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Scripting in 2002 and Beyond!

Scripting in 2002 and Beyond!

January 9, 2002
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" In most cases webmasters do not want to become programmers, they just want to add some programming to their websites. "

In December of 2000 I wrote an article with my New Year's predictions for 2001. The purpose of that article was to try and explore where the scripting world would be going in 2001 and how it might relate to webmasters. At the onset of that article, I promised to return a year later and write about how wrong or right I was. Well it is time for me to make good on that promise.

I'll first provide my 2001 prediction (I feel a bit like Miss Cleo using that word) and follow it with the 2001 reality and accuracy rating. I'll try to back up with facts and/or statistics about how I derived at these accuracy ratings, but where there are errors -- or what you believe are errors -- well, they belong solely to me. Lastly, I will give you a new 2002 prediction along these same lines and make a new promise this year that I'll be back in 12 months or so to do this again.

2001 Prediction:
"I think you'll see more and more hosts encouraging clients to use PHP over the traditional Perl CGI scheme on traditional virtual servers."

2001 Reality:
While hosts weren't necessarily *encouraging* their clients to use PHP over Perl CGI as I had predicted, they were definitely an increased number of advertisements that PHP and mySQL were available or included with hosting packages than was the case in 2000. Accuracy: 75%.

** 2002 Prediction **
Many hosts have wisely seen that advertising more features for the same or lower price is the way to go for marketing in today's world. I think we'll see bandwith prices continuing to decrease as the supply goes down and hosts putting more "extras" into their base packages like PHP and mySQL to offset their prices, and then eventually an overall continuing reduction in bandwith overage prices per gig. We've already seen this trend in many hosts bulking up their packages and giving webmasters more features that used to require additonal fees.

2001 Prediction:
"More Dynamic Web Pages (and web sites) Will Be In Use"

2001 Reality:
You can follow along with the trend of PHP users: http://www.php.net/usage.php with studies from NetCraft and SecuritySpace about actual PHP usage, but the numbers seem to dictate that there was a jump from 5 million to 6 million users with a slight levelling off towards the end of the year. While this study only focuses on PHP usage, it is a good barometer of people moving towards more dynamic sites because the majority of PHP installations are not php CGI installations. I also saw quite a bit of discussion about SSI and my article on SSI http://www.tdscripts.com/ssi.html was a well travelled webpage in 2001, so I feel that this prediction was very accurate.. Accuracy: 90%

** 2002 Prediction **
I predict this trend will continue because I believe most surfers want to customize content they like and the viable delivery for this is using dynamic web pages.

2001 Prediction:
"Webmaster awareness of PHP will increase"

2001 Reality:
The PHP course we did at Script School continued to get new activity even though it is now over 1 1/2 years old. Tom, who runs Tom's Newbie Booster (perhaps the busiest Adult Webmaster Newbie Board) also picked up PHP and has been doing some programming and sharing with newbies some of his code. I read many different discussions comparing SSI and using PHP over on that board in 2001 as well. While not every webmaster knows what PHP is yet, the number of them who do has grown exponentially. Accuracy: 100%

** 2002 Prediction **
PHP is going to level off somewhat as shown by the NetCraft figures, but it will show some more growth as I don't think it has peaked in popularity yet. Since there is no version 5 of PHP scheduled any time in 2002, that might give the proprietary world a little steam. Microsoft is coming on board in February with their new and certainly controversial Visual.Net line of products (Visual C++ Net, Visual Basic Net, etc) which could bring increased and/or renewed interest (I'll admit that I'm somewhat interested) in Microsoft solutions for web deployment in the future. This one will be interesting to see what developes. Will .net be a flop (as some developers are predicting) or will it be another feather in the MS cap?

2001 Prediction:
"Perl isn't dying, it is becoming niched"

2001 Reality:
As of this writing the current perl stable version is 5.6.1, and Perl developments seems to be moving more towards an object-oriented programming (OOP) approach, which in an odd sort of way fits in hand with Microsoft's OOP moves with .net, but then many people in the development community believe strongly in OOP because of reusuable objects and other useful features that classes bring to the table. With the exception of some Perl CGI script upgrades in my business I didn't do much new Perl CGI development in 2001. There is still a significant, loyal following for Perl and as I said last year, it isn't going anywhere, although I think my prediction that it would be becoming niched is almost dead on. However, we also saw many other companies continue to release solutions in Perl CGI, despite the growing presence of PHP/mySQL so I have to split this one up the middle. Accuracy: 50%

** 2002 Prediction **
Perl continues to be a powerhouse language for other than web tasks, which is one of its strengths and PHP's weaknesses by comparison. So whether Perl is continued to be used for many new projects (and I think it is obvious from 2001 that it will continue to be used), it can be used for so many other purposes that it will continue to be a great tool to use in many situations -- including some CGI situations. I particularly like the ease of being able to call Perl from C routines. That can save C programmers big time by not having to do it all in C when there really is not performance-related reason to do so. As far as webmasters using Perl CGI and OOP? It is my opinion that OOP is more confusing for newer people to programming and that anything which makes the learning curve to programming harder will be met with at least some resistance by webmasters. Perhaps more importantly, in most cases webmasters do not want to become programmers, they just want to add some programming to their websites (forms, __ of the day stuff, banner rotation, etc). So while developers might choose to write some or many applications in Perl using OOP, webmasters writing their own basic CGI scripts will not. I think the trend will continue for Perl to be the tool of choice for some web developers and in some specific situations, but the majority of newer webmasters especially will seek out PHP or other languages for adding scripting to their websites. Old habits are hard to break though and some of the webmasters who have been around and do their own Perl CGI programming will be more reluctant to change. Perl still isn't going to disappear tomorrow or in the next 5 years.

2001 Prediction:
"More books and websites about PHP"

2001 Reality:
Though this prediction was kind of a no brainer and the kind of prediction you would get if you called a psychic line, this was clearly a huge affirmative just by the sheer number of new PHP books released (visit Amazon and search for PHP and look at publishing dates). The numbers of those books were greatly increased (since PHP 4 came out in mid 2000 there was a need to update books about PHP 3+). Accuracy: 100%

** 2002 Prediction **
Again, since there are no plans that I'm aware of for PHP version 5.0 in 2002, I don't think we'll see as many new books about PHP as was in 2001. It is possible that there will still be some overflow in publishing simply because of how behind the print publishing world is -- that's not a diss, that's the nature of the beast.

2001 Prediction:
"Continued Core PHP Development in 2001"

2001 Reality:
The current version of PHP as of this writing is: 4.1.1. so since my article a year ago they have jumped from 4.0.3 to that which is a complete bump in minor version. The development team continues to provide timely updates to PHP which is necessary to its continued growth and renewed interest. This one was another easy prediction where I took the easy way out, lol. Accuracy: 100%

** 2002 Prediction **
I think we'll see a similar development cycle in 2002 for PHP core developement. So maybe they'll be at version 4.2 or 4.3 a year from now. Purely guessing here.

2001 Prediction:
"Interfacing with databases will increase"

2001 Reality:
This is one I think I was really wrong about but I have no statistical means to back it up. So I'm going to say that while I *hoped* this would be the case in 2001, the reality is that databasing content for webmasters is still in the realm of something many would like to do, but lower on the priority schedule than perhaps it should be for the average webmaster and most of the bigger operations either already were databased or did so in 2001. I know a few sites that databased their content like Porn Resource. It really is a great way to go if you have multiple sites, but it can take a lot of time to get setup which probably is the reason for the hesitancy. Accuracy: 10%

** 2002 Prediction **
I'd like to rerun my same prediction for 2001 again verbatim.

2001 Prediction:
"A more demanding surfer will emerge"

2001 Reality:
With the fallout of many mainstream sites and the increasing use of intrusive spyware (anybody seen an ugly 'gator in your sys tray?) and other popup advertising, the surfer has gotten more savvy and less willing to reach for his wallet. Nobody could have predicted the horrible act in September which certainly affected 4th quarter activity for many online businesses and retail businesses at a time when it is normally the most productive sales period of the year. I think the surfer this year was less inspired, but not neccessarily more demanding. Less inspired to pull out his credit card because of various security concerns and viruses and bullshit in general. Accuracy: 50%

2002 Prediction:
Surfers will be looking for alternate ways to get to web content. I am really convinced that we'll see more use of cell phones and other wireless networks getting on board. I don't know if WAP is the wave of the future because it seems pretty limited to me, but I can see more and more people wanting to get access to webcontent through other means than computers. This will make it increasingly important for webmasters to dynamically produce their content in various formats (see database prediction above). In Europe they are way ahead of the US in wireless to web usage.

There ya go, eight 2001 recaps and 2002 predictions. I hope you are able to use scripting on your website in 2002 to increase your traffic, member retention and bottom line.

TDavid is co-owner, programmer and webmaster for several sites devoted to programming including his own http://www.tdscripts.com/ He has done custom programming in various programming languages for companies all over the world. Every Friday at 2pm PST you can catch his weekly radio show dedicated to the technical side of webmastering and programming at http://www.scriptschool.com/radio/


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