The most epic tech-battles in 2010

So we've seen a couple of 2010 lists lately, but from a technical perspective, we think they were missing some important stuff.

The following list is a snapshot of heated-up discussions in our company about things that could shake up the web development world in the year ahead.

1. Database wars: NO SQL vs. SQL

The unevitable rise of the NoSQL movement is already fully underway. New database concepts such as key-value based document-stores let web developers hope for more flexibilities, better scalability and less headaches. CouchDB and MongoDB, two of the most prominent representatives for these kinds of databases, are gaining massive popularity among the early adopter tech crowd and are already attracting some vc money (ok, that doesn’t count much).

What comes on the top of this is that MySQL - the largest and most popular SQL database - hasn’t had a new major version for years. Plus, it’s under Oracle’s control now, much to the discontent of developers who become worried about it’s open-source status. What’s left is a “save MySQL’ initiative that undoubtedly reveals a decade-long dominance slowly fading away.

2. Mobile wars: iPhone vs. Android

We strongly believe that 2010 is finally the year of the android. Put the Nexus One aside for a second. Google doesn’t need to produce an uber phone like Apple, they simply wait for a bunch of phone manufacturer to release one Android-based phone after the other. Android is becoming the mobile OS for the masses.

Android’s momentum is strong and the OS has the characteristics to perfectly fit into the role of the iPhone counterpart. It’s free, it’s open, it doesn’t have Apple’s ridiculous application-approval process and it is equipped with superior home-grown software (like Google Navigator).

3. Traffic wars: SEO vs SEM

This will be a good year for google, especially considering the impact of their latest search engine updates to their core business, paid traffic. Obviously, the search engine is becoming more robust against SEO voodoo, and favors “high-quality’ content from reliable sources. Let’s not forget that the uber abused no-follow tag and Twitter already massively disrupt the link graph.

In addition to that, the SEO space gets extremely crowded, and if your business or service is not niche enough, you might have no other option than entering the SEM game (which isn’t a bad thing).

Consequently, most keywords bids will likely increase over this year. Do you think keywords are already too expensive for your business? Think again, and start focusing on Conversion Rate Optimization and improving the interaction process with your customer.

4.  Design wars: Art Director vs. Machine


In the wake of an expanding cloud, with hundreds of web services created day by day, and the rise of niche eCommerce shops, we’re facing more and more websites that want to sell us things. But from what we’ve seen in the past years, fancy design contributes - if at all - only a small portion to the success of converting visitors to sales.

Take a look at the big companies, from Amazon to Zappos, you will agree that these websites do not really look pretty and even lack of clean functional design. These websites are driven by split testing and their appearance is decided by the resulting conversion rates rather than by an art director. Of course, algorithms still need human input, and knowing what to test is key to the success of the website optimization. But let’s face it -  art directors usually do not have this knowledge.

With tools (e.g website optimizeromniture) and wisdom being spread around the web, and a hungry SEO crowd eager to find ways to increase revenue margins, we might see a slow paradigm shift in the mainstream: Away from the artistic approach to design, to a performance-driven, analytic approach.

5. Platform wars: HTML5 vs FLASH

The HTML5 topic is already beautifully hyped in the web and we have, for a small part, contributed to this hype :-) .

Traffic of several projects indicates that there is already a 50% market share for HTML5 compatible browsers. While this share is slowly raising, it is still too far away to consider HTML5 as a the platform of choice for generic websites, stores and blogs. However, we can expect a lot for specialized web services and applications, since HTML5 has a dramatic impact into the speed of development, ease of maintance and brings a broad scope of new functionalities. That said, we’re currently building a content management application with HTML5. No more IE6 hassle, you don’t know how good that feels.

We also see a bright future for Flash - but on a whole different battleground. Adobe has pushed Flash from the role of nice eye candy to a solid RIA platform. By enabling to develop iPhone apps using regular ActionScript, things got more interesting with AIR and Flex.

6. Language wars: Clojure vs. Scala

A new set of languages is rising. While no sane developer would voluntarily choose PHP over Ruby on Rails or Django (or any of the other frameworks in Ruby and Python), the alpha geeks are already playing with their new toys, Scala und Clojure. While Ruby and Python introduced powerful flexibility and demonstrated that flexibility does not necessarily come at the expense of stability, Scala and Clojure have powerful built in concurrency features, Scala calling them actors and Clojure providing agents. With a rising number of CPU cores these languages could finally empower developers to utilize parallel architectures efficiently and maybe leave our friendsters Ruby and Python as “ye olde’ languages if they don’t catch up.

The biggest difference between both languages is that Scala is statically typed while Clojure favours duck typing. Syntactically Scala borrowed a lot of ideas from Smalltalk and Ruby, Clojure is based on Lisp. Both languages are pretty nice, especially Clojure can be used very expressively, though Scala seems to have a little more momentum. Both Scala and Clojure are based on the Java Virtual Machine, which makes them easy to integrate into existing Java Systems, easier to sell to clueless executives and provides them with a giant pool of available libraries right from the start. Last but not least, they can both be used to develop for the Android Platform.

We’re excited to see where 2010 will lead us and what surprises it might hold for the development community.