Web Application Development – The Next Decade

One of the running mantra’s in our WebStar offices today is “What’s possible today was not possible five years ago, and what was possible five years ago wasn’t possible twenty years ago”. How very true this is.

Twenty-five years ago, there were very few web applications on the net. In fact, we were all mudding up the waters with HTML 1 (Don’t get me started). Back when the films like “Basic Instinct”, “Wayne’s World” and “Unforgiven” were the top producing films in Hollywood, most software applications were server based, running through VPN’s, and the term “running in the cloud” didn’t exist yet.

Fifteen years ago, the big push was e-Commerce. Companies would call us and tell us they were selling this widget or that, and we would spend months designing and building gorgeous custom e-Commerce applications, fully equipped with e-Commerce payment processing, SSL and complex shipping functionality, all nicely tied into UPS, FEDEX, DHL and USPS, along with all the tax accounting and reporting tools needed to run the e-Commerce site. These were turn-key software solutions that maximized productivity. We were way ahead of the curve at the time.

All of that has changed. Today, web application development has exploded onto the cloud, and one of the biggest forces driving this migration is API’s. If you’re not familiar with the term, API means “Application Programming Interface”, but that doesn’t say much about what it really is. The way I explained this to my second-grade daughter is that an API is like a Lego brick. Since all Lego bricks can connect and disconnect with one another, you can build just about anything. The same concept applies to API’s. In many cases, API’s can be connected to another like Legos, and voila, you have an application. Now I’m not going to get into a long discussion about the technical nuts and bolts of API’s, and you probably don’t want to hear it anyway, so I’ll spare you. That said, many of the API’s, or Legos as I like to call them, that we “custom” designed and built ten or fifteen years ago are now available through all sorts of API’s. In fact, today, there are applications built entirely from a mash-up of many API’s that make the finished product, a trend that is growing faster every year.

So, what is software development going to look like in a decade? No one, and I mean no one, knows for sure. In “Software Years”, that’s a lifetime, but we do know that API development and having the ability to “snap” API’s together will only grow. In fact, there are companies today that focus exclusively in developing API’s for that very purpose, giving new life to term “plug and play”. If someone told me five years ago that WordPress would dominate 40% of the web design development market today, and 25% of the e-Commerce marketplace, I would have laughed them out the front door, but does this mean software development will go away? No. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, and for two good reasons. First, the ability of having many API’s available for custom software development speeds up development. There’s still many moving parts and processes associated with the development of custom software, and there are millions of companies that need customized software, so the need doesn’t change, it expands. What’s changing is the ability to provide more solutions to more companies more cost effectively. Second, as business owners grow and expand their business, they quickly realize they need more and more automation. It’s this natural progression that prompts the need for software, especially for companies who are frustrated with trying to use off-the-shelf solutions, or in some cases, mash-ups that still don’t get them where they really want to go.

To learn more, contact our Phoenix office at 623-845-2747.