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Ten Technologies to Know in 2020

Some of the tech, tools, and terms worth watching this year.

When you work in technology, every day you feel a subtle but very specific paranoia deep in your bones: There’s a new, new thing out there you should probably know about, and if you’re not looking forward, you might fall behind.

But the choices are endless, and your time is limited. So as we begin the new decade, we wanted to point out a few technologies, tools, and terms that are worth having on your radar. These things aren’t new; in some cases, they’ve been around a long while, but they’re just reaching critical mass. The Postlight team has been seeing them come up, over and over again, in our work building software platforms for clients in industries ranging from media to finance to government to non-profits. And we love to share what we know.

Here are 10 of the technologies, terms, and tools to know about in 2020.

1. Jobs To Be Done

Credit: Samuel Hulick

Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) is a product design philosophy that starts with what goal your customer is trying to achieve, versus finding a use case for your product. In other words, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

2. GraphQL

When you’re building performant, API-driven software that should make as few network requests as possible, you want GraphQL, a query language for APIs. Our engineers love building with GraphQL, and it turns out, so do a lot of people. The Google Trend for GraphQL shows huge growth increase in search volume this year.

That trend is only going to continue in 2020, especially as a new generation of GraphQL tooling emerges, including Hasura, PostGraphile, and our very own Glide.

What Do You Need to Know About GraphQL?

Here’s why better API design matters.

3. Elixir and Rust

Elixir and Rust aren’t new programming languages, but more and more, they come up in conversation with engineers.

Rust is a programming language developed by Mozilla, intended for highly safe and concurrent systems. It offers the performance of C or C++ but with additional features to ensure memory-safety. Rust has been voted Stack Overflow’s most loved language every year since 2016.

The Magic Elixir Behind Yap

How we leveraged the right technologies to build a truly ephemeral chat app.

Elixir builds on top of the Erlang Virtual Machine and allows developers to take advantage of multiple cores and distributed computing. That’s why we used it to build Yap.

4. Yap

In a world where everything is recorded and stored and copied, it’s time to have something that’s fleeting and ephemeral. An online chat client that feels like a real-time conversation instead of a message board. So we built Yap. Something for friends to hop in and hang out. Pick a topic (or a video, or a livestream), make a room, invite some friends, and get yapping.

5. Firefox

Firefox is back! Mozilla’s effort to get their signature web browser up to par in performance benchmarks with Google Chrome has paid off. With speed equal to or better than Chrome in most cases (and without turning your Mac’s fans into a jet engine), clever resource efficiency improvements, and a renewed focus on privacy, Firefox has become the browser of choice for many members of the Postlight team.

6. JAMStack

JAMStack is an approach to building highly performant, scalable websites using JavaScript, APIs, and markup.

Typically JAMStack projects use static site generators like Gatsby or Jekyll to pre-render static files that use JavaScript for API requests and interactivity. These files get deployed on static site hosts like one of our favorites, Netlify. The resulting site is cost-efficient, performant, and easy to scale. While JAMStack isn’t the right approach for every web project, its advantages have developers reaching for it whenever possible.

7. Codeless Platforms

Codeless (or no-code) development tools use What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get interfaces to help business folks create software without typing a single line of code. This empowers people who aren’t engineers to prototype applications that fit their needs.

We see apps like Notion and Airtable and Zapier used for everything from note-taking and scheduling to creating a lightweight CRM or CMS.

8. Glitch

For the people who do know how to code (or want to learn), Glitch is a friendly platform for developers and tinkerers to collaborate in real-time, and discover and remix each other’s projects.

Full disclosure: Glitch is one of Postlight’s clients, but even if they weren’t, they’d be on this list. Backed by a team of veteran developers, a welcoming community, and an interesting library of projects, Glitch makes making digital things and remixing them fun and accessible to everyone.

9. Product-Led Growth

How do you turn your users into your sales team? By offering a product that’s so good for free that users become its evangelists. Product-led growth built companies like Slack and Dropbox and Jira, and in 2020, the trend will continue–especially in collaboration tools that spread as one person introduces it, and invites their team to work with them on it. Postlight’s #engineering and #product Slack channels see at least one link a day to a recommended tool or program, oftentimes leading to dozens of adoptions within the next hour.

10. Serverless

Why pay for computing power you don’t need? Serverless architecture lets developers pay for exactly the amount of power their applications use, without having to worry about overspending for CPUs that will idle, or underestimating their needs and going offline just when the app gets popular. Here at Postlight, we reduced the cost of our biggest-traffic tool by several orders of magnitude by migrating to a serverless architecture.

Modern Serverless Starter Kit

Get your next serverless JavaScript function deployed in seconds.

Paying as you go also allows smaller-scale developers to aim for larger scope applications without having to worry about pre-purchasing expensive server space.

To hear more about 2020’s top trends, listen to Paul and Rich discuss them all on this episode of Postlight’s podcast.

Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani) is a Managing Partner at Postlight. What’s missing from this list? Drop her a note:

Story published on Jan 22, 2020.