It is an exciting time to be a web developer. What used to be a time-consuming process is now becoming easier and easier with tools like Visual Web Developer, intellisense, and easier and more streamlined web-oriented programming languages and libraries.
Less time coding the basic stuff leaves more time to code the fun stuff, the flashy things, the bells and whistles that sets a website apart from competitors. And now more than ever there are some amazing tools and technologies that can make that job easier.
1. Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft’s newest attempt at jumping headfirst into the web seems to be their best yet. Microsoft Silverlight could best be described as a Flash-killer. Ultimately, it’s nothing new. Flash has done something like this for years, and Silverlight looks like it is, on the surface, very similar.
One of the biggest differences, of course, is looking at it from a developers’ point of view. Flash is fine, and Action Script is okay, but Silverlight may just blow Flash out of the water in this area. Silverlight is .NET based, which means .NET developers everywhere are already familiar with the libraries and concepts. Intellisense (proper intellisense) is a major plus, as is the integration of timelines in the silverlight editor and the code-behind editor in Visual Studio.
From a users’ perspective it will pretty much work like Flash, except I imagine Windows users will not have to install any special players. It would be stupid of Microsoft to not include the Silverlight browser plugin in some kind of automatic update. The market saturation at that point would be amazing.
The biggest difference to users is that Silverlight is fast. Very fast. It delivers on most of its promises to delivery content quick, whether it’s a simple movie or a HD-quality streaming video through services like Netflix.
2. Google Gears
Google Gears is the newest thing from Google. Google Gears promises to bridge the gap between offline and online applications. It allows websites to communicate with a SQLLite database on your home machine and store information there.
The upshot of this is that you will have access to your online data even if you are working offline. It’s a simple concept, but one that to my knowledge has not yet been tackled.
I imagine that websites like Gmail will probably have this integrated into them, as well as Google Docs, so you can access your email and any shared documents in an offline format. I can see it getting tricky to seamlessly synchronize data between offline and online mode, but knowing Google they will take this into account and provide either some automated process for doing so, or ample instructions on how to accomplish this.
Most people probably know what Twitter is already, but I felt that I should include this here. Twitter is a microblogging application that could almost be seen as an “away message” for your blog or website. You can send a text message with your current activity, and that message is then displayed on your website in real time.
This is not exactly new technology (at least not relatively, considering the age of the internet in general), but still worth mentioning. Social networking like this is huge right now, and I can only see it getting more and more popular.
What else can it be used for, though? Some people suggest that Twitter may be used by a company in order to get clients. The idea here is that a client who knows what it’s partner is up to is more likely to build trust. Communicate to your clients, in real time, what you are up to on their contract or product.
Right now, sadly, it is used as a way of letting everyone know what the blogger is currently eating (I am eating jellybeans), or to send text messages to multiple people at once.
4. Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 (MOSS)
This is a big one. MOSS. Companies right now are going nuts for MOSS. To many people, this is the holy grail of web applications right now. But what is MOSS?
Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server is best described as a platform. It is .NET based, which as mentioned above is good because that means many people are familiar with it off the bat. It allows “click” creation of web sites, meaning click a button, add a brand new site with a predefined template.
It is a Content Management System, but it is much more than that. It includes web-parts, customizable and programmable web-widgets. It allows complete and total management of your web sites, not just some of them but all of them in one environment. It is a web-portal. It allows you to have a nice intranet out of the box without having to touch anything. Internal Collaboration. Programmability using Windows Sharepoint Services API, or Sharepoint’s own API.
It has built in blogs, wikis, templates, RSS feeds, RSS readers, Excel and Infopath integration, content and document management systems… the list goes on and on. It has integrated into it almost every web-based feature you can think of. If there is something you can think of it doesn’t have, you can build it in!
It’s not without it’s share of quirks and bugs, of course. No one is perfect. Technology like this, though, makes web development much more about the web, and much less about the actual development. It cuts out the tedious repetitive coding and allows programmers to focus on more productive and rewarding code.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me, James Martin.
Email me, or comment below!