ever-changing. New features and APIs are regularly added to the framework, leading to a surge in the development of web applications that behave like native apps. In turn, the standard website has undergone a mobile-app-makeover; the world wide web we know today reflects the role that mobile devices play in our day-to-day lives. The development of HTML5 enables this by adding native-like features to web browsers to replace bulky software.
If there’s one thing you can count on in coding, it’s for languages to evolve. We’ve already seen the rise in accessible web-builders, like Wordpress, Wix and Squarespace, with intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces that make it easy for the average user to build a website from a template. Meanwhile AppInventor, created by Google and MIT, lets you create an Android app just by dragging and dropping UI elements, then using a graph-based logic map to create functionality.
While these types of programming are unlikely to take over any time soon and the demand for coders with a background in computer science remains sky high, the goal of programming languages will stay the same: to make coding frameworks easier to use in order to boost turnaround time of products to market and increase ROI in the process.
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