After missing 2006, the year in review returns for 2007. These are the trends that most seemed to effect my little part of the Interweb during the past 12 months.
Sure, the social networks have proliferated over the years, but it wasn't until May 24 of this year that the landscape really came into shape.
Facebook's launch of its developer platform heralded in a new area of speculation and rapid growth. Watching its evolution was like watching the Web’s own growth over the past 10 years, but accelerated at an exponential rate. Geeks create some clever applications that attract tens of thousands of dedicated users, and then an entire new business stream develops. Quickly, Facebook faced competition from an alliance of services lead by Google. And even more money comes pouring into the sphere.
With Facebook becoming a platform, some smaller social networks started getting some attention: the Digg crew launched Pownce, Google bought Jaiku, and Twitter became the de facto micro-blogging tool.
All of this led to some smart people trying to figure out how to allow the social relationships defined in each of these networks to be shared amongst all the networks. Tim Berners-Lee defined this as the GGG and advocated the complex XML, while others like Tantek Celik argued for the simpler microformat approach.
The announcement, and then release of Apple ’s iPhone created shock waves amongst fan-boys, UI experts, phone manufacturers and carriers, and at least one search engine. It even inspired me to finally get a cellphone. From the perspective of Web development, the iPhone introduced a concept for displaying Web pages that is provoking discussion in that community: it takes sites designed for a desktop and shrinks the display to fit on its screen. Other mobile browsers, notably the Opera flavours, relied on the a separate style sheet to render an optimized version of a given site.
With the iPhone and Google’s “gPhone” system, Android, mobile Web browsing is becoming far more common — even Canadian carriers have deigned to lower their rates for 1Gb of data from $2,400/month to $100/month.
The iPhone’s big feature was undoubtedly the use of the first consumer friendly multi-touch screen. Effectively, a couple of fingers and some natural gestures replaced the stylus and keyboard. Almost immediately, Microsoft introduced Surface, which is table that uses the multi-touch interface to act as a sales unit, a waiter, a photo album, or a paint canvas.
By the end of the year, other mobile devices were appearing with a multi-touch screen, and speculation is rampant that Apple will introduce a multi-touch laptop or desktop in the coming months.
After years of lobbying, the W3C decided to reopen development of the lingua franca of the Web. The consortium promised to make the development of the new HTML standard open and transparent, and quickly, hundreds of passionate Web developers signed-on to participate. Many of those were members of the alternate HTML standard group, WHATWG; and as a result WHATWG’s proposals have become the draft recommendation.
What that draft contains, however, is quite contentious, and the Web standard community is splitting over both its proposal and the methods used to come to said proposal.
No matter what the final recommendation, practical implementation may occur faster than many expect. Already parts of the draft have been built into beta releases Opera, Safari, and Firefox.