Five Things That Will Keep Shaping The Web in 2011

Five Things that Will Keep Shaping the Web in 2011

Last time, I discussed the things that shaped the web design industry in 2010. Now, let’s look forward to what’s ahead this year. I won’t be making crazy, outlandish predictions; instead, I’ll be talking about things that will likely continue to exert an ever-increasing influence on our industry this year.

1. Flash

Flash? I can hear people seriously questioning my mental state right now. How can Flash be a major influence this year? "But…but…but Flash is fighting to survive amidst HTML5 APIs," you must be saying to yourself. But that is where the key is.

If Flash does die, it will die fighting. And, as we all know, the best innovations happen when companies are fighting for their survival. Think about how Apple almost went bankrupt in the 90s, and now they are industry innovators with products such as iTunes, iPad, Macbook Air, and iPhone.

I doubt Flash will ever vanish from the web completely, even amidst open technologies like JavaScript and HTML. With this battle ahead, Flash must prove its worth; it must innovate, stand up, and say, "Look, this is what I can do for you that HTML5 and JavaScript won’t be able to."

Adobe, the company that owns Flash, knows that it’s under serious threat against open HTML5 APIs such as canvas, audio, and video that leverage JavaScript for creating rich media components with animation and dynamic drawing capabilities — an area that their product has been primarily fulfilling.

Because of this realization, they’re one of the first companies working on creating an HTML5 editor/IDE, starting with their HTML5 prototyping tool (codenamed Edge). They have also incorporated HTML5 canvas-exporting capabilities in Flash CS5.


Adobe has continued the development of Flash to increase its performance, especially on mobile devices with the release of Flash Player 10.1 for mobile devices.

Expect to see something out of Flash this year, whether its innovation, a repurposing of the technology, or a significant drop in usage.

2. Print Media

I regularly pick up and read a newspaper, but it would certainly be true that I am among a declining number of people who are doing so.

An industry that has significantly influenced and inspired web designers and content-driven websites (such as blogs, for example), the traditional print medium is under threat.

But it’s fighting back.

Among those under threat are print companies that produce content in a more disposable form, such as newspapers and magazines where speed and timeliness is crucial.

From paywalls to mobile apps, companies in the printed world are exploring ways to adapt to the web so that they may continue delivering the quality content they’re known to produce. If The Times, for example, can make their paywall work, then don’t be surprised to see other similar print media companies throwing up paywalls across the web and potentially influencing the culture of free content on the internet.

A big area where newspapers and magazines are focusing on is the Mobile Web. Reading a magazine on the desktop isn’t that great of an experience, but sitting with an iPad while you have your morning coffee and breakfast can easily compare to the experience. iPad apps, accompanied by subscription-based payment models, are seen as the key focus for a number of print media outlets.

It’s not just a case of traditional media being ported to apps either; the first iPad-only magazine, called Project, has already been released.


As traditionally print-based companies feel the threat from the internet, we might see innovations in the ways their websites seek monetization and revenue. Even content-driven sites, already increasingly less reliant on internet-advertisement monetization, may take cue from a medium that has heavily influenced their own. We have seen recently, for example, the Tuts+ network, which got its start on the web, offering subscription-based premium content much like The Times and the New York Times paywall.

3. Hardware-Accelerated Browsers

Described as the "next frontier of the browser wars," by ReadWriteWeb, hardware acceleration is set to bring a whole new realm of speed to your browser. Opening up previously untapped processing power in your computer will enrich our browsing experience.

Widely touted by Microsoft in IE9, hardware acceleration (or hardware-accelerated browsers) is set to improve the power and speed of your browser, boosting the performance of rendering times, JavaScript performance, and HTML5 animation, audio, and video performance.

Hardware-Accelerated Browsers

And it’s not just IE, Google Chrome and Firefox are coming out with their own hardware-accelerated browser features. Google Chrome, for example, has Tabpose and other GPU-accelerated compositing features in the works. Likewise, Firefox 4 has full hardware acceleration.

From a user’s perspective, we’re set to see improvements in the speed and quality of graphics rendering. The ability to utilize hardware more fully will mean an even richer web experience.

4. Television

Watching TV on the internet and accessing the internet on your TV are the two primary ways the internet and the television industry are working together. TV on the web is already on demand with web services such as Hulu, Netflix, Fancast, and BBC iPlayer.

TV advertising revenues will inevitably drop as people increasingly watch their shows on demand rather than at their scheduled time with the programmed ads. Bandwidth is also an issue: Streaming HD video through the internet can be taxing on internet service providers.

The second focus is having the internet on your television set so that you can watch streaming video on your awesome flatscreen TV while taking advantage of the web’s interactive and socially-networked features. We have Apple TV, Google TV, internet-capable TVs, and gaming consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii; the number of options for getting the web in your TV is near endless.


Expect industry leaders to investigate new compression and encoding technologies to assist the speed and file size of delivery of TV through the web. Expect even more innovation in the TV/web space this year.

5. Location-Based Services

The internet no longer sits on your desktop, and everybody from your kids to your grandmother uses the internet. You carry the internet around in your pocket, in your laptop or netbook, and in your tablet; it’s only natural that technology companies will want to take advantage of this.

Facebook has stepped into the space last year; and now, they already have over 100 million Facebook mobile users. Gowalla rolled out their latest iteration not so long ago, along with some very interesting features that highlight the power of location-awareness. The Notes feature in Gowalla, for example, allows users to leave notes about a particular location that a friend can pick up when they visit the area (e.g., "Dad, don’t forget to pick up milk when you come here to Costco").

Location-Based Services

There are now also plenty of "near me" applications such the SoleSearch iPhone app that uses GPS data to show you boutique sneaker retail stores near you (the app was initially built by shoe enthusiasts/entrepreneurs with no programming experience). The task management iPhone app, Omnifocus, shows great use of location awareness by allowing you to create tasks with specific locations so that your to-do lists have improved context that can increase your productivity.

We’ll see more location-aware apps that will serve you relevant information and features depending on where you are at any given moment. Combine location-aware features with other upcoming technologies such as barcode scanning, book cover recognition, Google’s speech recognition API, and augmented reality — and the possibilities suddenly becomes countless.

No doubt, an increase of pushed, location-aware content for smart phones and similar devices informing you of nearby points of interest will only rise in popularity.  We’ll also see content tailored to your current location while you browse websites on your mobile phone, and even more innovation focused in this space.

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Dave Sparks is a web designer and developer working for Armitage Online in the Lake District. He can be found writing about various web topics on his blog at, twittering as and working on his website analytics project – Stat Share.

This was published on Jan 16, 2011


Ralph Jan 16 2011

That was a nice look into your christal ball, Dave.

I also think that (Adobe) Flash will strike back this year with some kind of innovative solution to their problems. If they don’t, they will loose for sure the battle with HTML5.

Young Jan 16 2011

I was really hoping Jeff Bridges would continue to shape the web in 2011 somehow.

Jacob Gube Jan 16 2011

@Young: Ditto.

Nicola Iarocci Jan 16 2011

Not sure on Flash really. There’s so much excitement about and around HTML5 and CSS3 already. Adobe reaction has been too slow. I think the masses have already formed an opinion: there’s a new king in town.

Dave Sparks Jan 16 2011

@Young – have you seen Jeff Bridges personal site? It’s actually a bit different.

Tv is a big one for me, and mobile.
I can’t put down my iPhone, but when I got a apple tv it completely changed how I feel and see the Internet. It just opened a new world when the Internet as an information source can blend with home entertainment and you don’t even have to feel like you are having “computer time”.
Great for after a long day of programming and you don’t want to see a computer for hours!

Dayson Jan 16 2011

@Ralph: I think one of the biggest innovation flash could ever bring is compiling all output to clean html5/css3 rather than swf objects! This would revolutionize it.

Stewart Jan 16 2011

As long as Hollywood movies are still being made, Flash won’t die! It’s difficult to find a Movie website without some use of Flash.

I still like to read a Newspaper when I can, but find myself reading the online counterparts more and more often. Not convinced the Paywall thing will be sustainable in the long run, News and articles are accessible all over the internet for free.

One thing to add to the list: IPv6

Adobe’s marketing machine in action.

@Ralph: As far as I’m concerned, unless IE starts supporting HTML5 even more, I don’t see flash losing very easily. Granted Chrome is gaining speed, but the separation of browsers is taxing on developers to supply both HTML5 video/audio and have it degrade to flash when flash can just be used in one place for all browsers.

Daquan Wright Jan 16 2011

It’s always nice to predict how technologies will shape the future web. HTML5 I think will be huge, it could beat Flash but as said, Flash may just spring back to life with some innovation.

I also think browsers will start implementing new features like Chrome’s “every tab is a process” feature. If not, I’m sure browsers will innovate themselves in other ways. :D

pixelBender67 Jan 16 2011

I agree Flash is not going anywhere, and will always be on the cutting edge, Adobe is a big supporter of html5 and have integrated it in their product, I am looking forward for the release of molehill.

denbagus Jan 16 2011

thank you Dave for you tips.. it will be useful for me to fight in 2011

awais Jan 17 2011

great Things are on the TIPS. thanks Dave

@Dayson, nice thought, may your wish come true!

Jamie Jan 17 2011

I think there will be a lot of sites created by people and programs who use no or minimal coding to do it.

I think progs like iWeb and Flash Catalyst will get a lot of competition this year from other software vendors who claim their products can take the legwork out of making a website and will allow people to go from thought to screen all graphically.

Jacob Gube Jan 17 2011

@Jamie: I agree with you. My dad, who has no programming skills whatsoever, figured out how to launch his own website with 0 help from me. It’s easier to deploy brochure, templated websites.

Kinsey Barnard Jan 17 2011

This was a most informative article. Being in the senior age group I am simply awestruck at the rapidity with which things are changing and evolving.

It used to be technologies had life spans measured in decades now they are lucky to make it to one. This is truly a new world for the young and fleet of foot. Hats off to you kids! Keep those Nikes in mint condition.

I must say my favorite trend is getting the internet on my wide screen television. I hope it puts great pressure on the satellite companies (satellite is my only option) the freaking robber barons! :)

Vivek Parmar Jan 17 2011

thanks for sharing the tips i don’t think that you miss out any of them

daemonna Jan 17 2011

about flash: you’re completely wrong, flash will be here and stronger than ever… coz i said so? no, simply because filthy rich companies signed for it. just look at and you get idea.

Andrei Filonov Jan 17 2011

Great points!

I think Flash will stay, although I don’t mind to see less flash around :D Some websites just abuse it, IMHO.

As a web developer I am big supporter of #5 – location based services. Telling this to all my clients, it’s time to catch that train before every competitors did.

Jacob Gube Jan 17 2011

@daemonna: I would re-read the article again. Next time, it’s best to comment after you’ve actually read the article.

Barry Jan 17 2011

Remarkable article. We shall see by 2012 where we stand. I think you’re right on.

Don’t forget, 47% of the internet according to W3C browser stats still use Windows XP.

Windows XP will not support IE9 and other updated browsers for the HTML 5 content. What I am seeing is the creation of HTML 5 with a “fallback” of flash content.

Great post!

Bruce Jan 21 2011

If you intend to make a documentry, no matter how good it is, use HTML5 and js, but if you intend to create a movie like experience on web, you definetly need to use Flash. :)

Dave Sparks Jan 21 2011

@Mike – I think there is only IE9 that is not supported on windows XP. Most other browsers latest versions work with XP, I can’t speak for all but certainly Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

That said XP is 10 years old this year and there have been 2 versions of windows since, surely it’s not going to be around too far into the future.

John McDuffie Jan 21 2011

Someone mentioned IE and I laughed aloud. So on to seriousness, Flash should die and anyone trying to keep it alive or using it in web design should be drawn and quartered.

I agree with everything except the flash part and I an actively hoping Flash dies soon along with IE and Oprah browsers. (spelling is intended)

Print design is and should always be a factor. Magazine and print designers have decades more experience in what works as far as marketing goes. We know what will keep you reading and how to spark interest in a product or service. Early internet marketing was a bullying system that tried to blind people into clicking a link. Today they cheat and hijack to get the almighty click. I can print the truth in black and white on the back cover of my magazine and get every readers attention. No bells, whistles or blinding lights needed or used.

So no more crazy flash talk please. That upset me.

Dave Sparks Jan 22 2011

Hi John thanks for the comment. As much as you dislike Flash it has been a major influence over the internet, we wouldn’t have much of the multimedia we now experience online without it. You also can’t deny it’s influence on current web design, as mentioned above many things such as hover menus have their basis in Flash. But I think it has had it’s place in main stream web design so it will die out in usage from there.

I’m not quite sure what your problem with Opera is? They have long been one of the most forward thinking standards compliant browser makers and continue to make large contributions to the development of technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3.

Okyere Adu-Gyamfi Jan 24 2011

I strongly believe there will be a craze towards creating more HTML5 and CSS3 based web apps and web sites than Flash based ones. but in the end, it will become a well balanced field of HTML5 and CSS3 for simple to relatively complicated web apps and sites and Flash for more immersive animation based systems like Movie sites or Heavy duty media websites.

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