12 predictions for the future of programming

We gaze into our coding crystal ball to find the sure bets and intriguing developments developers should target in the next five years

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Future of programming prediction No. 5: The Internet of things -- more platforms than ever

One side effect of Android (and Linux) colonizing the world is that more and more objects will be joining the Internet of things. Android on your refrigerator will mean the opportunity to write code for the refrigerator itself, whether it's an app for displaying kid art, some calorie-counting scold, or a recipe suggestion engine for what's left inside the ice box. Who knows?

Of all the many new platforms to come, the most important will be the car. Navigation and shopping are just the beginning. When the autonomous cars roll out, there will be even more opportunities for developers to cash in on car location and information.

The key is to figure out which new features are essential to the new domains. While operating systems like Android offer a unifying core, each platform will require customized features. Robotic toys, for instance, may need content filters to provide age-appropriate content. Thermostats will want to interact with the weather forecast. Building these APIs with the right features will be key to colonizing the Internet of things.

Future of programming prediction No. 6: Open source will find new ways to squeeze us

For all of the success of open source stacks like Android, Ubuntu, or MySQL, there remains a sticky problem with finding the revenue to support development. There are plenty of good stories about how open source code has helped hackers, but there aren't very many examples of how companies built a relatively stable ecology that let the programmers buy health care or food.

The vast majority of open source companies distribute what might better be called a demonstration version under an open source license. Then some kind of secret sauce is kept locked away to give the programmers something to bargain with. It's the way of the world. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? The best open source projects will find a way to tighten the screws in a comfortable way without scaring away customers.

Future of programming prediction No. 7: WordPress Web apps will abound

The biggest mistake that the Obama administration made was trying to build its insurance exchange websites from scratch. No one does that any more. Why bother when you can add a plug-in to WordPress? If you're really picky, you could work with Joomla or Drupal. The point isn't really which platform, just the fact that there are fewer and fewer reasons to create your own Web apps because so much functionality is built into the dominant frameworks.

The game gets even more interesting when you start hacking the code. WordPress has its own editor built into it, so you can do your development inside WordPress, too. There's no debugger, but you can get around that. If WordPress adds a nice database browser like PHPMyAdmin and provides a bit of basic debugging tools, development will really accelerate.

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