Steve writes:

I am a control engineering student about to finish my studies and I’m preparing my thesis, which I decided would be a project including Web programming. I decided I want to get my hands on this because I want to figure out whether Web and app developing would be something I’d be willing to pursue (plus computer networks and C++ programming were my favorite classes). Initially, I thought I would spend time in becoming knowledgeable about many kinds of programming including .NET, HTML5, iOS, and Android developing and more, but soon enough I realized that a lot of developers dedicate their time and efforts in a single style of developing, or a certain platform.

At the moment, mobile app developers and especially iOS developers are highly wanted by employers in my country (Greece), however, since the world of Internet and computer platforms changes faster than ever before and it’s hard to know for sure what’s going to be relevant in five years or so, what advice would you give to a confused beginner who would like to potentially pursue this full time in the future? On what area of programming or what platform would it make sense to focus? Do you think it’s possible for a single and determined developer to work on many platforms? Also, when would it make sense for a developer to invest time in less popular platforms like BlackBerry and Windows Phone? And last, since I happened to return from the Firefox OS APP DAYS event, what are your thoughts about it? Do you think that open source HTML5 developing could be the next big thing, or is it dead and it’s only worth investing time in platform-based apps?

I hope my questions are not too confusing. To sum it up in one question: Which do you consider the best platform on which a new developer should focus?

ProgrammingMastering Web technologies (and staying on top of trends) will always be advantageous.

If you keep updated with all the latest trends in Web development, you’re bound to hear about hundreds of different platforms and languages that each have a unique solution to the problem of developing the next generation of software. Unfortunately, only a handful of these platforms ever make it past the initial flash in the pan promotional push they receive from programmer and developer communities.

The trick is finding a platform that looks like it has longevity, and learning as much as you can about the major standards and updates taking place on that platform.

HTML5 is an example of one of those major standards that is worth investing time and effort into learning. The Web is the one driving force of which virtually every modern device takes advantage. iOS and Android apps are nice, but a solid website with matching functionality that runs across virtually every device can be even better, at least until native apps can be created. It’s important to know how to serve the majority of your potential user base so you can provide that service while you create something more refined for specific groups.

BlackBerry and Windows Phone may not have the same numbers as iOS or Android today, but that doesn’t mean a comeback isn’t in the cards for the future. Apple was once written off as a loss by many pundits in the tech world. Today, it’s the most valuable company in the industry.

The greatest thing about the world of development and programming is that your value is in how much you can learn. Having that updated knowledge makes you infinitely more valuable to a company than being master-level efficient at a platform that passed its prime years ago. You can stay ahead of the game by spending some time each day keeping up with the latest trends and identifying which ones have the most potential to stick around for some time to come.

Photo: Gabor Cselle