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Brian Rinaldi
Brian Rinaldi

Posted on • Originally published at

What to Expect for Developers in 2024 (My Predictions)

I enjoy reading folks predictions for the next year. Regardless of how accurate they ultimately are, I find them to be a good sense of where we stand from that person's unique perspective and areas of expertise. I've never done predictions before, but, at the risk of looking like a fool a year from now, I'm gonna give it a shot.

First, a little bit of context for those who don't know me. My areas of expertise are around front-end web development, JavaScript, full-stack development, serverless, developer tools, developer events and developer relations (aka DevRel). So, with that in mind, here goes my 4 predictions for 2024.

Developers Begin to Flee Complexity

Every year seems to bring added layers of complexity into the work of front-end and full stack development. React and Next.js seem to dominate these areas. Next.js new app router was a significant shift for the framework that, based on what I am seeing, folks are still not quite adjusted to, but this year added more big changes like partial prerendering and server actions.

Look, I can sometimes be a curmudgeon, but if things felt complex before, they certainly aren't any easier today. Next.js offers so many kinds of rendering that it can be difficult to keep up (static/prerendered, partial prerendering, server rendering/SSR, edge rendering). Yes, each of the new rendering options offers some important improvements, but the added complexity can make debugging difficult, integrations more complicated and can limit your deployment options.

The good news is that there are a lot of new options including Astro, Enhance, Eleventy, SvelteKit, SolidJS, Qwik, and others. I don't think we're going to see a mass exodus from React, but I think we're already seeing a plateau in adoption (granted, it's become so ubiquitous, a leveling off or even small decline is not so bold a prediction), but I think we'll see more developers experimenting with these other options in their projects. Astro seems to have a ton of momentum and, with its React support, offers a smoother adoption and migration path, and I think this could be the year Astro breaks out into more mainstream adoption.

AI Becomes Ubiquitous but a Lot of AI Tools Disappear

You may be thinking, "First, I thought AI was already ubiquitous and, second, doesn't this contradict itself?"

While AI has been everywhere in terms of discussion, new announcements and the hot topic at conferences, my experience has been that that hasn't fully translated into widespread adoption. When I ask folks if they use an AI coding assistant, the majority seem to respond that they are watching carefully from the sideline but have not fully adopted one yet. In many cases, this is because their employer hasn't adopted it yet (and doing so does have legitimate concerns companies need to address).

That being said, I think this is the year that AI tools like Copilot make huge inroads into companies, thereby making them available to the broader developer audience. I think companies finally weigh the productivity gains over the potential risks in favor of the former.

We've also seen a flurry of new AI-based tools come out in 2023 including a mad rush of new startups focused on AI. The problem is, AI is expensive right now and even companies like Microsoft are reportedly losing significant amounts of money per paying user of tools like Copilot. It takes very deep pockets to survive when you lose money for every paying user you sign up (never mind the free plans or trials). I think a lot of these small tools get picked up by the larger companies or simply fade out quickly because the economics don't work and I don't foresee costs declining quickly enough to alter that.

More Developer Conferences Shut Down but the Winners Continue to Grow

I wrote a bit about the decline of developer events at the start of last year, but the trend seems to largely be continuing, with a caveat. At the start of 2023, it seemed that most developer events, even the large ones, had been unable to fully recover from the pandemic shut downs. Yes, audiences had returned, but not to pre-pandemic levels. A combination of legitimate health concerns as well as tighter travel and training budgets seemed to be hitting events hard and a number have already called it quits.

However, my observations over the course of the year made it seem to me that some larger events were thriving while others still struggled. The ones that seemed to be returning to pre-pandemic size or even growing beyond that are what I will refer to as "tentpole" events. These are very large, very well known event (that, in some cases, are tied to large corporations with big pockets for marketing events). On the other hand, the smaller and/or independent events seemed to continue to struggle.

I think these trends will continue and the tentpole events will become larger and/or harder to get tickets for while more independent or small events will decide to close up shop. I suspect the audience for developer conferences has shrunk overall (due largely to the pandemic) but travel/training budget limitations are forcing attendees to pick winners and losers. If I can only attend one event a year, for instance, I will probably choose a tentpole event as a solid investment over a smaller conference (it is likely an easier sell to my employer too). I don't see those budgets opening up, nor the folks who've written off conferences since the pandemic returning in 2024, which will cause some more disruptions.

DevRel Adjusts to a New Realities (Show Me the Numbers!)

This is another trend that I saw in 2023 that I think will only continue to gain steam in 2024, which is the DevRel teams are going to have less freedom and will need to focus on lead and revenue generating activities backed up by metrics. For a long time, DevRel was given a lot of leeway. We (legitimately) argued that the benefit of our activities were difficult to measure accurately and so often relied on "fuzzy" goals. We (legitimately) argued that DevRel works best when it isn't tied to typical marketing or sales goals around lead generation, pipeline and revenue. Those were, unfortunately and to use an overloaded phrase, "zero interest rate phenomenon."

With the start of the new year and new annual goals being set, my expectation is that a lot of DevRel teams, many of which are already smaller than a year ago, are going to find themselves tied to more activities that are lead generating, with numbers to back them up. I think travel budgets will stay constrained and many DevRels will have to limit speaking to sponsored events (or look for travel assistance from events). And I think more DevRels will find themselves supporting revenue-related activities supporting sales and customer success teams.

Given these shifts as well as the still slow DevRel job market, I think some folks will decide to move back into engineering or other areas like product management and product marketing. Despite these changes though, I think DevRel will remain a great career for those who adjust.

Top comments (3)

ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke • Edited

Apart from expectations and predictions, what I wished that developers would do and what product managers should prioritize: stop working on new features and fix all severe bugs instead! Quality over quantity, sustainability over short-term money. But who am I to ask?

ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

More software products will get worse or stop improving due to mass layoffs of engineers/developers in Silicon Valley and due to marketing and management blindly following the "AI" hype train instead of focusing on maintaining and improving their existing businesses.

Many new ideas and products will eventually evolve driven by devs founding their own startups, some of which will also create further short-lived hypes, and developers and influencers will blindly follow every new hype e.g. JavaScript frameworks, coding tools, new AI services, and new social media platforms.

Experienced seniors might not care much, but then they know about the real challenges and things to do, so we won't get bored either.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

I do agree that AI is over-hyped. I think companies are following it because that is where the otherwise extremely limited VC money is going right now, so their pitch next time around is that "yeah, we do AI too!"

I don't think developers blindly follow new hype, it just seems that way, well, because of the hype. Most developers are constrained by either time and their employers (these would be things they'd have to learn on their own time for their own projects). These are not the developers who are usually posting on social media though.

I also know tons of experienced seniors who spend a lot of time following the latest trends. There's nothing entirely wrong with that. Having someone senior evaluate new tools for their potential value is worthwhile, in my opinion.