1999 may have been the height of the dotcom bubble euphoria, but it was not the golden age of web developers. At least not according to the US and Federal Professional Employment Statistics, which didn’t even record that “web developer” was a real job.
Since then, web development has become so popular that it has entered our job statistics even as it faded as a marketable job skill. Today, it is no longer enough to be a generic Web developer: the best developers have specialized.
Catching up with the Zeitgeist
The government has never been recognized as an innovator. Nowhere is this truer than in the data it captures about its workforce. As a new study from Pew Research reveals, government jobs data tends to be a lagging indicator of the economy:
In 2013, approximately 165,100 Americans worked as computer network support specialists, 141,270 as computer network architects, and 78,020 as information security analysts. None of these occupations existed per se in 1999, although some workers in these fields were likely included in broader job classifications such as “computer programmers” or “network and data communications systems analysts”. . But listing them separately speaks to the importance of networked computing in today’s economy.
In other words, the government ended up acknowledging what industry players already knew: the network had become a big problem. Ironically enough, the government can sometimes be so late for the party that the party is over by the time the government acknowledges it ever existed.
Web development is like that.
Web developers: outside?
As Pew Research points out, “web developer” was not even flagged in the OES classification system until 2012. The report notes this fact with the obvious statement that “[government] the data is often out of step with developments in the real economy.
By the time OES began to recognize web development, the industry seemed to have moved on. Jobs for “web developer” peaked in 2009, according to data from Indeed.com, even as web development became increasingly important.
This importance is expressed in the shift from generic “web development” to specific web technologies that web developers need, such as jQuery and Node.js:
In other words, “web development” is simply how applications are built now, which makes the government and employer distinction of “web developer” much less meaningful. The same is true for mobiles. As such, saying “I need a web developer” or “I need a mobile developer” is increasingly pointless because what matters are the technologies those developers know.
The web you need to know now
So what technologies does a developer need to know to escape the anonymous “web developer” distinction and stand out? Curiously, some of the same technologies you must have known about in 1999, as IEEE Spectrum’s Trending Web Programming Languages data shows:
But beyond programming languages, the modern web developer needs to understand real-time service APIs, Git, and techniques to make web applications more mobile-like.
On this last point, it is likely that the government will end up recognizing “mobile developer” as a separate job classification (this is not the case today). It will probably be long after the industry realizes that “mobile” is simply how apps are developed/deployed, and technologies like Node.js and PhoneGap are what “mobile developers” really need to know .
Give it time.
Main image by Jim Sangwine