The last ten years have been a wild ride for this planet, but I’m sure the next ten are going to be even more exciting. I’d like to offer my predictions of what we’ll see around now, ten years in the future.

The browser will continue its domination in the world of applications, absorbing more of what we do in desktop applications. A significant fraction of software development will happen in the browser, though most development will still happen on the desktop. WebGL will be starting to become a major platform for gaming. IE6 will be a war story told by greybeard developers, Microsoft having jumped back into the browser race and caught up to the leaders of the pack. No single browser will have a majority share worldwide. Javascript will still be the biggest language, but it will have gone through a few language iterations. The browser JS VM will be near the speed of native code, less than 25% slower.

Devices will continue to double in capacity and speed every few years. In 2020 you won’t have a desktop computer. You’ll have something in the form-factor of a laptop or tablet that you dock and charge wirelessly wherever you device to work. Hard-drives as we know them today won’t exist in most machines, replaced by various forms of multi-terabyte solid-state storage.

You’ll be carrying around a mini-computer in your pocket that runs at the equivalent speed of today’s MacBook Pro. It’ll multitask easily with a few GB of RAM and have nearly a terabyte of solid-state storage onboard. The mobile experience will be a scaled-down, synchronized version of your larger machine rather than an entirely separate device. In fact, some people may eschew the larger device and hook their mobile device wirelessly into display and input devices when they want an easier environment to work in.

Your phone and laptop will have high-end cameras with thin liquid lenses that will be good enough for most people to stop carrying around dedicated point-and-shoot cameras.

E-books will continue to grow, but the functionality will move out of dedicated devices and into portable computers with improved screens that work as well as e-paper today. Electronic textbooks will have taken over the majority share of post-secondary education and will start to make inroads in earlier school grades.

Land-lines will be a legacy technology in 2020. Most people will opt to forward their personal cell phones to an adapter that rings a home number as well when the phone is nearby. Telcos will start offering a much-higher-fidelity audio codec for cell phones that offers VoIP-quality conversations.

True electronic commerce will be starting to emerge in 2020, replacing wallets with your electronic devices for power users. Instead of carrying around a dozen ID and payment cards, people will have the option of storing them digitally and presenting them wirelessly. Electronic banking will take off, providing safe, standard web-based APIs around your personal finances and investments.

Our understanding of genetics today will look primitive compared to that of 2020. In 2020, genomics will have high-level structures that understand and codify the development and existence of organisms, allowing us to symbolically describe and modify how genes are turned on and off, like a computer program. We will have genetic fixes for a few of the big genetic disorders today. Some of these fixes will be applied to the human germline as well, wiping the diseases out entirely for descendants.

Car travel will take a number of big steps forward. In 2020, most modern cars will aware of each other to some degree and offer basic driving coordination like avoiding rear-end collisions and traffic management. Most cars will be LTE-capable and have online traffic updates, integration with your personal mail and text-to-speech for handsfree web ‘listening’. Rare features today such as heads-up night-vision displays and 360º visibility cameras will trickle down to a much larger segment of vehicles.

Personal space travel will be uncommon, but available for individuals for a cost around $100,000. Small space travel outfits will have small, but permanent space stations for the travellers to dock and stay for a few nights. Humans will be in the planning stages for the first extra-terran mission in our solar system since the moon landings which will involve nations from around the world.

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I briefly blogged earlier this year about our internal project that allowed us to write Firefox extensions using the Google Web Toolkit framework. I’m happy to say that I’ve just pushed out the first version of the code for developers to start playing with.

Building a Firefox extension isn’t much different than writing a standard GWT web application. There are some caveats: there isn’t a global window ($wnd) or document ($doc) and the GWT widget system doesn’t work without some tweaks. You can, however, take advantage of GWT’s extensive DOM bindings to manipulate pages that the user loads and interact with the Chrome DOM to add toolbar buttons and menu items. I’m slowly working on extracting the code to work with these browser elements from our proprietary codebase, cleaning them up and pushing them into the open-source project.

For now, the current version of gwt-firefox-extension should be sufficient to write an application with the same functionality as a greasemonkey script without dipping into more advanced concepts. We’ve also generated bindings for the whole set of XPCOM IDL, so you’ll have access to most every service and component in the browser if you need to do something more complicated.

Try it out and join our open-source mailing list if you’ve got any feedback or suggestions.

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I went down to Mountain View last week to show off the company we’ve been building, DotSpots, plug our brand-new Chrome extension and demo some of the great new features of GWT 2.0.

See it directly on YouTube here:

Kudos to the Google team for putting together such a great event. You don’t realize how much planning and preparation goes into an hour-long event like that.

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GWT 2.0 ships with a new HtmlUnit-based testing system that makes testing faster, but isn’t full web-browser under the hood. It can’t perform layout, so any tests that rely on layout measurements won’t succeed.

There are a number of alternate run styles that are useful, however. Manual mode, which outputs a URL that you can connect any browser to, works well for quick testing, but is a pain when you need to keep running it over and over. RemoteWeb and Selenium automate the process of starting and stopping browsers, but require you to start an external server before testing.

There’s another run-style that isn’t well-documented, but I’ve found to be the most useful for testing locally: ExternalBrowser. It requires an executable name in the command-line, the name of the browser to start. On OSX, you can specify the fully-qualified name of the executable beneath the application bundle, or you can use a shell script to launch the browser of your choice.

Place the following script under /usr/bin named safari and make it chmod a+x. This allows you (and ExternalBrowser) to launch Safari from the command-line’s $PATH. The argument to open is the name of any browser that lives under your /Applications/ directory, including subdirectories.

open -W -a Safari $1

Add a Java system property gwt.args to your testing launch configuration in Eclipse, Ant script or other IDE. You can then specify the run style like so:

-Dgwt.args="-runStyle ExternalBrowser:safari"

Now, when you run your unit tests, you’ll see GWT launch Safari and navigate to the appropriate URL on its own. Tests will leave windows up on your screen after they complete, but you can safely close them after the run terminates.

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UPDATE (Jan 6, 2010): The Chrome team has turned on extensions on Mac in the latest dev channel build. Even better, you can install directly from extension pages without this bookmarklet. Hooray!

We just officially launched our extension on the Chrome extension gallery today and Mac users are having trouble installing the extension. The ‘Install’ button for Chrome extensions is disabled if you are running on a Mac.

You can manually download extensions from the Google download site using a URL like so:

The bolded part of the URL above is the extension’s public ID (a hash of the public key).

Here’s a bookmarklet that’ll re-enable the button and allow you to download the extension. It recreates the download URL from the current page you are viewing:

Enable Extension Install

Try it out on the DotSpots extension page here. Click the bookmarklet and the Install button will be activated.

UPDATE: I removed the lang=en-US part of the URL. Some extensions fail to load with that attribute in place.

Note that you’ll need an extension-supported build. The next developer channel build should support it. If you are too anxious to wait, you can install the latest Chromium build from here:

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