On April 7th and 8th was held a notable event for the IT community, the Bulgaria Web Summit. It took place at the Inter Expo Center in the south west of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

15 speakers, among whom half were local persons, and other half mostly from UK had come to present their expertise on subjects all related to web development.

Visitors didn’t hesitate to cross Europe to attend the event, and banners in the conference room stated that 20+ countries were represented.

Many sponsors were in and exhibited their services during breaks in the hall.

Over with boring details, let’s make room for the Web.

What’s going to change on the internet ?

The whole schedule of the event is available here.

First, it’s quite surprising to think that the internet didn’t change much since it became popular. HTTP is still used as the protocol to transport webpages, and HTML never ceased to be the language that makes that webpages look like webpages. Of course, other protocols and languages are essential for the whole internet to work, still, HTML conveys pretty much the same spirit as when it was designed in the 90’s. Instead of replacing the winning combination HTTP/HTML, we improved them, and imagined new tools to make them simpler to use : frameworks. Same remark goes with Javascript.

That Web Summit reflected quite well that statement.

A straightforward question comes to mind : « Why would we change the web, when we can actually manage to tinker it enough to build what we want to ? ». Internet brought us, through the years, everything that was at a first glance reserved to desktop applications : real-time, web sockets and server notifications, 3D, GPS location, ERP, video and music, … Actually, the emergence of VR kept Virtual Reality seemingly tied to hardware. And that feeling vanished quickly, Google imagined the CardBoards to transform your Smartphone into an excellent VR device. The last frontier was the development  and the deployment of such apps. To elaborate more on that matter, let’s  first quickly recap and group the topics of the event :

  • Design and accessibility (~40% of the lectures)
  • Optimization and development (~40% of the lectures)
  • Future oriented talks (~20% of the lectures)

We will first focus on that latter. The show was opened by Aral Balkan. Though it was an interesting lecture, current technology is far from the conception of cyborgs that movies convey. The speaker who’s opinion is that « we’ve all become cyborgs » thinks that privacy and ethics should be more prevalent because « data is not a currency ». A future article will deal with that matter.

VR & the web

The brand new trend is Virtual Reality. As the excellent lecture by Ada Rose Edwards let the audience discover it, some frameworks already offer the possibility to display 3D content in web browsers and make use of the gyroscopic abilities of a Smartphone to make the development of VR content for the web possible, two of them particularly drew the attention : A-Frame and Three.js. Both under the MIT license, and although A-Frame is quite a young project (first commit on August 2015 on Github) compared to Three.js (far more mature with 6 as many commits as A-Frame and was first committed on March 2010), both show very promising results.

Above, you can see a virtual user interface developed using A-Frame. Moving the smartphone will move the UI accordingly.

And on that second image, a paper plane sort of game that lets you fly paper planes and catch those sent by other users and put a post stamp on them to mark them as caught. The actions are made by shaking the smartphone. That latter was developed using Three.js. But a personal experience is better than words, so don’t wait any longer and try it for yourself, both official websites list either applications developed using the framework or demos.

Ux, web, apps, DB

Some experienced designers honored the event with recommendations. Matt Stow invited developers to keep accessibility in mind while developing web applications and Fabio Benedetti from Apple insisted on the importance of icon design and suggested to designers (web designers, ui designers, ux designers, regardless of their exact title) to not find themselves limited by tools they use and good practices.

Database conception and optimizations were also treated during this event, digging into more technical terms and practices. Elena Kolevska explained how to create Redis modules (Redis is an in-memory database) while Marian Marinov regretted that documentations (more specifically, optimization documentations) were often neglected and not read by database administrators to the price of lower performance (a bad knowledge of difference between different types of indices for instance is a critical issue).

The event was closed by the presentation of Henri Bergius who made it straight from Finland to Bulgaria to show us a JavaScript implementation of Flow-Based Programming named Noflo. Basically, Noflo is a « divide and conquer » way to design and develop applications by « splitting your problem in logical areas that make sense, and to see how they connect with each other. »

Such tools will maybe become more popular and make it possible for non developers to design applications without having to code.

And what now ?

We can as of now start to apply the recommendations made by experts, accessibility should not be overlooked, even though it may represent a slight extra cost to a project, the same way we build access ramps for public buildings, adding a few extra code lines to make sure blind persons for instance can access the content should be a reflex.

Regarding future, our eyes will be aimed at VR, or at those summit badges that secretly contain seeds and were planted in that improvised flower pot 😉

Note : if you were present at the event or think that something is incorrect or incomplete, feel free to drop a comment 😉 Speakers, you are welcome to let us know if you’d like to provide an alternative link to your page or get your name removed (#ethics :D).