There’s a definite cycle to web languages and technologies

February 13th, 2013

I don’t think there’s a lot of industries with a rate of change like the web. The code you’re writing today and the language you’re using might not even be on your radar anymore a year from now. And every time something new comes out or becomes popular.the same basic cycle seems to happen. For a front-end developer like me, it started with Flash, then jQuery and most recently CSS3.

First it starts with some introductory blog posts and articles. Then a flood of tutorials as people discover more and more of what you can do. Next is the how you should do things posts. And the last stage is the complex stuff and this is when people start to drop off. There’s a couple of reasons, some devs don’t have time to dig into the really complicated stuff just for fun and other people just don’t want to go there. They just want to use jQuery to make an image slider not a huge app.

When I first came into the world of web development, Flash was the cool thing and I wanted to be a part of it. I missed the beginning tutorial period but a lot of them were still easy to find and the really cool, more complex stuff was being made. ActionScript 3 came out and suddenly you needed to be a hardcore programmer or a part of a team to make anything really cool. And all the tutorials were about features the average Flash dev wouldn’t use that much. Take a look at gotoandlearn and see how it goes from something simpler like 3D Logo Animation to ByteArray Image Decoding.

After Flash fell out of favor, jQuery became the new hotness and there seemed to be daily jQuery tutorials. In fact, I think Nettuts lived off jQuery for a year or two by putting up a video every couple of days. I know I did almost every one of them. Plus, you had sites like jQuery for Designers. Of course, once all the tutorials about jQuery animations and selectors that could be made, were made, things slowed down. Look at the last time jQuery for Designers was updated. And who can blame Remy, what else is there to talk about? Just the more complex features of jQuery, nothing that designers would care about.

But, if you’re like me, while jQuery is really useful, to keep your dev cred you needed to start writing vanilla JavaScript. There was a flood of Reintroduction to JavaScript and JS for Beginners posts. Then articles talking about advanced JS and explaining the weird crap JS likes to do. And then there was the complex JS articles and ones explaining why you shouldn’t use jQuery for web apps. In fact, I think because JS had become the main scripting language of the web, we’re going to be getting these articles and posts for a while yet.

I think the CSS3 cycle was smaller than the others, mainly because there isn’t as much to learn. After the intro articles, there was the how we should use the features ones and now there’s the odd, hey this is supported now ones. I’m pretty sure in the next year or so we’ll be seeing a lot of flex-box tutorials and if variables get added, I’m probably be among to people figuring out every little thing we can do with them.

What’s the next big thing? I’m not too sure. I thought maybe Dart might interest people but if you don’t work at Google, I’m pretty sure you forget it exists. TypeScript might have a chance but I don’t see compiled languages being popular amongst devs that just want to add a popup or an ajax call to their site.

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