7 ways web development industry changed since it’s beginnings

Web development industry is rather peculiar. One day you can be a sought-after programmer and then you will become old news. Just take a look at Flash — it truly ruled the Internet before it became the butt of a joke. If you don’t want to share the fate of Flash you need to constantly work on your skills and be aware of changes in the IT world that you might need to learn and incorporate into your portfolio.

I was motivated to write this article by the reflection of mine. I tried to remember how it was like in the beginnings when the Internet only began to be commercially used on home (or school) computers and when I started to create my first websites. Without further ado, here are 7 ways web development industry changed since it’s beginnings:

  1. Can you even imagine using the Internet without the Mountain View search engine? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at least once used Google services. However, not a long time ago surfing the web was like driving a car without navigation. You needed to know the road that will lead you to a specific website or seek help in directories. I remember that I used to search everything via Onet (Polish web portal), but currently, 80% of searches all over the world are done via Google. In 1998, when the search was launched, no one really expected that this is the start of something bigger.
  2. In the era of scripts and omnipresent frameworks (such as jQuery or Angular), the Internet has been completely invaded by JavaScript.
    It breathed new life into websites. Nowadays probably no one can imagine the web without it, but a few years ago computers were not as powerful (and JavaScript engines as optimal) as they are today, so it was not uncommon for websites to freeze. All it took was one mistake of a developer for Internet Explorer to besiege users with alerts of bugs in the scripts.
    When scripts became a standard, developer needed to also think about users that don’t use JavaScript (and there were plenty of them).
  3. The technology that powered web games, ads, and even entire websites, have momentarily gone into oblivion in the form we’ve known. Flash will be (or even was in some cases) turned off or removed from today’s web browsers. Over the years, Flash got old, and the holes in the plugins expose users to attacks. However, we were able to watch videos and browse animated websites with “supplementary” music. Thanks to it we saw that websites are not just a compilation of static texts, but a dynamic medium.
    I feel sorry for people that are currently working with Flash (it can happen to anyone in this industry) unless they are creating animations for movies and use Adobe Animator instead of Adobe Flash. Using Flash is rather popular in videos, but removing it from browsers won’t stop users from seeing them.
  4. Some time ago FrontPage was a part of Microsoft Office — just like Adobe Dreamviewer, it worked as an editor. It was the first thing I used when I started my adventure with web development. By clicking on succeeding elements, I was able to see the created code. However, FrontPage made so many junk tags in the code that you could’ve saved a Word file as an HTML page!
    Currently, we have access to many different editors, such as Notepad++, Eclipse, Sublime… I can go on forever. What’s interesting, however, is that none (or almost none) of them have the WYSIWYG editor. It’s much easier just to use the developer tools that are in a browser… or maybe it’s easier only when you have some experience in web development? Share your thoughts! :)
  5. Nowadays we can’t even imagine living without having the constant access to the Internet. But not a long time ago it was only available in the form of uninteresting WAP pages, which weren’t user-friendly, compatible with Polish dialectical characters, nor loading properly. And looking even further back, I frequently visited the Internet cafes and used a set of 5 floppy disks (those strange things that are now known as “Save” buttons in various interface panels) to download game add-ons. It usually took at least an hour — there were no USB memory sticks, and the only other option were CD (and then DVD) burners… I even removed the drive, something I couldn’t even imagine to do a few years ago. It was only needed to install Windows. What a time!
  6. Do you even remember this concept? Web 2.0 was associated with dynamic pages that can interact with the user. Such new technologies as Ajax or Soap, which are supported by PHP, transformed websites to full-fledged medium instead of just information boards. Blogs, forums and social networking sites began to gain more and more popularity.
    With the increasing possibilities of rendering websites via browsers came the standardisation of their designs. But it was more about keeping up with trends since websites with round edges, transparency, and gradients were considered the most modern. But it didn’t help with the fact that browsers didn’t support the features and the rounded buttons were nothing else than tables with a background that created an illusion of round corners. What now we can achieve with one CSS property then took half an hour.
  7. Not long time ago, PHP combined with MySQL was the undisputed leader in the Back-End Development. No one even thought that this could change, which only confirms the dynamics of the industry. Nowadays Python and MongoDB are beginning to gain more and more popularity. The role of JavaScript has grown so much, that some sites are based entirely on JS frameworks.
    It reminds me of the time when I wanted to have an admin panel on my website. I threw in the login script in JS, which stored the password as pure text in the source code (sic!), and then created the subpages with the management forms. Writing something (for instance news) resulted in… sending me an email with content that I will later want to publish. Why did I do that? Now I do not know ;) I only know that I quickly removed it, because I was receiving emails from someone who logged onto my website with the (easily) stolen password. ;) Fortunately, I later found out about such content management systems as jPortal, PHP-Nuke, and PHP-Fusion. They were great for learning about the capabilities of PHP, but it turned out that it was their only advantage.

Well, after this walk down the memory lane now it’s time to get back to the present with Angular, Django, and animated SVGs… I think that all those skills acquired back in the day won’t be a big help while working on modern projects. However, each technology we know makes it easier for us to learn something new. We can only faintly predict what awaits us in the future, but looking back I can surely say that it won’t be boring ;)

What are your memories of the beginnings of the Internet? Were your experiences similar to mine? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts!

Marcin WASILEWSKI, Front-end Developer at Merixstudio

Originally published at www.merixstudio.com.