By the standards of technology trends, the software development niche doesn't tend to be the subject of rapid change. Standard software development practices, tools, and concepts are pretty well-established by now, and it's rare to see major disruptions.
2023, however, was something of an exception. The year brought us several notable major changes in the realm of software development in areas such as AI-assisted programing, open source, and beyond.
- Generative AI Changed the Way We Think About Coding
- AI Development Skills Become Trendy
- Open Source Meets Paywalls
- The Platform Engineering Trend Takes Off
- The Ups and Downs of the Developer Job Market
1. Generative AI Changed the Way We Think About Coding
Probably the most obvious trend in software development for 2023 was the impact of generative AI technology on software development practices.
This wasn't a story that began in 2023; it has its roots in developments like the release of Copilot in 2021 and the debut of ChatGPT (which isn't designed for development specifically but which placed generative AI on more people's radars) in late 2022.
2023, however, was likely the year when a majority of coders began viewing AI as capable of automating much of their work. Whereas generative AI once seemed like a cool tool with limited ability to replace programmers, it has become a more significant disrupter in the AI space — even though it might not take most programmers' jobs anytime soon.
2. AI Development Skills Become Trendy
Surging interest in GenAI also increased demand for developers with specializations in AI and related domains, such as natural language processing (NLP).
You can argue — as I have — that much of this is hype, and that in the long run becoming an expert in AI technology like LLMs may not be the best path to riches and job stability. But as of 2023, at least, AI is where it's at when it comes to trendy software development skills.
3. Open Source Meets Paywalls
Red Hat's decision in the summer of 2023 to place some of its source code behind what critics call a paywall became arguably the most significant controversy in the open source world in years. Although no other projects or vendors appear to have followed suit yet, I tend to think that changes like this call some of the fundamental tenets of open source into question.
It's hard to say exactly where the open source world is headed, but as of 2023, it's looking like the future of open source will prove very different from the past.
4. The Platform Engineering Trend Takes Off
Like GenAI, platform engineering is a trend that originated before 2023 but that really seemed to come into its own this past year. Today, it's not enough to embrace DevOps practices like continuous delivery; organizations also face pressure to offer internal developer platforms (IDPs) if they really want to look like they've modernized software development.
5. The Ups and Downs of the Developer Job Market
When it comes to software development careers, 2023 was the best of times and the worst of times.
It was the best of times in the sense that, on the whole, demand for developers remained strong in the job market. The tech layoffs of 2022 and 2023 caused some churn, but compared to many other fields, software development remains a specialization where it's easy to get a well-paid job.
On the other hand, the rise of generative AI has created some angst about the long-term job prospects of developers whose jobs could potentially be performed by AI. Viewed from that perspective, a career in development looks a bit less a sure bet than it was before the debut of production-ready GenAI tools.
AI is more important than ever to programming, open source developers must navigate evolving challenges, platform engineering is hot, and development careers are going through a period of change. These are the major software development trends of 2023, and they're poised to set the tone for development operations into 2024 and, potentially, beyond.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.