Tech Predictions for 2014

2014-01-28 16:42:19 -0500

This is a just a bunch of fun tech predictions for 2014. I can't claim any insider knowledge, but it will be interesting to look back on them at the end of the year to see what the outcomes are!

Bitcoin will become "legitimate", but not widespread

In 2014, regulators will likely issue guidance on how exactly companies and people can deal in Bitcoin without running afoul of anti-money laundering and money transmitter regulations, and how it is to be taxed. This will “legitimize” Bitcoin, but because of the difficulty of using the cryptocurrency and the insane amount of volatility of Bitcoin against fiat money, it will not become mainstream in 2014. Instead, Bitcoin will be relegated to particular types of transactions that the mainstream banks are either not accepting (due to the high probability of fraud or high compliance costs) or are charging exorbitant fees to facilitate. These will likely be cross-border transactions, especially in countries with capital controls (Argentina), legally grey-area transactions, or transactions that the major payment processors don’t accept.

Docker plus Deis or Flynn will result in an "open-source Heroku" and lots of dev-ops innovation

Heroku is probably one of the biggest dev-ops innovations in the last five years, making it vastly easier to deploy web applications, freeing development teams to actually build applications instead of focusing on DevOps. Heroku’s 12 Factor App architecture is now widely used and 2014 will see that continuing. However, Heroku has a few problems.

First, There currently isn’t a good way to "build your own Heroku" out of open source components. If Heroku is too constraining, you are forced to spin up your own servers on Amazon Web Services for part of your application, which eliminates lots of the advantages Heroku brings to the table. Last year there was a ton of excitement about Linux containers (LXC) and Docker, which is abstraction on top of LXC that makes them easier to manage. Both Heroku and Google Cloud use Linux containers internally, but they are closed-source implementations. Docker will likely begin to change that this year.

However, Docker alone is not a Heroku replacement. Much of the innovation in Heroku lies in the build packs and routing mesh, which Docker does not provide. Two other open source projects aim to become that layer on top of Docker, and these are the ones I’m most excited to watch. The first is Deis, which seems to be the furthest along in creating an open-source Heroku. Deis has both a routing mesh and an application layer created as well as scripts to automatically scale your “personal Heroku” on AWS, Digital Ocean and Rackspace. Flynn has many of the same goals, but doesn’t appear to be as far along. Deis has commercial support from Opsware, while Flynn is raising money Kickstarter-style to build out their platform. In any case, while Heroku is great, it is very exciting to see open source competitors come to the scene.

AngularJS and EmberJS will win the front-end wars for web apps

For highly interactive web apps, both AngularJS and EmberJS will become the clear choices in 2014. Backbone, Knockout and other front-end JS frameworks will see declining usage simply because they don’t provide as much of a framework as AngularJS or EmberJS. For new sites except for “CMS-like” apps, people will stop generating HTML on the server and push the page rendering to Javascript on the browser. Because of this, back-end frameworks will pivot towards being better REST API servers and focus less on their HTML template rendering abilities. The wildcard is “CMS-style” sites that need to be indexed by Google. While Google’s crawler can execute Javascript, content-heavy sites will still need a mechanism to serve HTML from the server for reliable SEO. This means that full-stack Rails apps will still be important in 2014. I think the writing is on the wall for this kind of app, however.

Mobile will continue to be "write twice" for the highest quality

Unfortunately, while HTML5 is great, it still won’t deliver the highest quality apps on mobile in 2014. As a cost-saving measure, or for apps that don’t need lots of interaction, HTML5 will be a viable choice. However, to create the highest-quality mobile apps in 2014, we’ll still need to write them twice: once for Android and once for iOS.

Wearable tech won’t be mainstream; in fact, society will push back from being "always connected"

Google Glass and the like will remain curiosities and not mainstream. In fact, I think that people are beginning to push back from being always connected to the Internet. Smartphone usage in many social situations is become a faux pas and the word “glassholes” has already been coined for people that wear Google Glass in public. That being said, we will see the Internet smartly integrated into more consumer products, including continued innovation in automobile technology and home automation. The key for the “Internet of things” in 2014 will be unobtrusive, discrete, and large value-add, which probably isn’t wearable technology in its current form.