This is How Far Web Development Has Come in Twenty Years

This is How Far Web Development Has Come in Twenty Years
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What are the major milestones in Web Development over the last two decades? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ken Mazaika, CTO and co-founder of The Firehose Project, on Quora.

It's worth noting that a lot has changed in web development over the past couple decades.

Twenty years ago:

  • We were getting spammed with AOL CDs in our physical mailboxes.
  • Mobile bag-phones filled up bulky backpacks.
  • You'd have to get off the Internet if someone in your house was expecting a call.

So a lot has changed. But here's my rundown of the things I think have had the biggest impact on web development since 1997.

1997: ECMAScript is standardized. ECMAScript, the organization, wrote the spec for the programming language JavaScript. Prior to this, "JavaScript" was a quirky programming language that was famously developed in ten days without a specification.

1999: Microsoft invents Ajax, and it's totally ignored. Microsoft invented Ajax, which was the idea of performing an HTTP request within a web browser using JavaScript. At this time, people would laugh at you if you said you only programmed in JavaScript. It made you appear to not know what you were doing.

Nobody knew what Ajax was. It would fly under the radar for a six full years before the world caught up.

2004: Google releases Gmail, which uses this super cool "XML thing" to be wicked responsive. By "XML thing," I'm obviously referring to Ajax. Programmers who had scoffed at Javascript began to realize that it had a ton of potential.

February 2005: YouTube launches. In 2005, online video was such a foreign concept. This video, a video of a guy at a zoo, was the first video uploaded to YouTube. This was an enormous step in video becoming a core part of the web.

December 2005: DHH Releases Ruby on Rails, a web framework with a bunch of crazy ideas. Ruby on Rails pushed people to use HTTP the way the spec was designed. But it wasn't just immediately accepted as a good idea.

August 2006: John Resig creates jQuery. John Resig is known today as one of the most influential developers in recent memory. But back in 2006, he was just a recent college graduate.

Today, 96.4% of websites that use a JavaScript library use JQuery.

June 2007: Apple launches the first generation iPhone. Mobile has had an enormous impact on the way developers need to think about the things they build.

July 2008: Apple releases the App Store. Third parties could now build native applications and submit them to the App Store.

December 2009: CoffeeScript launches. CoffeeScript launched as an alternative to JavaScript. CoffeeScript was one of the earliest examples of transpiling one programming language into the JavaScript language.

This transpiling idea has been used more recently with advancements of JavaScript ahead of web browser support.

October 2010: BackboneJS appears. BackboneJS is one of the earliest "JavaScript frameworks" to gain reasonable traction.

October 2014: HTML5. HTML5 and CSS3 make it possible to do the things that you've come to expect from modern web applications.

June 2015: ES6 is standardized. The ECMAScript community agrees on ES6, the next version of JavaScript. This sets forward the next language that the web will use.

I've probably missed quite a few things.

But the interesting common thread is this:

In the programming community, the ideas that seem wacky at first are typically the ideas that end up being the most useful.

My best bet about where this is all headed:

I touched on this in other answers, and I wrote a blog post about the technology I'm excited about in the upcoming years. But in short, I'm pretty bullish on:

  • ES6
  • ReactJS
  • WebSockets
  • Elixir and Erlang

If you're just starting to learn to program, don't be intimidated. I could easily be wrong.

And don't invest too much time and energy into learning the cutting edge stuff first. It's a much safer and wiser move to learn the fundamentals first.

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