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The Re-emergence of Webmasters

The Re-emergence of Webmasters

Anyone who has been around websites for some time will remember that “webmasters” once did it all. Webmasters were the ones who created, managed and hosted websites, acting as a one-stop shop for all things related to the internet.  It is why our organization was created as the World Organization of Webmasters, and retains that formal business name to this day. 

Over the years, as people moved away from the term webmaster to more specific job roles such as web designers and web developers, we adopted the Web Professionals Organization name. However, we have never forgotten our roots and have always maintained a webmaster certification pathway. 

Today we have certifications including web design, web animation, e-commerce, WordPress, web and mobile apps, web technologies, web game design, remote working and many more. While these certifications grew rapidly and still remain popular, we are now seeing a resurgence in people interested in becoming certified webmasters. In fact, recent recipients of the Web Professionals Organization Webmaster certification include a student in Brazil.

Why become a webmaster?

Admittedly, most websites today are more of a team event than websites in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the growth in the interest in webmastering is due to the fact that websites are so much more complex than back then. It’s important that someone understand how all aspects of a website fit together to keep it optimized. The webmaster is like the captain of a ship, understanding the interconnectedness of all the crew and their responsibilities. Because of this, the role has been growing again in recent years.

The role of a webmaster

Webmasters have a broad understanding of all the technologies that come together to make a website work. They also understand how to identify where improvements can be made and how to take advantage of new web trends to improve the effectiveness of websites.  They are concerned with all aspects of the company’s web presence. Like a great captain, they watch everything and are constantly looking for ways to improve. Webmasters cannot tell their boss, “That isn’t my department,” because pretty much everything is their department. 

They monitor website performance for design, speed, accuracy, and functionality. They oversee marketing efforts, outreach campaigns, and content creation, and even handle information technology work including server administration. And they constantly maintain, update and improve their websites. 

Webmasters have a wide range of skills including graphic design, SEO, HTML, WordPress, content writing, marketing and much more. Some webmasters have multiple clients and manage multiple websites at once, while others work for a single company or organization. Having both left-brain (technical) and right-brain (artistic) strengths is extremely beneficial for webmasters to execute their jobs well.

Interested in pursuing a career as a webmaster?

This career pathway demands professionals who are technically savvy yet can think on their feet about adapting to and meeting customer and client needs. They are essentially a blend of a tech nerd and a skilled marketer. If you like the idea of knowing that your choices have a real everyday impact on a company’s future, you might want to explore becoming a webmaster. Reach out to us today to learn more about the certifications the Web Professionals Organization offers and how we can help you achieve your professional goals. It’s never too late to continue to develop your skills or even make a career change into one of the many exciting and growing web careers.

The Growth of the Internet of Things

The Growth of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, also commonly known as IoT, has been one of the hottest tech topics in recent years. IoT devices have a wide range of applications for both commercial and personal purposes including home security, supply chain control, motion detection, energy management, home appliances, health surveillance, and much more. There are an estimated 36 billion IoT devices worldwide, with that figure expected to climb to 75 billion by 2025. Today, it is already a $200 billion industry. Let’s look at some of the statistics and trends driving IoT in 2021 and beyond. 

5G Cellular Driving IoT Growth 

5G technology has become one of the primary drivers of the IoT, and this will continue in the coming years. By 2024 there will be almost 2 billion 5G cellular subscriptions, and it is estimated that 63% of mobile device subscriptions in North America will be 5G.

New Devices Coming Online

The seemingly exponential growth of both commercial and residential IoT devices will continue as internet-connected devices including televisions, medical sensors, watches, bike locks, alarm systems, microwaves, smoke alarms and even tennis rackets are created and utilized. 127 new devices are connected to the internet every second. 

Vehicles and IoT

Research suggests that internet-connected devices will become the norm in the next few years. Nearly 70% of vehicles around the world will be connected to the internet by 2023. In the U.S. the figure will be even higher, with an estimated 90% of vehicles connected to the internet.

Smart Cities Investing in IoT

Cities that embrace new technology like IoT and artificial intelligence will continue to pull away from other cities that have not invested (or don’t have the resources to invest) in this new technology infrastructure. The top 600 smart cities are expected to make up 60% of worldwide GDP by 2025. 

IoT and Cybercrime

Research suggests that it takes only an average of five minutes for an IoT device to be attacked after it has connected to the internet for the first time. While the IoT holds great promise for consumers, it also presents new opportunities for cybercriminal attacks. 

Business Cybersecurity 

Despite the rise in cyber attacks in the IoT, businesses have not fully caught on to how to defend against such attacks. 48% of businesses that use IoT can’t tell when they experience network breaches. This presents an urgent need for developers who know how to spot and defend against network compromises. 

Business Investment in IoT

Companies have quickly recognized how beneficial IoT technology can be to everyday operations and are expected to invest $15 trillion in IoT technology by 2025. There are a number of cities as well as companies like health care providers and manufacturers that have invested in IoT technology for the future to stay ahead of the curve.

The Future of the IoT Market

Various reports have suggested that the IoT could be worth $4 trillion, $5 trillion, or even $10 trillion in the next several years. Although the projections differ, they are agreed on one thing—there will be rapid and prolonged growth in the market.

It’s clear that the IoT isn’t going anywhere. Companies in a variety of industries will be in need of trained and skilled web developers and designers who know how to most effectively harness IoT technology to deliver consumers with the technology experiences they are looking for. The Web Professionals Organization is dedicated to all professionals who utilize the internet each and every day as the IoT continues to expand.

 

 

July, 2021 Desktop View

This month, I thought it appropriate to post some of my thoughts concerning web and security. Unless you have been unconscious for a while, you have seen so many news articles about ransomware attacks on various corporations. Since many readers work with clients (both internal and external), here are some of my thoughts regarding security. The sad thing is that most of these attack vectors are nothing new. They have been employed for some time, yet some people still fall victim.

I am focusing on what you can do as an individual. Obviously, this is a very large topic and I am just touching on some of the highlights as I see them. I look forward to your comments and encourage further discussion in our member Slack channels where we can focus on more specific items).

Passwords

  • Passwords should be long and complex. If in doubt, length wins over complexity. Consider using passphrases.
  • Passwords should be changed on a regular basis. You decide on what is comfortable for you.
  • Passwords should never be reused on more than one site. Never. There is no reason why you need to do this.
  • If you can’t recall passwords, use a password vault. There are a number of alternatives. Just make certain it is secure and your passwords are updated in the vault as you change them.
  • Passwords should never be shared with others. Never. If there is some unusual situation where another must access your information, change your password, give that party the new one, then change the password again once the need for their access has passed. Frankly, I can not think of any situation where this is warranted, but…

email

  • Never open links included in email messages. If you receive a link to a website (such as a banking site), open a browser and type the URL. It is so easy to spoof website addresses these days. That is why you should manually enter any site URL where you are required to authenticate.
  • Unless you are expecting an attachment from someone, never open email attachments. Never. This is where most malware gets started. I recommend using some form of online storage (which is virus checked) if you must share documents these days.

2FA

  • Whenever possible employ two factor authentication as part of your login. In a nutshell, there are three ways to prove you are who you say you are – something you know (like a password), something you posess (like an authentication app), and something you are (like facial recognition or fingerprints). I recommend using the first two in combination since it is very difficult to change your bio-metrics.

Phone calls

  • I recommend activating the feature found on modern mobile devices which only allow for incoming calls from those in your list of contacts. Anyone else must leave a voice message. Most scammers rely on a sense of urgency to get you to take an action you would typically not do (for example, say “yes” or share a password. Review the voice message and only call back if you are certain you need to speak with the individual leaving the message. Most scammers will likely not even leave a voice message. I assure you, the sheriff’s department will never call you to let you know they are coming to arrest you. It is best to delete similar junk.

Final thoughts

I know this list is not complete, and should be obvious to readers. However, it never hurts to review the basics periodically. Always apply a healthy dose of skepticism when anyone contacts you and asks you to take action. The more immediate their request, the greater the likelihood it is a scam.

June, 2021 Desktop View

As we begin another month, here are my thoughts regarding what is happening in our industry.

This month, my thoughts center around longevity. Hope you find this information useful. In case you are curious, I built my first web page in 1992 (yes, 29 years ago). It no longer exists, nor does the company where I built it at.

I am already looking forward to your comments.

Ageism

My colleague and friend, Tom Green, recently posted an article on LinkedIn.com about this last acceptable prejudice.After you review the article, let’s start a discussion in our Slack #general channel about this topic. What are your experiences? Does Tom’s article resonate with you? Why or why not?

CSS

Eric Meyer reflects on 25 years of CSS. Has it really been that long? If you have a moment, please post a comment reflecting on your first use of CSS. Consider a discussion in our Slack channel as well. What are your thoughts on the past 25 years of CSS.

WordPress

Speaking of longevity, WordPress turned 18 in May. Isobel Weston has a great overview article at NameCheap. From a simple blogging platform to a technology which powers nearly 41% of the WWW these days. And it only took 18 years to get to this point. Makes me wonder what the next 18 years hold for this technology.

Annual Web Competition with SkillsUSA

Speaking of longevity, this year marks the 19th year for our national web competition held in conjunction with SkillsUSA. Our first year (2004) was a demonstration contest. This year will mark our first large scale virtual competition. We did a smaller competition in 2020 as the pandemic raged. This year, we have over 20 teams competing at secondary and post-secondary levels. Winners will be announced near the end of June at the above site.

I am curious – now that you have read this far, what information would you like to see next month? Please tell us via the comments.

May, 2021 Desktop View

Note from Mark. I plan to periodically provide article summaries and insights. I am hoping this will happen once each month. Hope is the operative word. Here are my thoughts as we begin May, 2021. I welcome your comments about additional topics you would find helpful as well as your thoughts about these articles. I found them most interesting/ thought provoking.

Accessibility

Using Modern CSS to Improve Accessibility. This article by Stephanie Eckles provides a quick overview of what it means to have an accessible website. Stephanie then covers using some of the newer CSS to enhance accessibility. This includes use of outline-offset to position the outline away from the element. The focus-visible pseudo-class will display an outline only when the user agent determines it needs to be visible. There is so much more in this article, I encourage you to set aside time to read it in its entirety and digest how these CSS features can be used to solve real world accessibility issues.

A.I.

GPT-3 is a language supermodel which is quietly ushering in the A.I. revolution. This article by Luke Dormehl explains why this text generating algorithm makes a difference. The main difference with prior algorithms is that limited training is required. In the past, significant input was required for A.I. to “learn.” This no longer seems to be needed. Think. About. That. Here is a key quote from the article (it certainly resonated with me).

“Machine learning has been transformative in all sorts of ways over the past couple of decades. But machine learning requires a large number of training examples to be able to output correct answers. GPT-3, on the other hand, has a “few shot ability” that allows it to be taught to do something with only a small handful of examples.”

Ok, Mark, what does all this A.I. have to do with Web design and development? One example mentioned in the article is a layout generator which”renders a functional layout by generating JavaScript code from a simple text description.” Another example is a GPT-3 based search engine. I think you will find this article most interesting and informative. Our industry is changing and A.I. is going to have a major impact. Plan accordingly.

FLoC

Federated Learning of Cohorts is Google’s replacement for tracking cookies. Our advisory board member, Deborah Edwards-Orono, has a great article about this effort and her concerns. Simply put, FLoc is included by default in the new version of the Chrome browser [see our recent post on the popularity of this browser] and collects your recent browser activity. It takes that activity and labels it then shares the “cohort” with other websites and advertisers. The main concern with this approach is privacy. She also discusses a new WordPress plugin Disable FLoC which is easy to install and has no configuration settings, it just  does what it claims to do. If you would like to learn more about the implications of FLoC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a solid overview as well.

For those not using WordPress, Marko Saric has an overview article at Plausible which also includes the snippet of code you can add to your .htaccess file to disable FLoC as well.

Future of the WWW

Professor Sir Tim Berners’Lee (inventor ot the WWW) thinks his creation is out of control. In this interview, he explains his plans to save it.The big issue these days is privacy. He proposes Solid (a new system to decentralize the Web). His core idea is PODS (Personal Online Data Stores) which each person has control over. The fundamental change is that anyone wanting to use your information must ask for your permission. After you review the interview, I would be keen to learn your thoughts about this approach. Comments are open.

Hardware

Gizmodo recently discussed the fact that Verizon is recalling 2.5 million of its hotspots because they are literally too hot. There have been 15 reports of the devices overheating (6 instances of fire damage). Review the article to see if  you have one of these hotspots (various models sold between April, 2017 and March, 2021).

WordPress

Easy WP Guide has been released for WordPress 5.7 (most current version). No discussion of PHP or the technical details, just a comprehensive guide to help you edit the content of your site. This is a free download. Web Professionals who build sites using this technology may wish to share this document with their clients (if you haven’t already). You can purchase the guide which allows you to brand it as you wish.

For those developers using Elementor as part of their WordPress installations, you may wish to review the recent Wordfence post discussing recent vulnerabilities with Elementor.  For those who are not aware, Elementor is installed on over 3.5 million WordPress sites. The Wordfence team found over 100 vulnerable endpoints.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you found these articles and insights helpful. What else would you like to see in future articles? What did you think about these? I look forward to reading your comments.

Best always,
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals (a.k.a. World Organization of Webmasters)

Taking a Look at the Popularity of Google Chrome

Taking a Look at the Popularity of Google Chrome

The internet! Completely useless without a single piece of software. Well, maybe not completely useless, but it wouldn’t be the service we enjoy every day. Accessible, easy to use, and easy to find content.

Much of this is down to a single type of software, the web browser. It does what it says, allowing you to search and browse the internet. Taking what would be a bunch of ugly HTML files written in confusing code and rendering them into something we can all understand and interact with.

There has been a long-standing joke in the community, about the ‘other’ web browser. Some people call it Internet Explorer, and others call it “The Chrome Downloader.” This is because Google Chrome has a 67% of the market share. This is incredible when you consider that Internet Explorer—and more recently Microsoft Edge—browsers come preinstalled on every Windows computer. That means 67% of the market makes an active choice to ditch that Microsoft browser and install Google’s Chrome browser instead.

Microsoft recently based its newest version of Microsoft Edge on the Chromium Browser, which is the open-source project that powers Google Chrome. Safari, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox—four web browsers that get completely dominated by Google’s offering.

A Brief History

But how did this come to be?

Back in 2008, the picture was very different. Internet Explorer was the dominant browser. In fact, it had 64% of the market around this time. But Internet Explorer was unstable, prone to crashes,  and had many problems. Firefox was running as the second browser of choice—it was open source and more stable. However, both browsers suffered from the fact that they had been around for a long time. Firefox came from a browser lineage that was even older than Internet Explorer. When Netscape decided to release the source code of its dying browser to the open-source community, Firefox was born.

Because both these browsers came about within a year of each other, Netscape came out in 1994 and Internet Explorer 1 came out in 1995. They suffered from the same stale internet ideas that had been present throughout the ’90s—the idea that the internet was designed to show you pictures, some video and a lot of text, then link you to the next thing.

Google came in at a time when the internet was evolving into something a little different, seeing the internet as a platform not unlike an operating system—and, of course, this philosophy has come to pass with Chrome OS, as it is an entire operating system effectively based on the internet.

Google saw the web as a location to play games, run applications and operate services—and it very much treated it that way. The company created Google Docs (a replacement for Microsoft Office) Google Maps (a replacement for AutoRoute) and many other application services. While these products didn’t come until later, it can be argued that without Google Chrome’s application-focused approach, many of the services wouldn’t exist today.

Google Chrome was built from the ground up with applications in mind. To this end, Google began poaching Firefox developers as well as experienced developers from the Netscape team, and they were put in charge of the project. Their job was to create a new browser from what was deemed Web 2.0 at the time.

While the Chrome team faced the problem of creating brand new technologies from scratch, the approach proved advantageous because their rivals Microsoft and Mozilla were both trying to make better browsers too—but they were reworking legacy technologies instead of creating new ones.

This allowed the Google team to focus on building their own custom tools, without any of the “but we’ve always done it this way” arguments.

The biggest difference between Google’s approach and the others was the invention of the sandbox. The sandbox is Google Chrome’s biggest advantage. Every time a new tab is opened in Chrome, that website is run inside a sandbox. It is completely isolated from the rest of the browser. By isolating them, no two tabs could communicate with or interfere with each other. If you landed on a bad website, the tab would be forced to close or freeze—but nothing else in the browser was affected.

The drawback to this approach lives with us today. Google Chrome takes up a lot of memory every time it creates a new sandbox environment for a web page to load in. But the improved stability proved a greater boon.

Google called upon a massive community of open source developers by beginning the Chromium project in 2008, allowing the company to effectively gain free labor from the open-source community. This allowed Google Chrome to align with open-source community web standards.

Because they made the project open source very early on, the browser became very popular with the developer community. Because it was open-source it was much easier for developers to understand how the browser worked, allowing them to push the limits of web technologies in ways you couldn’t do with other browsers. The result was an ever-growing number of web apps that worked extremely well with Google Chrome but poorly with other browsers. This gave the average user even more reason to download the browser if they wanted their favorite web app to work right.

By July 2009, just nine months after Google officially launched Chrome, they had 30 million people browsing the web. This was when Google announced the Chrome Operating System.

In December of the same year, Google released the extensions gallery which allowed the browser to be extended with extra plugins and extensions quickly and easily.

The extensions provided a welcome replacement to the myriad of toolbars you could install in other browsers, which often created cluttered interfaces. Some toolbars would even cause the browser to crash outright upon loading. Google’s approach was far more streamlined and simple.

While all this was going on, Microsoft was being attacked by the U.S. federal government over anti-competitive practices. The government argued that bundling internet explorers into Windows was just a way to dominate the market. Google capitalized on this by giving everyone a choice to install their browser. By 2010, Microsoft was forced by the European Commission to provide an alternative choice to the standard Internet Explorer. Windows users were faced with a new window offering them a browser of their choice.

In 2010, the Chrome Web Store replaced the Chrome Gallery. It was a bigger and better incarnation of the feature that is still around today.

One of the oldest browser extensions is Adblock Plus. The extension could be argued to have created the online subscription model we see more and more today as ads are blocked in browsers.

But in 2015, the combination of the clean interface, fewer crashes, better extensions, and a growing collection of web apps that worked best in it resulted in Chrome browser increasing its market share to 52%—more than all the other browsers combined.

Over time, Google has created more and more web services including YouTube, Drive, Calendar, Docs, Earth, Maps, and much more. Chrome is no longer a simple web browser. It is a gateway into Google’s ecosystem of online services, many of which are completely free to use.