The Top 2017 Software Releases for Developers, and What’s Ahead for 2018

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2017 has been a year of important software releases and shifts in tool popularity for developers, with 2018 being less about JavaScript fatigue and more about making it easier to build cool code.  

In this roundup for App Academy, I try to capture the developer zeitgeist for 2107, and stick a pin in several significant trends you’ll see in the New Year.

2107 was the year of JavaScript

While ES6, the now current definition of JavaScript was finalized in 2015, 2016 was a year most developers put off adoption. In 2017, ES6 reached a tipping point and became the Javascript implementation to use. In the just-out State of JavaScript 2107, ES6 has been clearly adopted by most js developers, especially those using JavaScript frameworks like React and Angular. Of the 28,000 developers polled for this study, 21,000 said they had used ES6, and planned on using ES6 again. ES5 “plain” Javascript that browsers have supported since 2009, not so much, with about 9,000 developers saying they would not be using ES5 again.

And speaking of React and Angular, both frameworks released major versions in 2017.  The one thing React 16 and Angular 5 have in common is their stated goal of providing a better base for new functionality in 2108 and beyond.

JS tooling began to get a little easier in 2017, reducing what’s become known as JavaScript Fatigue: the confusing mishmash of overlapping functionality, libraries and prepossessors that had become an increasing burden for developers. Webpack, the js asset bundler, became more popular according to State of JavaScript 2107 than older tools like browserfy, gulp, grunt, and bower.

npm which had become common packaging format for JavaScript (much like ruby gems for all things Ruby and Ruby on Rails) reached version 5, addressing at least in part a number of speed, reliability, and security issues. But a new contender, Yarn, developed by a collaboration of developers at Facebook, Google, Exponent, and Tilde rapidly gained adoption.

Upshot for 2018

If 2017 was the year of React/Angular, 2018 may very well be the year of Vue.js. Developer interest and attention continued to grow in 2017 for Vue.js as the Vue ecosystem of tools, libraries and code gained depth and breadth. If you want to dig deeper into React vs Angular vs Vue, this post, Angular vs. React vs. Vue: A 2017 comparison, by Jens Neuhaus is great resource.

Languages in 2017 and Beyond

Digging deeper, what’s the state of health of the “big” computer languages in 2017, and which languages should you consider tackling in 2018?

JavaScript 

Continues to be the language that most developers know, with 2.3 million opened pull requests on GitHub. Whether you live and breath a js framework, or just use jQuery as needed, js continues to be the biggest tent in town.

Python

Once relegated to being the computer language you learned in CS101 and not much else, Python has become the number-two language in all of GitHub. Why? Many of the economy-shifting technologies we hear about practically every day – machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, even artificial intelligence are rooted in Python.

Java

With plenty of both old school (think banks and large corporations) and new school (Android) development projects, Java has about about the same number of developers as it did five years ago, at least according to Stack Overflow.

And Ruby/Rails

(Yes, I’m lumping them together because IMO Ruby on Rails is nearly synonymous Ruby), While Ruby 2.5 is expected to be officially released this month and Ruby on Rails 5.1 bringing modern JavaScript frameworks into Rails was big news earlier this year, there’s more than a hint of unease among Rails developers now. Part of the unease is there are far fewer “pure Rails” job postings and far more “Rails + [React or Angular]” job postings as the popularity of React and Angular continues to grow. Another reason for that unease is that Python, not Ruby, is the language of choice in the big emerging technologies (AI, machine learning, natural language processing).

Stick a pin in it for 2018

Here are my 2018 recommendations  please don’t hate me.

Get good with either React, Angular or Vue

If you’re thinking about getting a new job in 2018, now is the time to get React or Angular on your CV. If you don’t use with either framework at work, you have another compelling reason to start that side project you’ve been daydreaming about.

If your day job is building Rails apps, consider focusing on Vue.js.

Very subjectively, I think Rails 5.1 and Webpack (via the Webpacker Gem) is an elegant way to cleanly incorporate React, Angular or Vue components. Vue plays well with Rails, and is attracting attention by leading developers like Chris Oliver, who’s GoRails developer site is releasing a 5-part video series on using Vue in Rails.

Machine learning, natural language processing, AI — these are all being touted as economy-changing technologies in the near future. So between 2017 and that shiny future there’s an awful lot of code to be written, and you as a forward-thinking developer want to be relevant and employable in that future. That means If you don’t know Python, learn it in 2018.

Where in the GAFAM are we going?

Plan to make some to track in 2018 what the top companies in the world, known together as GAFAM, are feverishly working on, because they’re talking about your future too. Yes, it’s Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. Whether it’s the three-way battle to dominate voice controlled interfaces between Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa or Microsoft versus Google when it comes to machine learning, these are the technologies that are going to be a big part of your programming future.

One last software prediction for 2018

After more than two full years in development the single most-used CSS Framework will finally graduate to 4.0. Bootstrap 4 will definitely, almost for sure, probably release!

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Written by Bob Walsh

I'm Bob Walsh, http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobwalsh/ , a Rails/JS developer, writer and author of The Web Startup Success Guide (http://www.amazon.com/Web-Startup-Success-Guide/dp/1430219858).

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