Web '08 predictions: The rise of RIAs and the 3D web

Recently, I gave a talk titled Web '07 - Web '08 at the Christmas charity dinner (linking to the Google cache as the original site appears to be down at the moment) organized by Sussex Geek Dinners. It was a lighthearted tour through the highlights of Web '07 and a look ahead to Web '08* with predictions by myself and some of my friends.

In my predictions for 2008, I talked about how we will be seeing more RIAs in 2008 -- both from Adobe and third parties -- how Silverlight is not going to have a widespread impact (although is definitely something to keep an eye on for 2009/10 and the competition is going to give Adobe a welcome push in the right direction), how mobile Flash is going to move away from Flash Lite to full-scale Flash playback on devices and how we're going to see Flash on the iPhone, how sometimes-connected applications and web/desktop hybrid applications are going to gain importance with AIR, Google Gears, etc., and how real-time 3D in Flash is going to change the aesthetics of the web.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last phrase. It's the same thing I uttered back in 2005 before the release of Flash 8. Back then, .Net magazine pasted my prediction on its cover and I was talking about alpha-channel video, not 3D. I think we can agree that alpha channel video in Flash has altered the aesthetics of the web in the intervening period and I am convinced that 2008 is the year that Flash is going to do the same thing with 3D thanks to Papervision3D.

Specifically, the combination of alpha-channel video, bitmap effects and filters, and real-time 3D is going to create a new benchmark in production values for online experiences. We're already seeing trailblazers like Carlos Ulloa, Ralph Hauwert, and John Grden are pushing the boundaries in this area and, in 2008, we are going to see more mainstream adoption of these techniques.

(I just read a somewhat myopic article in 3D World magazine titled "The look of 3D in 2008" that didn't even touch upon web 3D in any of its predictions! Could it be that web 3D is going to blindsight the traditional 3D community?)

To these predictions, I add two new ones that are closer to my heart: Firstly, Flash developers are going to get a lovely toy-box of APIs to work with and, secondly, we're going to witness a conference that's also going to be a technological tour-de-force to very visibly and publicly define how far we've come in Web '08. The latter has me more excited than I've been in a _very_ long time. And that's all I'm going to say about that for the moment.

The web just keeps getting more and more exciting... here's to a most wonderful 2008!

* Just as an aside, can we please drop the version numbers? We know in software that the moment an application gets its version number it's out of date. So why do we want to apply the same paradigm to describing the web? It's far more accurate, imho, to analyze the characteristics that defined the web in a given year. Hence, Web '08, not Web 3.0).