2006 Tech Predictions: A Year in Hindsight

OK, time to face the music and look back at my predictions from last year:

  • The hype surrounding Ajax will slowly fade, as people come to realize that there’s really nothing new here, just that DHTML is cool again. As Dion points out, Ajax will become a toolbox that you use in web development without thinking that “I am doing Ajax”. Just as we don’t think about “doing HTML” vs “doing DOM”. Well, much as I might have wanted this to take place, it doesn’t seem to have happened–Ajax is as much a buzzword (if not more so) than it was in 2005. In fact, it now seems to have grown to the same buzzwordy status as “Web 2.0”, in that we’re starting to lose sight of it as its acronym originally defined it to be: Asynchronous Javascript And XML. Now people are talking about using JSON, about using it synchronously, and… hey, it’s just a matter of time before somebody points out the flaws in Javascript and starts suggesting other dynamic languages for the browser….
  • The release of EJB 3 may actually start people thinking about EJB again, but hopefully this time in a more pragmatic and less hype-driven fashion. (Yes, EJB does have its place in the world, folks–it’s just a much smaller place than most of the EJB vendors and book authors wanted it to be.) Hah. Fat chance. Though the EJB-bashing wave has slipped to an all-time low, it seems, it’s still ready to rear its ugly head any time somebody suggests that there might be something about EJB that doesn’t suck. Still, the luster is starting to wear off on Spring, which means that (a) people are starting to look at it critically, rather than taking it for granted as a media darling, and (b) people will start to re-evaluate EJB as a viable technology rather than just demonize it. Maybe.
  • Vista will be slipped to 2007, despite Microsoft’s best efforts. In the meantime, however, WinFX (which is effectively .NET 3.0) will ship, and people will discover that Workflow (WWF) is by far the more interesting of the WPF/WCF/WWF triplet. Notice that I don’t say “powerful” or “important”, but “interesting”. Here we go: did Vista ship, or not? Officially, Vista was released to manufacturing (RTM’ed), but it’s not available to consumers yet, and won’t be until later this month or next. WinFX… er, I mean .NET 3.0… er, I mean NetFX3… whatever… shipped at the same time Vista did, though, and developers in the .NET space are beginning to hear more about this thing called “Workflow”. It’s still a mystery to most, I think, but then so is WCF.
  • Scripting languages will hit their peak interest period in 2006; Ruby conversions will be at its apogee, and its likely that somewhere in the latter half of 2006 we’ll hear about the first major Ruby project failure, most likely from a large consulting firm that tries to duplicate the success of Ruby’s evangelists (Dave Thomas, David Geary, and the other Rubyists I know of from the NFJS tour) by throwing Ruby at a project without really understanding it. In other words, same story, different technology, same result. By 2007 the Ruby Backlash will have begun. Has the Ruby backlash begun? Hard to say–certainly there are those who’ve been rolling out Rails apps that have found problems with deploying Rails, but for now Rails–and thus Ruby–remain the media darling. Maybe by 2008.
  • Interest in building languages that somehow bridge the gap between static and dynamic languages will start to grow, most likely beginning with E4X, the variant of ECMAScript (Javascript to those of you unfamiliar with the standards) that integrates XML into the language. Bah–this was an easy one to call. E4X hasn’t yet really gained a lot of traction, but that may be because nobody’s really talking about it or writing about it. That part might just require more time, or it may never happen–depends on how badly developers want an easier way to work with XML. Suffice it to say, we’ll see lots of E4X-like features show up in other languages as we go; some have already shown up in other languages, such as Flex’s ActionScript, for example.
  • Java developers will start gaining interest in building rich Java apps again. (Freely admit, this is a long shot, but the work being done by the Swing researchers at Sun, not least of which is Romain Guy, will by the middle of 2006 probably be ready for prime-time consumption, and there’s some seriously interesting sht in there.)* Well, you can ask Scott Delap if you’re not convinced, but certainly there’s been a growing interest in building Eclipse RIAs. Swing (justifiably or not) still remains in the doghouse, however.
  • Somebody at Microsoft starts seriously hammering on the CLR team to support continuations. Talk emerges about supporting it in the 4.0 (post-WinFX) release. I have no empirical or anecdotal proof, but the rumors abound…
  • Effective Java (2nd Edition) will ship. (Hardly a difficult prediction to make–Josh said as much in the Javapolis interview I did with him and Neal Gafter.) Whoops. Apparently Josh is busy.
  • Effective .NET will ship. Pragmatic XML Services will ship. Whoops. Apparently I was busy, too.
  • JDK 6 will ship, and a good chunk of the Java community self-proclaimed experts and cognoscente will claim it sucks. It did ship, and many did claim it sucks. The coolness of JSR 223 (the scripting support) definitely worked to offset a lot of the cries-of-suckiness, though the last-second dropping of the data-mapping capabilities specified in JDBC 4.0 (WTF, Sun?!?) caught a lot of us by (unhappy) surprise. It also raises the question as to efficacy of the JCP documents when Sun feels completely comfortable changing them at the Very Last Second….
  • Java developers will seriously begin to talk about what changes we want/need to Java for JDK 7 (“Dolphin”). Lots of ideas will be put forth. Hopefully most will be shot down. With any luck, Joshua Bloch and Neal Gafter will still be involved in the process, and will keep tight rein on the more… aggressive… ideas and turn them into useful things that won’t break the spirit of the platform. Well, witness the closures debate between Josh on the one hand, and Neal on the other, and you can clearly see that they’re still involved in the process, though not in the manner I’d envisioned. That said, though, the JDK 7 discussions are already ramping up; look for an interview I did with Neal Gafter at Javapolis this year to show up on Parleys.com in the very near future, in which we talked about this exact subject. Some interesting ideas will emerge out of this debate, both for JDK 7 and releases beyond…
  • My long-shot hope, rather than prediction, for 2006: Sun comes to realize that the Java platform isn’t about the language, but the platform, and begin to give serious credence and hope behind a multi-linguistic JVM ecosystem. Wow. Witness the acquisition of the JRuby pair by Sun, and the scripting support in JDK 6, and maybe, just maybe, I can claim a point on this one.
  • My long-shot dream: JBoss goes out of business, the JBoss source code goes back to being maintained by developers whose principal interest is in maintaining open-source projects rather than making money, and it all gets folded together with what the Geronimo folks are doing. In other words, the open-source community stops the infighting and starts pulling oars in the same direction at the same time. For once. Well, you can’t win them all.

Not sure how that leaves the score, but there you go….