The 2013 Web Development Year in Review

Our annual “Web Development Year in Review” returns for a look back at major news events in the web development industry in 2013.


  1. Microsoft launched “modern.IE,” a set of tools and resources to help web developers test how their sites display in — and are compatible with — Internet Explorer. The resource includes a partnership with BrowserStack for easy testing of legacy browser versions.
  2. The Apache Software Foundation announced the move of Apache Flex from their incubator area to become a top-level project. Based on Adobe Flex, the software development kit (SDK) helps developers with cross-platform projects using Flash to make use of common design patterns.


  1. Oracle’s release of MySQL 5.6 included a NoSQL access type API. This was the first major update to the open-source database in two years.
  2. Opera announced the adoption of the open-sourced WebKit as the engine behind the browser, which will allow Opera developers to focus on features and innovation. WebKit already powers Google’s  Chrome browser and Apple’s Safari.
  3. Zend released the latest version of its platform for web and mobile application development. Zend Server 6 is designed to foster collaboration, giving developers the ability to view code execution to spot problems and advanced troubleshooting capabilities.


  1. Abandoning its earlier stance of HTML5-only, Microsoft declared that Internet Explorer 10 would run Adobe Flash content on Windows 8 and Windows RT systems. Although Microsoft feels that Adobe has come up with changes to Flash to take advantage of touch-enabled devices, they feel that ultimately, a plugin-free environment will be preferable.


  1. Nginx releases Version 1.4 of their popular server, featuring support of SPDY, which claims to speed site load times by up to 40%. The lightweight, fast, and versatile Nginx servers are already used by Facebook and Dropbox.
  2. More than 90,000 IP addresses were potentially impacted by a brute-force attack against WordPress installations still using the “admin” username default. Cloudflare attempted to limit the damage with an update that tries to detect attacks targeted at this vulnerability.


  1. Adobe took a big step into the cloud with the launch of their Creative Cloud-only apps and services set up with a subscription model. Fireworks will not be continued, but a nice variety of changes have been made to existing apps, along with the integration of Typekit.
  2. WordPress celebrated its tenth birthday with 66 million known installations and one quarter of all new sites using it as the base. With 203,000 lines of code in the latest version, WordPress has come a long way from being considered to be just a simple blogging platform.


  1. Apple released Safari 7.0, bringing a faster and more streamlined interface to the browser. Major changes include the removal of Coverflow’s visualization of cached sites, alteration of Reading List to provide more of a magazine-like experience, and Shared Links to tie in items shared by a user’s social circle.
  2. The Apache Subversion Project announced the release of SVN 1.8 version control system. Together with a collection of new features for developers, the release also improves the handling and storage of megadata, particularly in regards to the moving of data.


  1. Adobe launches PhoneGap 3 development framework for creating native applications for operating systems used in mobile such as iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7, using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


  1. Automattic launched Connect as yet another way to log into third-party websites and apps. Developers will need to integrate this optional feature, but the advantages of shared profile data and easier sign-ons are attractive.
  2. The immensely popular development platform Bootstrap released version 3.0. Using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery, Bootstrap was originally a Twitter initiative, but has moved since to become an extremely popular GitHub project, with more than 300 developers adding code to the base. This version focuses on a flat theme for the four tiers of grid classes (phones, tablets, desktops, and large desktops).


  1. Google’s public beta of Web Designer was launched. A free tool to help with the design of HTML5 ads and campaigns, the app lets anyone from newbies to experienced designers put together ad creative using an HTML5-based toolset that yields professional-quality results.
  2. Microsoft announced BrowserSwarm, an open-source tool for testing projects built using JavaScript frameworks on different browser platforms and versions. Leveraging the cloud for the heavy server resources needed for such testing, BrowserStorm connects directly to code repositories on GitHub and should be particularly useful for small companies that typically lack such resources.
  3. jQuery mobile 1.4.0 beta was released with a new flat design theme and new set of vector-based SVG icons. Improvements have been made to performance, as well as a bundle of changes to widget and toolbar functionality.


  1. The release of WordPress 3.7 revealed a focus on back-end features, including automatic maintenance and security updates, an upgrade of password security levels, and enhanced global support.
  2. Mozilla introduced TogetherJS, a free JavaScript tool that makes it possible to easily collaborate in real-time on a website. The underlying use of a messaging system makes it possible for TogetherJS to be largely resolution-independent.
  3. For web designers and developers who work with scalable vector graphics (SVG), Adobe’s launch of Snap.svg JavaScript library is a welcome addition. Animation and manipulation of SVG content in particular is made easier with the tool.
  4. Google moves PHP on Google App Engine from limited preview to general availability. The move means that all web developers can now make use of App Engine’s scalability and flexibility for developing, testing, and deploying apps.
  5. Ghost is launched as a new, JavaScript-based blogging platform. Keeping the focus on content, Ghost’s split view interface and clean “Casper” theme, will appeal to bloggers seeking seamless functioning of the backend.


  1. Facebook has moved its interactive SQL-on-Hadoop engine called Presto to open source status. In many ways a faster version of Hive, its ready-to-use status may give Presto a boost amongst the handful of similar projects currently attracting developer attention.
  2. Google released two new tools for developers — Dart SDK 1.0 and a portable native client so that web apps can be deployed on multiple platforms after development. Dart has a simple programming language, tools, and core libraries to help scale projects simply and quickly.
  3. Google’s latest version of its PageSpeed modules (mod_pagespeed and ngx_pagespeed) is said to result in web pages rendering up to twice as fast, especially on a mobile environment. The addition of a handful of new optimizations related to images and CSS rules is responsible for the uptick in load speed.
  4. Google launches its standalone Chrome Apps Developer Tool, which is basically the developer-mode setting in the extensions tab of Chrome set up as its own app. The transition into a separate tool allowed Google to adjust the interface so that tasks are organized according to functionality in a way that will provide a better experience for developers.


It’s still early in December as I write this review, so any news items from this month that have long-lasting implications will have to wait until next year’s roundup!