Here Comes The Open Web – Embrace It

The Web is moving on to a new era of openness, mobility, and digital business. The open Web is a platform built on HTTP (the fundamental web protocol), a new generation of HTML, dynamic languages, and wide use of Internet services for everything from video encoding to social graphs to order management and payments. The open Web made its debut in consumer applications; for enterprises, it will power a new generation of customer engagement applications. The open Web will be particularly important to app Internet systems that bridge mobile devices, cloud services, and enterprise applications and data. Forrester recently published a report that will equip application development and delivery leaders with an understanding of the open Web and its potential value.

We define the open Web as: a culture and community emphasizing openness, transparency, and freedom of developer choice as well as an application platform based on HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript clients, HTTP/representational state transfer (REST), and cloud services. The open Web includes the app Internet as one potential design pattern.

A new breed of developers is propelling the open Web: young developers who grew up on the Web and develop outside the firewall — primarily producing applications aimed at consumers. Their career expectations were also born of the Web, and they expect openness of information, technology, and expertise. Open Web developers share certain motivations that have shaped the open Web trend. They:

  • Strive to create great customer experiences.
  • Craft applications that can reach customers wherever they are.
  • Leverage customers’ inherent desire to be social.
  • Deliver applications and new functionality quickly.
  • Minimize time spent on low-value tasks to focus more on creating business value.

While the initial efforts focus on customer apps, we think AD&D pros will eventually use an open Web approach in employee-focused web applications as well. That’s right: We will repeat the adoption pattern of the World Wide Web during the mid 1990s — the new technology and approach will take hold in consumer applications first and then spread into corporate applications.

As we adopt the open Web, we’ll also change the key assumptions about our work:

  • Polyglot developers who develop in many dynamic languages will be the norm, not the exception. Java and C# will become just two choices among languages.
  • We’ll shift our focus away from systems of record and toward systems of engagement.
  • Our business partners will drive us to design web platforms, not just websites.
  • We’ll give smart mobile devices and apps high priority in our designs — usually with a mobile-first policy.

Open Web adoption isn’t a question of if but when — and firms that embrace it early will have a huge lead on their competitors, as the apps they develop will engage and delight customers on virtually any user interface (UI) or device. If you haven’t already started investigating the open Web and its technologies, you’re late, and the sands of time are flowing against you. Get started immediately.

Jeffrey S. Hammond and I conducted this research. Forrester clients can read both of our reports at these links: http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/here_comes_open_web_%26%238212%3B_embrace_it/q/id/58579/t/2and http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/embracing_open_web_web_technologies_you_need/q/id/61294/t/2.

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Here Comes The Open Web — Embrace It

One of the things I enjoy the most about being an industry analyst is that I've spent the past six years meeting some great developers. Personally, I’m not sure I could cover any other technology area then application development. The reason is simple: I see developers as a worldwide force for good (It's almost axiomatic, as the bad apples become "hackers"). Developers innovate, they create, they push technology forward — and they are fun to go have a beer with at the end of the day.

While writing for developers is fun, it’s not always easy. For the past few years, my topic coverage areas have sometimes felt a bit disjointed — almost as if there are two different developer communities out there that I deal with. In the past, I've referred to these groups as the "inside the firewall crowd" and the "outside the firewall crowd." The inquiries I have with the first group are fairly conventional — they segment as .NET or Java development shops, they use app servers and RDBMSes, and they worry about security and governance. Inquiries with the second group are very different — these developers are multilingual, hold very few alliances to vendors, tend to be younger, and embrace open source and open communities as a way to get almost everything done. The first group thinks web services are done with SOAP; the second does them with REST and JSON. The first group thinks MVC, the second thinks "pipes and filters" and eventing. I could go on and on with the comparison.

So why does this matter to you? I believe the advent of scale-out computing (in the cloud) and the proliferation of mobile devices everywhere make the technologies, architectures, and tactics used by the outside-the-firewall crowd critically important to enterprise application development. In the next few years, their world is headed straight to an IT shop near you. Today John Rymer and I are publishing a pair of research reports that describe this "Open Web" generation and the technologies that they use. If you're already in that group, our profiling will seem old hat, but we find that the world the Open Web developer lives in is unfamiliar to a majority of mainstream development shops. For these more traditional shops, the call to action is clear: If you want to be successful in the multichannel future of open APIs, HTML5, Javascript, app Internet, and xAAS, you need to get to know this new breed of Open Web developer. You need to understand how you will recruit them, adjust your SDLC to aid them, and create communities for them to collaborate.

Describing the Open Web takes far more space and time than I have here, but I’ll close with what I feel is one of the most importance parts of what we see going on. Three years ago I wrote a piece for the Forrester Leadership Board Application Development & Delivery Council on "Enterprise Web 2.0 Patterns." In it, I introduced eight common patterns we saw in use in outside-the-firewall applications. I’ve included one of them, the Web Façade, below. It’s not original — it’s a derivation of the original "Gang of Four" Façade pattern. The reason I include it here is simple – I see it occurring repeatedly in killer mobile applications and connected products. It’s the architectural foundation of an open enterprise platform strategy. I hesitate to say it’s the "new MVC," but understanding it and how Open Web developers are using the pattern is the first step on your own journey to the Open Web.

John and I expect to be writing about the Open Web throughout the rest of the year (no pun intended). There are many new topics that need further exploration (e.g., API management, new W3C standards that augment HTML5, and securing these enterprise platforms). If you like these ideas, live them in your development life, or have suggestions for follow-ups, drop us a note; we’d love to hear from you. 

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