With mobile rapidly becoming the primary way many people interact with the Web, the space has seen substantial evolution in 2013 and seems poised for a shift heading into the coming year.

Mobile developer trends show interest in JavaScript, emphasis on scale

on Jan 6, 14 • by Chris Bubinas • with No Comments

With mobile rapidly becoming the primary way many people interact with the Web, the space has seen substantial evolution in 2013 and seems poised for a shift heading into the coming year...

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With mobile rapidly becoming the primary way many people interact with the Web, the space has seen substantial evolution in 2013 and seems poised for a shift heading into the coming year. A recent survey of mobile developers by Appcelerator and IDC found some unexpected trends in the sector, with developers highlighting Facebook's mobile emphasis, losing interest somewhat in HTML5, pinpointing Javascript as the predominant language for mobile development, witnessing a move toward larger scale app production and changing certain behaviors based on NSA surveillance revelations.

Facebook connects with mobile
The past year has seen Facebook switching to a stronger mobile strategy, abandoning HTML5 in favor of native apps, embracing mobile APIs and adding more mobile analytics. One of the results is that two-thirds of developers are connecting their apps to Facebook – 13 percent more than are doing so for Twitter, the next most-popular service. This number is surprising, Appcelerator's Michael King told VentureBeat. As of Q3 2012, 66 percent of developers said they expected Facebook to be supplanted by another mobile-first competitor.

HTML5 interest declines
While some tech industry onlookers have suggested HTML5 might see an increase in adoption as developers sought out more platform-agnostic solutions, the survey showed that interest in it has been declining steadily for more than a year, with focus on Android tablet development recently surpassing it as the fourth highest developer priority (after iPhone, iPad and Android phone, respectively). Around 60 percent of developers said they were interested in HTML5 development, compared to a peak of 73 percent in July 2012.

"This decline may be attributable to developer pragmatism," the report noted. "HTML5 has had several years now to break away from the pack and has failed to do so."

JavaScript as a developer preference
"Originally developed as a browser-agnostic scripting language, JavaScript appears to becoming the lingua franca for mobile development," the report noted. "It's [sic] ability to render rich results from lightweight, simple-to-learn language has made it a natural fit for mobile's speed of development."

Among developers, 47 percent ranked JavaScript as the most relevant language, while just 23 percent and 20 percent said the same of Java and Objective-C, respectively. Nearly nine out of 10 developers said it was likely or very likely that JavaScript would dominate both client-side and server-side development in the year ahead.

NSA concerns
In the wake of revelations about surveillance on the part of the U.S. National Security Agency, 64 percent of worldwide developers said they are re-thinking aspects of mobile app development, although those in the U.S. seemed the least concerned, with just 57 percent making adjustments. In particular, developers worldwide are becoming more rigorous with data encryption (23.5 percent) and are placing greater emphasis on secure coding practices (17.4 percent).

Developers can strengthen software security by using tools like static analysis software to catch errors in code, for instance. King told VentureBeat he was "shocked" more developers weren't adding in more of such protections, and he told InfoWorld that researchers expected the impact of the NSA revelations to be much higher.

"Developers are looking at it and saying yep, it's a problem but it's not a huge deal to us," he told InfoWorld.

Large-scale production
With mobile becoming an emphasis for an increasingly wide range of companies, the sector is unsurprisingly seeing a shift toward, in the words of the report "industrialization," with development shops adding staff, building apps for more operating systems and accelerating production schedules. Nearly half of respondents reported releasing apps at a frequency of once a month or faster, and 81 percent said they were building apps for at least two platforms. Many shops are increasingly using analytics to track which platforms to build for, and new platforms such as iOS in the car, Google Glass and Windows are expected to grow as focuses for mobile development.

As the scale and rate of production grows, mobile shops can benefit from using tools like static analysis software to continue meeting quality demands while keeping up with the pace and volume of development. By automating many checks, such tools can simplify the testing process for mobile developers.

Software news brought to you by Klocwork Inc., dedicated to helping software developers create better code with every keystroke.

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