21 hot programming trends—and 21 going cold

Hot or not? From the web to the motherboard to the training ground, get the scoop on what’s in and what’s out in app dev

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Hot: Renting
Not: Buying

When Amazon rolled out its sales for computers and other electronics on Black Friday, the company forgot to include hypeworthy deals for its cloud. Give it time. Not so long ago, companies opened their own datacenter and hired their own staff to run the computers they purchased outright. Now they rent the computers, the datacenter, the staff, and even the software by the hour. No one wants the hassles of owning anything, or even managing servers. It’s all a good idea, at least until the website goes viral and you realize you’re paying for everything by the click. 

Hot: Cloud complexity
Not: Cloud simplicity

The early days of cloud computing saw vendors emphasizing how easy it was to click a button and get a running machine. Simplicity was king.

Now choosing the right machine and figuring out the right discount program could take more time than writing the code. There are dozens of machine profiles available, and most cloud providers support some of the older models. All offer unique levels of performance, so you better be ready to benchmark them to decide which is the most cost-effective for you. Is it worth saving 12 cents per hour to get by with less RAM? It could be if you’re spinning up 100 machines for months at a time.

To make matters more complex, the cloud companies offer several options for getting discounts by paying in advance or buying in bulk. You have to put them in the spreadsheet too. It’s enough to invest in an online course on cloud cost engineering.

Hot: Mobile web apps
Not: Native mobile apps

Let’s say you have a great idea for mobile content. You could rush off and write separate versions for iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and maybe even BlackBerry OS. Each requires a separate team speaking a different programming language. Then each platform’s app store exerts its own pound of flesh before the app can be delivered to the users.

Or you could build one HTML app and put it on a website to run on all the platforms. If there’s a change, you don’t need to return to the app store, begging for a quick review of a bug fix. Now that the HTML layer is getting faster and running on faster chips, this approach can compete with native apps, even for complex and interactive apps.

Hot: Android
Not: iOS

Was it only a few years ago that lines snaked out of Apple’s store? Times change. While the iPhone and iPad continue to have dedicated fans who love their rich, sophisticated UI, the raw sales numbers continue to favor Android. Some reports even say that more than 80 percent of phones sold were Androids.

The reason may be as simple as cost. While iOS devices still cost a pretty penny, the Android world is flooded with plenty of competition that’s producing tablets for as low as one-fifth the price. Saving money is always a temptation.

But another factor may be the effect of open source. Anyone can compete in the Android marketplace—and they do. There are big Android tablets and little ones. There are Android cameras and even Android refrigerators. No one has to say, “Mother, may I?” to Google to innovate. If they have an idea, they follow their mind.

Hot: Node.js
Not: Java EE, Ruby on Rails

The server world has always thrived on the threaded model that let the operating system indulge any wayward, inefficient, or dissolute behavior by programmers. Whatever foolish loop or wasteful computation programmers coded, the OS would balance performance by switching between the threads.

Then Node.js came along with the JavaScript callback model of programming, and the code ran really fast—faster than anyone thought possible from a toy language once used only for alert boxes. Suddenly the overhead of creating new threads became obvious and Node.js took off. Problems arise when programmers don’t behave well, but the responsibility has largely been good for them. Making resource constraints obvious to programmers usually produces faster code.

The Node.js world also benefits from harmony between browser and server. The same code runs on both, so it’s easier for developers to move around features and duplicate functionality. As a result, Node.js layers have become the hottest stacks on the Internet.

Hot: PHP 7.2
Not: Old PHP

In the past, PHP was a simple way to knock out a few dynamic webpages. If you needed a bit of variety, you could embed simple code between HTML tags. It was basic enough for web developers to embrace it, but slow enough to draw sneers from hard-core programmers.

That’s old news because some PHP lovers at places like WordPress and Facebook have been competing to execute PHP code faster than ever by incorporating the Just-in-Time compiler technology that once made Java such a high-performing solution. Now tools like the HipHop Virtual Machine and PHP 7.2 are delivering speeds that may be twice as fast as the old versions. Take that, Node.js and Java.

Hot: Just-in-time education
Not: Four years up front

The computer-mediated courses aren’t new anymore, and everyone is enjoying the advantage of watching a video lecture with buttons for speeding up, slowing down, or asking the prof to repeat that last point. The online forums also improve over the old seminar rooms where only one blowhard could dominate the discussion at a time.

But it’s not only the nature of the technology behind online coursework that’s upending the education industrial complex; it’s also the flexibility to learn whenever and wherever you need to. This is changing the dynamic as people no longer have to invest four years of outrageous tuition on a big collection of courses that may or may not be relevant to their lives.

Why take courses on compilers until you know you’ll actually work on a compiler? If the boss wants to switch from a relational database to a NoSQL engine, then you can invest the time in a course in modern data stores. You get fresh information when you need it and don’t clutter your brain with quickly rotting ideas. 

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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