Posts tagged developer
Guest author Sean Bowen is CEO and co-founder of Push Technology.
App marketplaces have exploded. Apps have taken over as the preferred destination of mobile users, who now spend 86% of their time on them, compared to just 14 percent on websites. The numbers suggest that dedicated mobile software offers the most optimal way of engaging users.
That is, as long as the app performs well.
Mobile applications have come a long way since 1998, when a mobile version of the classic video game, Snake, arrived. Preinstalled on Nokia 6110 phones, the app had users navigating a “snake” of monochromatic, blocky pixels on their screens. Now apps will need more than that to carve out a permanent place on home screens. They’ll have to contend with a long list of consumer expectations.
Here are six priorities app developers should focus on.
1. Win the Performance Race
In the world of mobile apps, speed sells. On-the-go users don’t want to wait for apps to load or updates to install, and they don’t care if an app’s sudden popularity creates a bandwidth bottleneck. They just want it to load quickly and work smoothly.
In worst-case scenarios, users simply delete poorly performing apps. In fact, according to a survey by Compuware, 59% say they would drag an app to the trash if it’s too slow. Others find ways around the app—for instance, some savvy Facebook and Twitter users find that the websites often outperform those apps on speed and performance.
2. End Wild Goose Chases
When it comes to app design, less is more. Often times, apps that have been praised for their design are laid out logically and simply, and they perform how users expect them to. When users click on a menu, they have a reasonable idea of where they will end up, without having to guess where to find what they’re looking for.
It’s critically important that developers get the design right. According to an EPiServer poll, as many as 47% of users will delete an app if it’s too difficult to use. That’s exactly what many iPhone users did back in 2012, when the iOS 6 software came equipped with a “disaster” called Apple Maps. The app was so difficult to use and inaccurate that it even spawned the Tumblr page, “The Amazing iOS 6 Maps,” which collected screenshots of Apple Maps glitches. Many iPhone users turned to Google Maps and then stayed there.
3. Keep The Same Experience, No Matter The Device
Some users spring for in-app purchases in a tablet app—like a new game character or extra features—only to find that the upgrade doesn’t carry over to the same app on their phones. Or they start listening to a podcast on an iPhone, only to waste time on the iPad version to find where they left off.
A user should be able to easily jump back and forth between different versions of the same apps on different devices, without feeling like they are starting from scratch. Unfortunately, these types of performance problems are only going to become more prevalent and frustrating for users as more people switch between multiple devices. In fact, Cisco estimates that there will be 1.4 mobile devices per person by 2018.
Switching devices should be easy—like changing lanes on a highway. You may be in a different lane, but you’re still on the same journey. App users crave that same type of experience, and it’s up to app developers to ensure that the user journey stays consistent across devices.
4. Banish Count Appula
According to AVG’s CTO Yuval Ben-Itzhak, “Apps are what make a phone, but they’re also what break it.” There’s some truth to that. Apps create millions of different experiences for users, but that potential can be wasted if they’re “vampire apps.”
Vampire apps eat up battery life, rack up data charges and dramatically impact overall device and app performance. Users can take steps to mitigate those effects. They can reduce data usage and battery drain by turning off location services or by using Wi-Fi instead of mobile network services whenever possible. New apps like Normal, which crowdsources information about how apps deplete battery life, also help. But ultimately, it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to make up for these failings.
App developers need to find ways to minimize data usage and streamline processing to improve performance and battery life.
5. Remember Murphy’s Law
If an app’s function doesn’t perform as expected, users will be sure to zoom in on it. Some will complain about it to friends. Others will give the app a one-star review or even delete it altogether.
Let’s say you have a car rental app. It displays all available vehicles’ make, model and year in a beautiful map of your surroundings. That’s all very helpful—but what if, because of unreliable network connectivity, the app can’t actually book it? Or a glitch stopped the confirmation email from coming through, leaving you unsure if the request was received. Sounds like a fairly minor failure, but it leaves users with no confidence in the app.
6. Play Nicely with Other Apps
The apps with the richest performing experiences don’t stubbornly trap users in one environment. Instead, they interact with each other, so users won’t have to duplicate their actions or zigzag between stock apps—even if they do roughly the same thing.
For instance, Instagram users are probably happy that they can have all of their pictures automatically saved to the “Photos” application on their iPhone. They can apply Instagram filters before posting it on the network, or share the original, unedited versions with friends who don’t use Instagram.
Strong app performance isn’t just about how an app functions in a vacuum—app developers have to think about how their app fits into the larger ecosystem, as this is how users will derive true value.
If you could send a new iPhone 6 owner back in time to 1998 to play Snake, he or she wouldn’t describe the game as fast, easy to use, responsive, interactive or compatible with other apps. But as technology has evolved, so, too, have user expectations.
For developers to live up to them, they need to understand that optimal app performance hinges on how well data is managed on the back end. If app makers need to think about how they can apply intelligent data distribution to make apps more lightweight, they can ensure that the data traveling across the network isn’t redundant or out-of-date.
The backend is invisible to users, so they may not know whether apps are designed using intelligent data distribution. But they will notice when apps don’t perform as expected.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Third-party developers can now integrated their apps into Google Now Cards.
The post Google Now Cards Integrated With Third-Party Developer Apps appeared first on Search Engine Land.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Google gave Android Wear, its smartwatch platform, a boost Wednesday, with new watch faces, a new Watch Face developer tool and a new Android Wear companion app.
Dozens of new watch faces are available in a new Google Play section, offering a selection that includes functional, attractive and fun styles, including a Minion from “Despicable Me.” The new options were designed to show what developers can do with the Watch Face API, which lets them make and distribute their own designs. (See our API explainer.)
The tools include things like OpenGL, which gives them smoother graphics, and background services to put weather, appointments and other features on the face.
Users can download watch faces from Google Play, as they would any watch app, or they can use Google’s newly built Android Wear companion app. The latter, Google says, was developed for easier app discovery, downloads and swapping of watch faces. Some of these changes are available now, while others will roll out over the coming week, says the company.
For more information, Android Wear developers can check out Google resources like Designing Watch Faces, watch Creating Watch Faces training video, or see a WatchFace Sample online (also available in the samples manager for Android Studio).
If you’re an app maker who has already built watch faces for Android Wear by using workarounds, Google still urges you to build using the official API. The company wants a consistent experience for end users, and it emphasizes that it’s the gateway for a featured spot in the Google Play’s Watch Faces catalog.
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Apple has released its WatchKit software development kit (SDK) ahead of next year’s Apple Watch debut. Now other developers can join early partners ESPN, American Airlines and Instagram by creating their own apps for Apple’s littlest screen.
Spring-boarding off Apple’s iOS mobile platform, the SDK lets app makers code and test their Apple Watch apps. Given the timing of the kit’s release, however, it seems likely the new wearable won’t land right after the turn of the New Year. Early spring seems far more likely at this point—a leaked video transcript certainly suggests as much.
The development path carved out by the SDK presents three options for app creators:
- Make a standard Watch App, with its own interface and features. (Though fully customizable interfaces don’t appear to be possible, at least not yet.)
- Add snippets of info to the device’s Glances feature, to let users roll through card-like bits of swipeable data. Think news, weather, stocks, sports scores or other small, easily digestible information. ESPN has already been working on a Watch app that funnels scores and news to Glances. American Airlines will send gate changes or flight status updates to the wrist.
- Create pop-up alerts that let users take action—like replying to a text on the wrist or silencing an incoming call with a message. Instagram has been working on an Apple Watch app that lets users like and respond to images directly through notifications, as well as view photo feeds or follow other Instagram users.
What they can’t do, however, is build a standalone Watch app, at least not yet. It’s on the road map for later on in 2015, but for now, any third-party wearable software will have to link to a companion mobile app running on an iPhone or iPad.
According to the SDK, the sizes and display resolutions of the two versions should pose no real challenge, as they merely funnel in data from the host phone or tablet. But that doesn’t mean developers can ignore the differential. The 1.65-inch tall display on the men’s version has a 312 x 390 pixel resolution; the women’s 1.5-inch screen offers 272 x 340 pixels.
For more information on the inner workings of the SDK, here are some reactions from developers who have dug into WatchKit so far.
- The system font is named San Francisco. That rings a bell. There are two versions: San Francisco Text, for sizes 19pt and smaller, and San Francisco Display, for sizes 20pt and up. Display is set tighter; Text has bigger punctuation marks and larger apertures on glyphs like “a” and “e”.
- From the Watch HIG: “Avoid using color to show interactivity. Apply color as appropriate for your branding but do not use color solely to indicate interactivity for buttons and other controls.” Can we get this HIG guideline on iOS next year? UPDATE: Neven Mrgan thinks Apple means “use color not just for interactivity”, not that you shouldn’t use color alone to indicate interactivity.
- A lot of WatchKit is about offloading processing to the iPhone — the Watch is effectively a remote display for an extension running on your iPhone. This should be good for Watch battery life, but limiting when you’re not carrying your iPhone. This is not going to be a “leave your iPhone at home” device; more like “leave your iPhone in your purse or pocket.”
Ultimately, it looks like the Apple Watch will start off as little more than a pipeline for the apps running on iPhones—which, frankly, doesn’t really distinguish it that much from other smartwatches that have already hit the scene. We’ll see how many different directions developers can take this. And when the company will really let them loose.
Photo courtesy of Apple
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Pornographic content is forbidden in the Apple App Store, but Apple seems to be OK with sending porn to developers who submit their apps for review, according to one who received an inappropriate pic.
“It turns out Apple thought the best way to tell us our app could be used to surf porn was to surf for porn using our app,” Carl Smith, a Florida developer for nGen Works, wrote in a blog post on Medium (NSFW link).
The email, which Smith shared with ReadWrite, appears to be from the Apple app review team and includes an attached photo of a man’s genitalia, but no warning of the enclosed content. This is the kind of thing that can create a hostile work environment for nGen employees whose jobs necessitate reading emails from Apple.
Smith suggested a number of alternatives he thought Apple could have used to indicate a concern about explicit content. The team could have sent nGen Works a search term to try, or even warn in advance what the emailed photo was of. Instead, Smith said the developers who opened the email had no warning that it would be graphic.
“What I want from Apple is for them to address the issue and put a policy in place that prevents an App store reviewer from sending pornographic images as an example of a issue,” he said. “They could have easily masked out the bad part of the photo or told us a phrase to search. At the very least warn someone before they open the attachments that they aren’t safe for work.”
“Specifically, we noticed your app contains objectionable content at time of review. Please see the attached screenshot/s for more information,” the Apple review team email reads, before offering a downloadable file that turned out to be the genitalia photo in question.
Smith said solution is hypocritical of the company. Of course nGen’s app, which allows users to enlarge, save, and search for Instagram photos, would be capable of browsing any photo that exists on Instagram already.
“This is a double standard,” Smith told ReadWrite. “If I type bad words into Safari I am going to see bad things. So I think Apple needs to address that.”
Smith said he doubted Apple’s “upper echelons” would approve of this action, and encouraged readers to spread the word.
We’ve contacted Apple for a comment on this allegation.
Photo via Shutterstock
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Twitter is making its play for developers.
At its first-ever Flight developer conference, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced a new developer toolkit aimed at helping developers build and make money off applications on the Twitter platform. Called Twitter Fabric, the bundle of services includes Twitter’s Crashlytics application crash detecting service, and MoPub, the ad exchange network.
With the new tools, Twitter officially throws its hat in the ring to compete with Facebook and Google for developers’ time and attention. Its tools are designed to work with Apple’s Xcode and “all major Android IDEs,” meaning that developers can presumably use the Twitter tools within the development environments they’re already used to.
Costolo also lobbed some direct criticism at competitors during his keynote address. “The mobile SDK landscape has been inhabited by parties that optimize for self-interest first, and your interest second,” Costolo said.
He was presumably poking at Facebook, which offers developers the backend-as-a-service Parse, Facebook Login, and the new Facebook Audience Network that displays Facebook ads across different applications.
Google, meanwhile, also just acquired Firebase, a backend service for building realtime apps as part of its cloud services.
Twitter also debuted a new Twitter login feature that will let people log into applications and services with their Twitter credentials instead of creating new username/password IDs for each one. That service essentially matches similar login services from Facebook and Google.
Lead image by Selena Larson for ReadWrite
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For the last few months, any Android app maker who wanted to check out the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system had the Android L Developer Preview to play with. Now, “L” has taken on a few more letters to become “Lollipop,” and on Friday, the full release of its software developer kit became available for download.
According to Google, Lollipop (also known as Android 5.0) will be heading to Nexus 4, 5, 7 (2012, 2013) and 10 in early November, right around the time when the latest Nexus 6, 9 and Nexus Player will hit the market. That’s just a couple of weeks away.
In other words, if you’re an Android developer, don’t wait to roll up those sleeves and dive in. There’s not much time left, if you want to get your apps ready for the launch.
Images courtesy of Google
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Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by our partners at xoJane.
They threatened the wrong woman this time. I am the Godzilla of bitches. I have a backbone of pure adamantium, and I’m sick of seeing them abuse my friends.
The misogynists and the bullies and the sadist trolls of patriarchal gaming culture threatened to murder me and rape my corpse, and I did not back down. They tried to target my company’s financial assets and I did not back down. They tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an attempt to professionally discredit me and I did not back down.
The BBC called me “Defiant,” in a caption. I plan to frame and put it on my wall.
What Is “Gamergate”?
My name is Brianna Wu. Ordinarily, I develop videogames with female characters that aren’t girlfriends, bimbos and sidekicks. I am a software engineer, a popular public speaker and an expert in the Unreal engine.
Today, I’m being targeted by a delusional mob called “Gamergate.”
If you don’t know what Gamergate is, my God do I envy you. Gamergate is basically a group of boys that don’t want girls in their videogame clubhouse. Only, instead of throwing rocks, they threaten to rape you. And, if that doesn’t work, they’ll secretly record your conversations and release the lurid details of your sex life in a public circus. From seeing the Gamergate mobs plan this on 8chan.co, it seems like they’re having a lot of fun.
It started two months ago, when my friend Zoe Quinn dated Eron Gjoni. Their relationship ended, as relationships sometimes do. Only, rather than get drunk and play Madden, Eron decided to secretly record everything Zoe said, and released it on a blog he titled “The Zoe Report” in an attempt to destroy her.
If Zoe had been a man, the blog would have been laughed off as the work of a jilted lover.
But, no. Instead, a mob formed to destroy her. Ostensibly concerned about ethics, Gamergate was very worried about Gjoni’s accusations that Zoe might have had a relationship with a journalist to get favorable reviews of her universally celebrated title Depression Quest, which has been downloaded more than a million times and has helped countless people better understand their depression.
It tells you everything you need to know about Gamergate that this mob went after Zoe and not the journalist.
How Gamergate Happened To Me
The Gamergate mob isn’t a new thing, though it’s only recently been named. They targeted my friend Samantha Allen back in July, when she dared criticize Giant Bomb’s decision to remain the only major site in videogames with a 100 percent white, straight and male employee pool.
They ran through their playbook. They targeted her on Twitter, they harassed her. They researched her past. They questioned her personal relationships. They threatened her. And they have done everything possible to try to quash one of the videogame industry’s most insightful and powerful voices.
It’s a playbook that works. They used it against Jenn Frank until she quit. They used it against Mattie Brice until she quit. They used it against Leigh Alexander. They used it against Zoe Quinn. And they used it against Anita Sarkeesian, who had to cancel a speaking engagement gig this week after a school shooting threat—and then they used it against me.
What was my crime?
A fan of my show on 5by5, Isometric, made a meme of some of my Tweets about Gamergaters.
I loled. I tweeted. And, by Friday I was receiving death threats.
I have to be honest. A mob telling you they will castrate your husband, make you choke to death on the parts, murder any children you might have and then rape your ass until it bleeds has a way of scaring the hell out of you.
But, you know, because I am the Godzilla of bitches, by Saturday morning I was pissed off. I’m talking Jack Bauer pissed off. So, I decided I was going to do everything in my power to stop these fuckers.
Thanks in part to Wil Wheaton, one of my tweets about the death threats went mega viral. The press started calling. I wanted to crawl into a hole, but I pushed through and talked to them. Kotaku ran a story. Recode ran a story. Polygon ran a story. I was barely sleeping or eating, but I pulled myself together for MSNBC and CNN. The anti-Gamergate movement started to catch fire. Over 100 stories have been written all over the world because I’m sick of these asshats taking out my friends and I’m calling them on their shit.
What It’s Like To Be A Target
There’s no easy way to say this. I am a massive target for Gamergate/8chan.co right now and it is having horrible consequences for my life.
They tried to hack my company financially on Saturday, taking out our company’s assets. They’ve tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an effort to discredit me. They are making burner accounts to send lies about my private life to prominent journalists. They’ve devastated the metacritic users’ score of my game, Revolution 60, lowering it to 0.3 out of 100.
With all of this, my only hope is that my colleagues in the industry will stand by me—and recognize the massive target I made myself standing up to these lunatics.
I woke up twice last night to noises in the room, gasping with fear that someone was there to murder me. I can barely function without fear or jumpiness or hesitation. I’ve been driven from my home. My husband says he feels like he’s been shot.
But I have to be honest: I don’t give a fuck.
I am mad as hell at these people, and I’m not going to let them keep destroying the women I love and respect.
In part, because of the press campaign I’ve done in the last five days against Gamergate, the jig is up. The Entertainment Software Association, the largest trade group in our industry, denounced the movement. Vox ran an editorial about the pattern established with the threats against me, “Angry misogyny is now the primary face of #GamerGate.” And journalistic enterprises like Giant Bomb, which had sat on the sidelines, are finally discussing the issue.
Gamergate, I have one message for you so listen up.
When you take your last dying breath, I want you to know this. It was an absolute pleasure knocking you on your ass for the fine women in this field.
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Hacking new technologies can be time-consuming … and expensive. So to help students create technical projects or learn how to use new tools, social coding site GitHub and a handful of technology partners have created the GitHub Student Developer Pack that provides access to 14 developer tools for free.
The project has been in the works for over a year, said John Britton, education evangelist at GitHub. The company already provides a free “micro account” to students, which provides them with five free private code repositories; this plan normally costs $7 a month. (GitHub’s normal free plan requires all such “repos” to be public). Now it’s expanding on that offer with limited free access to tools like Stripe for payment processing and DigitalOcean for cloud hosting.
Many companies offer free services to students who aren’t shy about asking for them. But Britton says most companies make these offers on an individual basis, because it takes time and effort to manage an entire student services database.
“Students would write and ask GitHub for tools—a lot of companies are happy to do it, but it’s ad-hoc,” Britton said. “It’s an administrative burden. We thought, ‘If we’re going to do the administrative work anyway, why not offer other tools as well and take the admin responsibility?’”
Over 100,000 students have already used a free GitHub account.
While it’s a charitable move on GitHub’s part, it won’t just benefit students. Once aspiring coders and engineers have grown accustomed to certain services, they’ll likely stick with the ecosystems they know when the free trial expires. That means more customers for companies like Stripe, which is waving fees for students on the first $1000 in revenue processed.
It will also benefit teachers who want to teach a class in something like game development. If they want to use the Unreal game engine, for instance, teachers can tell students to sign up for a GitHub Student Developer Pack, which will save each student almost $20 per month.
See also: GitHub Gets Its Science On
Students must sign up through GitHub and show proof of student status such as a university dot-edu email address or a student ID card. If neither is available, GitHub says an enrollment letter or transcript will work as well. Any student aged 13 or older can sign up for an account.
Participating companies will rely on GitHub’s student verification. So once students sign up through the company, they’ll get coupon codes or unique access links and can begin to use the full suite of services.
The offerings are as follows:
- Atom: A free text editor from GitHub
- Bitnami: Business 3 plan ($49/month for non-students) for one year
- Crowdflower: Access to the Crowdflower platform (normally $2,500/month) and $50 in worker credit
- DigitalOcean: $100 in platform credit
- DNSimple: Bronze hosted DNS plan ($3/month for non-students) for two years
- GitHub: Micro account (usually $7/month) with five private repositories while you’re a student
- HackHands: $25 in credit for live programming help
- Namecheap: Free domain name registration on the .me TLD and one free SSL certificate for one year
- Orchestrate: Free developer accounts for students (normally $149/month)
- Screenhero: Free individual account while you’re a student (saves students $10/month)
- SendGrid: Free student plan for one year (saves students $5/month)
- Stripe: No fees on first $1000 in revenue processed
- Travis CI: Free private builds (normally $69/month)
- Unreal Engine: Free access to the service (usually $19/month)
Lead image by HackNY
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Pity the child star. Like a Macaulay Culkin peaking too early, Docker, the hotter-than-hot Linux “container” technology, is already coming under withering criticism for not living up to its hype as the reincarnation of Gandhi … or the cure for Ebola.
Which is obviously really, really stupid.
Let’s be clear: there are lots of reasons to hype Docker. In a world of increasingly distributed applications, Docker’s Linux container technology is rightly celebrated for its ability to streamline and accelerate application development. But some advocates may be going too far in their adulation of Docker, making Docker hate feel like a public service.
A Happy Life With Docker
The cloud has made application development much easier in some ways, as developers no longer need to wait on the IT department to spin up servers for them. But it has also complicated things. Docker’s beauty lies in bringing simplicity to modern application development, as detailed by Jodi Mardesich for ReadWrite:
Docker is creating a massive buzz because it simplifies life for developers. Instead of cobbling together tools and writing apps for specific databases and other software components and operating systems, with Docker, developers can “package” an application in standard containers that can be transferred to virtually any server anywhere, whether it’s a virtual server on the developer’s laptop, a physical server in a company’s data center, or a virtual machine on Amazon’s Elastic Cloud.
This is a very big deal. So much so, in fact, that it has led people like Web programmer Barry Jones to gush about its potential:
[Docker] is going to be the most disruptive server technology that we’ve seen in the last few years. It fills a much needed hole that’s currently managed by very expensive solutions and it’s being actively funded by some of the biggest players in the market…. Docker is actively working to replace the need for hypervisors, virtual machines (VMs) and configuration management tools like Puppet / Chef /CFEngine in MOST cases.
In other words, abandon hope, all ye that enter here to compete with the Docker juggernaut.
Not surprisingly, such thinking drives technology pragmatists crazy.
Piercing The Reality Distortion Field
Some, like the authors of the Neutron Drive blog, complain that some “use these powerful tools [like Docker] to just cover up our crappy code.” Others, like Satory Global architect Neil Mackenzie, suggest that it’s not at all clear that Docker maps well to business realities, holding that it’s “not obvious that Docker fits well with the economic model of the public cloud where isolated VMs allows high-density utilization.”
Still others, like 451 Research’s Michael Coté, take a more sardonic tone:
Followed by CSC’s Simon Wardley gleefully heckling that “Docker turned my old ZX81 into a teleportation device and perpetual energy machine.”
None of these apparent critics is really being critical of Docker itself, though. They’re swatting at the hubris around Docker. This is one of the hardest tasks of any promising technology: reining in advocates, rather than answering critics. The haters will always be there and, if anything, simply serve as a leading indicator of success.
But some hate is an unnecessary byproduct of over-the-top adulation. The trick is to help advocates do so in a responsible fashion.
Consider: it’s possible—even likely—that Docker will threaten virtual machine technology in the long run. After all, as Dell’s Joseph Jacks suggests, “Docker promises to replace heavy VMs w[ith] Linux containers” as its superior isolation granularity means it can deliver “10X+ better consolidation & utilization” of system resources.
But in the short- to medium-term the two complement each other, Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf notes:
[T]here is room for containers and VMs to live together for the next several years. I see value in two layers of encapsulation, one at the OS (VM) and one at the app (container) and we cannot ignore the enterprise readiness of VM security and VM management tools. Container management and security still needs improvement so why not combine the two worlds?
The best course for the Docker team is to embrace its market-changing characteristics without over-promising its current capabilities and uses. And, to the extent possible, to coach its biggest advocates on present-day limits even as they laud future-day possibilities.
So long as Docker engineers remain confident but humble, acolytes and critics alike will take a more measured tone and allow the project to grow into its potential to disrupt application development.
Lead image by wirralwater
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