The Browser Is Where It’s At

I used to create a lot of Flash based content – be it video players, widgets, or full on applications what I built was built using the Flash Platform. I haven’t opened the Flash IDE or Flash Builder to create a SWF in a long, long…long time. What does this mean? First, technology is changing – no doubt. Second, I get to learn some new stuff. Guess what? I’m okay with that.

Users, platforms, and developers have have forced browsers to evolve. The browser is no longer just a window to view content. It is an environment that applications execute in. It used to be that you’d open a browser, search for something, or read something, then close it down and get to work. Now, what you work on is in in the browser & those browsers are open all day.

What should I learn? What should you learn, if you’re not already? Learn about the stuff that happens in the browser – Yep,  JavaScript, CSS, & HTML. Learn the existing APIs as well as the upcoming API changes and additions.

Banner of Browser Logos

The browser as a first-class citizen?

Browsers are more powerful, they are more feature rich, and are becoming first class citizens when it comes to how people use them. I don’t think that it is 100% where it needs to be, but it won’t be long until that tipping point that causes a shift in how people use and think about the browser. Consider Google services – to name a few, GMail, Drive & Docs, & Calendar. These services all run in the browser and each week new features are added to make them more comparable and sometimes better than their desktop counterparts. It used to be that everyone relied on Microsoft Office and Word to create documents, edit and track changes, Outlook to manage their email and calendar. Now, all of that and more is in the browser, of course you can still use desktop applications to manage that data, but, like I said there will be a tipping point. The point of this? Pay attention to the browser, the browser is where things are headed.

Why the browser?

Because:

  • Browsers are familiar to users
  • They exist for all major platforms
  • Browsers have established a quick and easy update path
  • Browsers will become more accepted by the enterprise
  • They take advantage of HTTP protocols
  • Browsers leverage new and existing technology

Familiarity

A browsers is an easy path to entry. A browser is a simple concept to grasp and easy to explain and learn. Although it has a low learning curve, browsers have and can be extended on to provide functionality needed for today and tomorrow’s users.

All major platforms

All major platforms have a browser. Desktop & mobile, even TVs and DVD players have browsers. For developers the headache is support different platforms. You will have to provide platform specific code. But, the main point to get across here is that HTTP, JavaScript, & CSS are will be supported by more and more platforms.

Quick and easy update path

Chrome and Firefox update at lightning speed, and for many users without them even knowing. This helps roll out new features (Web RTC, Media APIs etc) more quickly. There is a major barrier when it comes to the enterprise and government, but this is something that I think will change in the near future.

Accepted by the enterprise & government

Currently these are two areas where updates and browser versions can really hold back innovation. But, with the current direction of and additions to APIs and security, this issue should become a problem of the past as browser updates are easier, more secure and become the norm rather than the exception for the enterprise and government.

HTTP Protocol

HTTP has been around forever and for good reason. It works. It is flexible and powerful. Innovation and increased bandwidth allow for more innovative and more interesting uses of the protocol. HTTP video streaming is a great example of this. The client is responsible for managing the HTTP requests that it will need to successfully play back video served up in HTTP chunks, while still providing expected functionality to the user. We still have conversations about “chatty” applications, but these conversations will be minimised as a different perspective and different technologies emerge that leverage HTTP to a greater and more efficient degree.

Leveraging Existing & New Technology

As with HTTP, other established technologies will be accepted and leveraged by the browser. For instance, browsers are finally getting around to integrating media playback. WebRTC is another example things like WebSockets, node.js, socket.io, there are some really interesting things going on excite about the next-gen applications and tools that will be created.

What I see

All of this isn’t to say what we as developers are doing now will go away. Things certainly won’t change immediately. But, I am looking to the future, evaluating trends and technology, and emerging conversations, and what I see is the browser. Maybe not in it’s current incarnation, but the browser is what I see.

What do you see?

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