Best of 2009 in the Coding Industry

Every year we see amazing technical advances and 2009 was no exception. Both Apple and Microsoft released new versions of their operating systems; pretty much every major browser, and some smaller ones, saw significant releases and improvements. New tools were released to assist developers as well as new books to increase the effectiveness of both new and seasoned developers alike. In this post we take a look at some of the highlights of 2009. In addition to featuring items you should already know about, I hope to present a few items you may have overlooked during the past year.




Firerift launched earlier this year as a completely new breed of Content Management Systems.  Firerift is, at its core, a JSON server with an amazing user interface. The mind behind Firerift Drew Wilson refers to it as a Client side CMS. All the tagging is done using CSS classes and valid markup. Released along with Firerift was Titan, an open source JSON templating engine built on top of jQuery. Firerift is a glimpse into the future of highly dynamic, AJAX powered websites.


LESS Framework

The LESS framework for CSS provides simplified execution of advanced CSS. With support for variables, mixins, nested rules and mathematical operations. LESS lives up to its name by letting you write shorter, optimized CSS. Though it is packaged as a Ruby gem, it can be used to prepare CSS files for any technology, even straight HTML/CSS websites. Since it uses CSS syntax, it’s as easy as renaming your .css files to .less and parsing through the LESS engine.



BuddyPress is an amazing addition to WordPress MU (soon to be merged into WordPress core) that turns WPMU into an open-source social networking platform. From their website:

BuddyPress is a suite of WordPress plugins and themes, each adding a distinct new feature. BuddyPress contains all the features you’d expect from WordPress but aims to let members socially interact.


New Browsers All Around

This year saw major advances in pretty much all the major browsers. Safari 4 saw extreme speed increases in its JavaScript performance as well as support for advanced CSS3 properties. Firefox saw many of the same improvements and support with the 3.5 release. Even the browser developers love to hate saw significant improvements with the release of Internet Explorer 8. (Sadly, still no border-radius support!). Google Chrome seems to see major version number updates much faster than the other browsers, but of significant importance was the final release of a slightly limited Chrome for Mac Beta. Opera continued to improve and innovate their browser as well, but I think a great change this year was that Opera got an icon facelift and the dreaded drop shadow on the “O” is gone!

Notable Events


jQuery Joins The Software Freedom Conservancy

The jQuery team has been planning for a while to join the Software Freedom Conservancy to protect the jQuery project, open the door for future growth, as well as to move the copyright from John Resig’s own name into the Conservancy’s name. From the overview page:

One of the principal benefits of joining the Conservancy is that member projects get all the protections of being a corporate entity without actually having to form and maintain one. These benefits include, most notably, the ability to collect earmarked project donations and protection from personal liability for the developers of the project.

The jQuery team made the first step this year by joining the Conservancy as planned, and are now working to move the copyright as well.


Fix Outlook

A great movement from the guys over at Campaign Montior launched Fix Outlook as a web campaign to make Microsoft aware of how many people disliked the limited email rendering engine in Office 2005 and newer. The campaign saw over 20,000 tweets in the first 24 hours! Microsoft at first responded rather negatively, then changed face a bit and became very thankful of the effort raised by the website. You can read the full account for more details.



Digging Into WordPress

Digging into WordPress is a fantastic new book by Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr. It is only available currently as a PDF book, but a printed version is coming soon. Written in an extremely down to earth manner, this book will provide useful information for anyone looking to take WordPress to the next level. This isn’t a book solving hypothetical problems: the authors only present techniques they have used themselves.


jQuery Enlightenment

Written by jQuery core team member Cody Lindley, jQuery Enlightenment picks up where the jQuery docs leave off. The book is probably 80% code examples and 20% explanation. This is a no fluff, crystal clear presentation of intermediate to advanced jQuery techniques, though I think even beginners would learn a lot through reading this PDF book. An additional innovative feature that I hope other book writers pick up is that almost every code example is linked to a live example on so you can actually play with his examples, even changing the code, to see how they work.

Operating Systems


Windows 7

After nothing less than a PR nightmare with Windows Vista, Microsoft released a fantastic new operating system this year in Windows 7. Far more stable than its predecessor, Windows 7 takes many of the principles and innovations introduced with Vista, but makes them both useable and reliable to users of Windows 7.


Snow Leopard

The innovative and trendy OS for Macintosh computers saw an upgrade this year with the release of Snow Leopard. As its name indicates, this OS is not that different an animal from the previous release of OS X (Leopard). Maintaining the same look and feel, Snow Leopard introduced many innovated technology features to further speed up the already finely tuned Mac line of computers. This has to be the first time in history that the install of a new version of an operating system actually gave you back 7GB of hard drive space!


iPhone 3.0

In the third version of the popular OS in use on iPhones and iPod Touches, users finally were allowed to Cut, Copy, and Paste! In addition, Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Spotlight Search, Voice Memos and Voice Dialing were also introduced. From a developers perspective, Apple opened up over 1,000 new API’s to allow iPhone developers even more freedom and power in their development process.


Android 2.0

For those that prefer an alternative to the Apple iPhone, many users have gravitated to the Android phones. This year saw an upgrade to the Android 2.0 OS and several UI and functional enhancements. Support for Exchange accounts, Combined Inboxes, and Macro Focus and White Balance for the Camera were all features added in this release.

Web Tools


Build It With Me

Some developers can do everything themselves from marketing, to design, to development. The rest of us would rather work on the part of the project we love, and leave the rest to someone better suited for the job. is the goto place to meet other developers that either have ideas or time on their hands to work on your ideas. Form new partnerships, find great projects to work on, all within the stylish interface of I love their tag line: “Skip the funding.”


Notable App

Notable provides a great way for web developers to seek responses from their clients during the design process. Simply use one of the provided tools to make a screenshot of the a web page you are working on, and send it to your client for approval. The client can draw on the screenshot and make notes, all through a simple web interface. If you are a developer that works remotely from your clients, this service might be just what you are looking for.

Flagrant Self-Promotion



This year saw the release of Flash 10 and with it, the support for client-side file generation and download. Why is this important? Now developers can make web applications that can run fully in the browser, including file saving capabilities, without a round trip to the server. As a personal project, I built and released Downloadify to provide a JavaScript bridge to this amazing Flash functionality. Since the alternate server methods (dataURIs and IE functions) are all prone to usability problems, Downloadify provides a nice simple way to repurpose client side data and turn it into a savable file.




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