To kick-start our development takeover on the blog this week, we asked the team to round up the latest goings on for all things tech and web related. Here are the things creating a buzz in the tech world right now.

Firefox making a comeback?

Firefox was the most popular browser for short time - in the glory days when Internet Explorer was losing ground, and Google were yet to dominate with Chrome. The once all-conquering browser has been losing the browser wars lately, but a completely new version landed last week, to a mostly positive reception.

The new version has been rewritten from scratch, with the promise of making web browsing faster (twice as fast as before is their bold claim).

Mozilla is also claiming that the new browser is less intensive and uses less memory, which is bound to be a boost for users on older devices. As well as the new desktop browser, the Android and iOS versions have also been updated, promising similar benefits.

We’ll be watching with interest to see if Mozilla can gain any ground on Chrome with the relaunch.

Smart devices taking over?

Several of the BBI dev team have already joined the smart home revolution, controlling their homes via apps and voice assistants. As we approach Black Friday, a number of retailers are offering big discounts on smart lights, speakers, electric sockets, doorbells, and thermostats. New devices from Amazon, Google, Sonos have all launched in time for the festive season, and we predict these gadgets will be selling in huge quantities this Christmas.

As the technology is adopted by the masses, the opportunities for app developers grow. New uses are being discovered all the time, and the possibilities to automate the hardware by using geolocation, or temperature APIs. For example, when leaving work, your device could run a script to turn the heating on, then open the garage door and switch on the lights when you arrive home. AI and Machine Learning algorithms can be used to monitor and predict your actions, activating different profiles automatically.

HTC launches new all-in-one VR Headset

Last month, we wrote about how the release of iOS11 has brought augmented reality to the masses. Virtual reality, however, remains much more of a niche product, partly due to the cost of equipment, limited content and time and effort needed to set up all of the kit needed. HTC are aiming to change that by making their Vive headsets more accessible.

The Vive Focus, is an all-in-one device, meaning there’s no need to be tethered to a high-end gaming PC. This is certainly a step in the right direction, allowing users to put a headset on and launch straight into a VR experience.

Snapchat abandons Spectacles

Snapchat launched their Spectacles - video-recording sunglasses - earlier this year. However, they’ve already pulled the plug, as despite making a lot of noise at the product launch, that momentum never turned into the glasses selling in huge quantities. A reported figure of $40m of losses represents a huge blow to the company’s plans, but with the loyal user-base of the photo sharing app, we’re confident this setback won’t be too damaging to the brand as a whole.

The failure of the product shows how difficult it is for software companies to make the leap into the world of hardware (Google struggled for years to get this right), but with such a niche product this was always a journey into the unknown. 

CSS Grid lands in Edge and Samsung Browser

We’ve been excited about CSS Grid for quite some time, a new approach to front-end web development that allows much greater freedom to build complex layouts for the web. But as with most emerging technology, it takes a while for devices and browsers to catch up. Earlier this year, updates to Chrome, Firefox and Safari featured support for Grid, and now Edge and Samsung’s Browser (preinstalled on all Samsung devices) support it.

We’ve been using the approach on internal projects for a while, but now that all of the major browsers support it, it means we can use it in the wild! We’re hoping it will speed up development and prototyping for layouts, allowing us to experiment with creative layouts that haven’t been achievable until now.

The HTTPS apocalypse is coming!

Finally, a reminder to those that haven’t already made the switch on their sites – HTTPS is now more important than ever. As well as forming part of Google’s search rankings algorithm, Chrome now warns users when entering data on a non-secure webpage.

HTTP Search

Google announced recently that 64% of Chrome and Android traffic is protected by HTTPS, up from 42% a year earlier. The cost of certificates has fallen as well, and free providers such as Let’s Encrypt have also helped with adoption. If you’ve not made the switch, now is the time!

If you've got an upcoming web project you'd like to discuss, please give us a call on 0161 441 4740.

By Tim Butler

Technical Director

Technology Development

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