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Back to the Future of Web Apps, London 2014


Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Future of Web Apps 2014 in London.

I'm certainly not a conference aficionado, but I've been to enough over the years to fully appreciate when it's done right. Thumping dance music and flashing lights with your morning coffee? No, thanks. A thoughtful lineup of engaging speakers at a sophisticated venue, not to mention a cracking breakfast spread and delicious lunch? Yes, please.

Future Insights has a wealth of experience running successful conferences; this was the eighth consecutive FOWA, and they know exactly what they're doing. 

The Future of Web Apps

The Speakers

While the execution of the conference was exceptional, the real reason people travel from all around Europe to attend is the quality of the speakers and their sessions. Speakers from every sphere of the web (mixed-metaphor?) shared their insights into the industry, delved into practical tools, and enthused about APIs. 

Whether it was Bruce Lawson highlighting service workers as vital in giving the web the power of native apps, or rising star Melinda Seckington translating Walt Disney's four keys to the kingdom into modern mantras for web development, there was a lot of knowledge to be absorbed.

The new format of the conference this year allowed attendees to follow one of two tracks, or mix and match as desired. The Toolkits track was filled with practical sessions on useful frameworks and tools, such as AngularJS, gulp.js, and Broccoli, while the APIs track highlighted a vast array of fascinating APIs and how to get started with them, including Twilio, lesser-known browser APIs, and the various new audio APIs.

Having the choice of two tracks of presentations to pick from is the perfect way of running an event like this. It was great being able to tailor the content I watched during the day and pick the sessions that were most relevant or interesting to me. If you happen to miss a session you really wanted to see, videos from all the sessions are made available online after the conference.

One of the best things about FOWA is the way they give fantastic new speakers the chance to take the stage in their Rising Stars Sessions. Many of the current speakers got their first speaking opportunities as rising stars and it's a fantastic way to keep bringing new people and ideas to the table.

What Does the Future of Web Apps Look Like?

As Ian Yates said in his review of FOWD earlier this year, the take-home message is that the web is moving pretty fast. Ian Moersen's words really hit home when he followed up a fantastic talk about how to modernise an ageing code base and deal with technical debt by saying:

If you’re not working on an old system, you’re building one.

His point being that it's vital we build in time to maintain and refactor our code, or we risk leaving a legacy of technical debt for ourselves, or others, to deal with further down the line. 

It seems appropriate to end this with a thought inspired by Yehuda Katz from his keynote talk entitled "The Future of Web Apps" and the aforementioned review of FOWD. We're the people who are shaping the future of the web, by building, learning, encouraging others, and pushing the tools and techniques at our disposal to the limit. We must keep educating ourselves, push for more dialogue between web browsers and developers, and challenge the assumptions that we hold about how things should be done. It's our responsibility to make sure we do these things as effectively as possible, so the web of the future is a place we want to be.

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