Recently, I had the opportunity to ask over a dozen leading technologists for their hopes, predictions, and guidance for the year 2023. This article distills the far-ranging conversation and wealth of insight that came back to me. The year ahead looks to be lean in financial investment, but long on innovation.
Doing more with less
Not surprisingly, economic conditions figure large for many in tech. The theme of doing more with less is prevalent, along with pushing for technology solutions to take up the slack.
Guillermo Rauch, CEO and founder of Vercel (see interview), says “With rising macroeconomic pressures, businesses will have to fight harder for every dollar while doing more with less. How will online businesses solve these challenges in a short time frame while keeping costs in mind? By equipping their developers with the right tools and turning to front-end performance optimization and personalization to deliver new creative experiences for their customers.”
Steve Sewell, CEO and founder of Builder.io (see interview), also noted the push to simplify. “Less engineering staff due to layoffs means a focus on core business, less speculative investment efforts, less spending on marketing/growth, and growing efficiently instead of at all costs. Not excessive polish—simplicity. Solve many things with less, for less.”
The sentiment was echoed by OutSystems head of global portfolio, Prakash Vyas: “Ensuring IT productivity will be even more critical in 2023. Owing to the growing number of tech layoffs adding even more to the shortage of developers.” Vyas added that providing developer teams with low-code tools could be helpful for maximizing productivity.
Milin Desai, CEO of Sentry.io, also spoke to the need for focus:
Companies are going to look at how they can do more with fewer resources, while still innovating and delivering great results. To do this in software, companies need to focus on funding the most important initiatives that drive their customer value and improve their development team’s productivity more so than ever […] sharpening what is working while still having room to make key future bets.
Breaking down walled gardens
Brendan Eich, CEO and co-founder of Brave, notes that “ChatGPT predicts a revitalization of browsing and information applications (not just search), thanks to all the human-created text on the web. This may be the year that innovations combining blockchains, privacy, and browser tech will break down the walled gardens of Big Social.”
In 2022, we saw artificial intelligence and machine learning transform from a promising frontier to a practical factor in many business processes. Mario Fusco, Java Champion and Drools project lead, hopes for a more measured approach in 2023:
I hope we will find effective ways to complement the amazing capabilities of machine learning with other AI technologies that nowadays are considered a small sunsetting niche like rules engines. The net result of this approach is that for some reason we decided to let ML rediscover (in a poor way) some rules of our business domains instead of trying to properly encode them in our software.
Patrick Jean, CTO of OutSystems, predicts that this year, companies will embrace low-code tools for efficient business process management (BPM):
The BPM market is expected to be valued at $14.4 billion by 2025. The demand for building a robust BPM is so high that businesses will need to use smart shortcuts and automate their processes. But amidst the ongoing developer shortage and IT backlog piling up, businesses are left in the cold. Employees are expected to do more with fewer resources, which is hindering the overall digital transformation journeys. In the next year, businesses will turn towards low-code technology to make room for building strategic business process management.
Guillermo Rauch expects that “AI-based apps will subsume entire categories of software. But every app will find opportunities to also embed AI.” As an example, he cites Vercel’s headless architecture, which “lets developers easily integrate off-the-shelf AI models into the customer experience.” He also anticipates further advancements in AI/ML workloads “being executed at the edge for low-latency AI-driven apps.”
Rich Harris, creator of the SvelteKit framework (see interview), sees AI impacting user interface design. “AI will be everywhere, and most of it will be crap—cumbersome interfaces, questionable results, and a pervasive sense of opportunism—but it will also usher in some of the most radical changes in how we think about UI and workflow in a generation.”
Dan Moore, head of developer relations at Fusion Auth says that machine learning “will continue to be integrated into software and applications, but things like ChatGPT are so expensive it will only be the big players who will have that smooth of an experience.” Machine learning, meanwhile, “will continue to be a required shiny object for any company seeking VC funding,” says Moore.
Application development in 2023
Front-end frameworks and techniques have been under intense evolution over the last few years, and the trend shows signs of staying with us.
With all the innovation, there are still a lot of rough edges and things to figure out. The next year is going to be less about showing what’s possible and more about figuring out how to make the experience of developing with these techniques enjoyable. My gut is it won’t be the performance but the [developer experience] that separates these solutions, as they all already make such a significant impact, that for many it will be hard to ignore them for long.
Steve Sewell also sees a growing focus on developer experience: “It will be easier to make performant websites that maintain the great DX we are used to.” He also notes that “React’s dominance will start to finally lose some momentum.”
Guillermo Rauch continues:
2023 is the year companies double down on open-source frameworks. Many companies have recognized the value of React but were using homegrown tools to build their stacks. Companies that have not invested in frameworks and component systems of the front end will realize that they have amassed a lot of complexity and created a lot of technical debt. This year, we expect to see these companies embrace frameworks, like this example from the BBC, to address that technical debt and help their engineering org move faster.
MongoDB CTO Mark Porter (see interview) notes, too, that analytics are “shifting left” into application development:
The shift to smarter applications has meant that developers are now becoming responsible for building the logic directly into their applications and running cutting-edge machine learning and automation capabilities on their live operational data. The results for businesses are: the ability for applications to process and analyze real-time data much, much faster and at a lower cost, and to both understand trends and make more informed predictions based on those trends. The results for customers are greater personalization and richer digital experiences.
The blockchain battleground
Cryptocurrency took a real beating in 2022. Nevertheless, much of the technology pushes forward. It appears that two camps are emerging on the subject of blockchain. On the one end, as Mario Fusco says, “I hope people will finally realize that crypto currencies are just the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.”