This year saw the release of important
new versions of all of the major Web browsers, from Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's
Internet Explorer to Opera and Apple's Safari. A big new player also entered
the browser arena in the form of Google Chrome.
However, these products represented
a lot more than just new versions of classic old Web browsers. Many of these upgraded
browsers introduced radical new capabilities that greatly change the impact of
the Web browser and go a long way toward the move to the Web as operating system.
These included offline capabilities
through Firefox 3.0 and Google Gears, as well as in the latest version of Adobe
Systems' AIR platform. We also saw new
scripting engines introduced in the betas of IE 8 and Google Chrome.
So far, we haven't seen many developers
take advantage of these new Web browser capabilities, but this will change
rapidly as 2009 starts. In much the same way that the introduction of AJAX
launched a wave of dynamic and interactive Web 2.0 sites and applications, I
expect to see many sites and applications that will start to push the boundaries
of what a Web application really is.
These new applications will in many
ways operate much like desktop applications, letting users work offline, use interfaces
free of standard browser buttons and interface conventions, and integrate with
standard desktop applications.
However, along with these new capabilities
will come challenges. Security for browsers and Web applications will become
much more important as a growing amount of critical data and functionality
passes through the browser. Also, many businesses will struggle with the
problems of exposing sensitive data to sites that include mashups and integration
with Web sites and applications across the Internet.
However, these challenges should do
little to derail the growth of these new kinds of Web applications. Time and
again Web developers have shown that if you give them the tools, they will
build new and exciting types of sites and applications.
Also, unlike classic enterprise application
development systems, these new Web technologies-much like AJAX
and Ruby on Rails, which have powered the Web 2.0 boom-are cost-effective and
often simple to use for developing applications. That means that the next-generation
Web startups will be able to get up and running without the help from banks and
venture capital firms that might be hard to get in the current economy.
I expect this next generation of Web
applications to be as different from the Web 2.0 apps as Web 2.0 was from the
classic Web of the 1990s.