Twitter announced this week that is has been hacked by more than 100 coders and developers … from Twitter.

But don’t go cancelling your account. This is all part of Twitter’s official 2012 Hack Week, a week-long event where employees from across the company are given time away from their desks to hack Twitter, coming up with new tools, ideas and designs to make the Twitter experience even better.

“Hack Week is one of the ways we actively promote innovation through experimentation around the company,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This week, a wide range of folks here are taking time away from their day-to-day work to collaborate and develop ideas that they are passionate about.”

Twitter employees have formed nearly 100 teams to build Twitter-related projects. Some will tackle ease-of-use, some will be just for fun and some will be completely off the wall. Twitter has given its “hackers” little direction, allowing them to freely create and iterate.

More and more companies are realizing the power of crowdsourcing — asking your audience to help you make important brand and business decisions. It may seem risky to ask a mass of anonymous strangers what to do with your money and identity, but the practice has payed off in dividends when done right.

Mountain Dew asked its audience to help it pick a new soda flavor and that campaign, called DEWmocracy, created fan engagement, brand loyalty and improved the bond between consumer and brand.

Companies are starting to realize that that same bond is also necessary with their employees, and what better way to show faith in your staff than to let their talent shine unfettered? Twitter’s Hack Week does just that. Stay tuned for more information. Mashable will follow up with any cool — or possibly permanent — hacks that pop up.

Do you wish your company would give you a hack week or is it just wasted time? Sound off in the comments.




twitter hack week image

Image courtesy of Flickr, dbrulz123 and Twitter

More About: crowdsourcing, hacking, Social Media, Twitter

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Symantec’s pcAnywhere software could very well turn into “virusAnywhere” due to a potential security breach made by Anonymous.

Symantec, the anti-virus software company, warned users of pcAnywhere, a tool that allows for remote access to your computer, to disable the software. Symantec revealed in a white paper that Anonymous stole pcAnywhere’s source code in 2006 and could use that information to create vulnerabilities:

Upon investigation of the claims made by Anonymous regarding source code disclosure, Symantec believes that the disclosure was the result of a theft of source code that occurred in 2006.

The company is working on a set of updates and patches to fix the vulnerability issue even though Anonymous — as far as we know — hasn’t capitalized on it yet. The source code could let malicious users build exploits and attacks targeted at pcAnywhere users to reveal session information, PC Mag reported.

This is not the first time a Symantec product has been compromised, PC Mag pointed out:

In early January, Symantec confirmed that source code used in its older enterprise antivirus products was stolen. Hacker group the “Lords of Dharmaraja” of India had threatened to publish the code online. Although the code dated back to 1999, security expert Alex Horan of CORE Security Technologies said there was still potential for harm.

For users that insist on accessing pcAnywhere, Symantec recommends having the latest version of the software installed to prevent as much damage as possible.

Anonymous is proving to be an international force, not only attacking sites for fun but acting like a kind of digital watch dog. When Megaupload was shut down amid the SOPA and PIPA controversies, alleged members of Anonymous went after SOPA supporters and even the State Department website. Members of Anonymous had previously gone after banks and big business during the financial crisis and even targeted child porn sites. It’s unclear how and why Anonymous would use Symantec’s pcAnywhere source code but hopefully it would be for good and not ill.

What do you think of Anonymous going after Symantec’s source code? Are you a pcAnywhere user? What will you do? Sound off in the comments.


Want to learn more about Anonymous? Check out the video below.


Image courtesy of Flickr, Mac, iPhone and iPad



Protection granted by the U.S. Copyright Office for people who modify their iPhones and other iOS devices so they can install apps not authorized by Apple (known as “jailbreaking”) is set to expire soon. That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is rallying supporters to sign a petition to renew the jailbreaking exemption law.

“The idea that you might face criminal charges because you altered your own property is totally unfair,” said Rebecca Jeschke, media relations director and digital rights analyst for the EFF. “The goal here is to make the law really clear.”

Three years ago the Copyright Office created an exemption to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA that would protect users who jailbroke their phones from legal threats. Without this protection, anyone with a jailbroken iOS device could have legal issues looming over their heads. Currently, jailbreaking an iPhone just voids your Apple warranty.

On Wednesday, the EEF — the organization that filed for the initial jailbreaking exemption that was put into place three years ago — called on users of jailbroken devices to send their comments to the Copyright Office and explain why the exemption should be extended. The EFF also wants tablets and video game consoles to be included in the exemption.

Comments to the Copyright Office are due by Feb. 10 [link to .pdf comment form on copyright.gov]. You can also visit jailbreakingisnotacrime.org to sign a petition supported by EFF and Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox.

“The law was never intended to limit legal activity with a device that was legally bought,” Jeschke said. “It’s not good policy for consumers.”

Jailbreaking devices is useful for uncovering security issues within it, or simply installing a modified operating system so you can access third-party app stores like Cydia.

When news of the 2010 smartphone jailbreaking exemption made headlines, Jeschke said lots of people were flabbergasted to hear this was an issue. Apple fought against the exemption in 2010 — “Which I think would be a surprise to people who spent money on the phone to own it,” Jeschke added.

Apple released a software update late last year for the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 and iPad, plus the third and fourth generations of the iPod Touch. The update would bring phones to 4.3.4. and protect users from malicious PDFs, but also prevented users from jailbreaking the phone with JailBreakMe 3.0.

The tug-of-war between Apple and Android for customers is ongoing and constant. Fans of Apple appreciate the company’s focus on design, while critics say Apple’s closed operating system is confining.

Have you ever jailbroken your phone or considered it? What do you think about the exemption to the DMCA? Tell us in the comments.

More About: hacking, iphone, jailbreak, jailbreaking, trending

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Apple has a reputation for being virus and malware-free, but a hacker has uncovered a potentially dangerous security flaw in the App Store. Charlie Miller, a Mac hacker and computer security researcher, has made a bit of a career finding and exposing flaws in Apple‘s software.

His latest discovery shows how the App Store, Apple’s tightly regulated marketplace for iOS apps and programs, could be compromised by code not approved by Apple, reports Forbes.

Miller’s method is to create a normal, Apple-approved app that is programmed to “call” a remote computer that can then use the app to gain access to the user’s phone. This remote computer can then issue commands such as downloading the address book, files stored on the device or even make it vibrate and ring.

Miller created a dummy app (which has since been removed from the app store) called Instastock, which displayed various stock tickers. The app, however, was also tied to Miller’s home computer where he could use the app to gain access to his phone. You can see Miller describe and discuss the app and his hacking process in the video below.

Forbes reports that Miller noticed the potential flaw when Apple released iOS 4.3, which allows javascript code from the web to run deep in the iOS device’s memory. In order to boost the web speed of its new operating system, Apple created an exception for the browser to run unapproved code — such as Miller’s hack — in a region of the device’s memory that had previously been inaccessible. Miller says it’s a flaw in Apple’s restriction on code signing.

Apple hasn’t issued an official response to Miller’s discovery, though Apple did revoke his developer license. Miller says he’s planning to talk about the flaw in more depth at the SysCan conference in Taiwan next week but has stayed mum on the exact details to give Apple more time to fix the security flaw.

Miller’s hack raises an interesting question on whether publicizing these potentially dangerous flaws are good for companies. Hackers (presumably white-hat) find flaws in systems so that companies and organizations can improve their products and safety measures. This practice becomes more controversial when the hackers are officially unaffiliated with the company or relative unknowns. The hackers essentially break the system to show it can be broken with the hope the company can, or will, fix it.

Are white-hat hackers a public service or a corporate nuisance? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.

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The Hack of the Week Series highlights a new hackathon programming project each week.



Augmenting vision with details about whomever you’re looking at is no longer just a trick for artificially intelligent machines in a post-apocalyptic 2029.

A team at hackday.tv in New York swept both the people’s choice and first place awards Sunday with an iPhone app that gives you “terminator vision.” The app locates a person’s face through the iPhone’s camera and then reads his or her Facebook profile (you need to be Facebook friends for it to work). It uses the profile to provide you with a name, gender and birthdate on a red-tinted screen. If you want, you can hum some suspenseful music to yourself for the full effect.

Now that we’ve seen it, we’re not sure what took so long for someone to make this app. A face recognition API called Face.com has been making it easy for developers to add this capability since 2009. Isn’t this the next logical step?

“I think it’s the kind of thing that you can throw in the App Store and I will pay $1 for it,” says Reece Pacheco, co-founder of Shelby.tv, while announcing the hackathon winners. “And there are at least a million [people] like me who will do the same thing.”

Rich Cameron and Haris Amin, who both work for DailyBurn during the day, haven’t put the app on the App Store yet for potential trademark issues. “There’s going to be a cease and desist letters as soon as the story runs,” Cameron says.

But of the five hackathons that Amin has participated in this year, he says this was the most fulfilling.

“I just didn’t want to do something useful,” he says. “This was way more fun.”

More About: Gadgets, hack of the week, hackathon, hacking, iphone apps


If you’re a developer and you’d like to use your powers for the greater good, we have three ways for you to use your unique talents to affect positive change.


Random Hacks of Kindness


Random Hacks of Kindness is a community that focuses on developing practical and open-source solutions to global challenges. These challenges can range from disaster risk management to climate change adaptation. Solutions so far have included apps such as I’m OK, an SMS app that lets people in disaster-afflicted areas notify family members of their status, and CHASM, an app for landslide risk visualization.

These apps are made by thousands of software experts, volunteer devs and designers from 26 cities around the world. Currently, 120 distinct projects make up RHoK’s opus. Projects continue year-round, but events can be organized to create sprint scenarios.

Random Hacks of Kindness was founded in 2009 as a partnership between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank.


Hack for Change


From Change.org comes Hack for Change, a weekend-long event to be held in San Francisco on June 18 and 19, 2011. (Disclosure: Mashable is a sponsor of this event.)

At the hackathon, 50 devs and designers will split into teams and spend 24 hours creating web or mobile apps they believe will affect positive change. Devs can use any publicly available APIs in their apps, and several companies with APIs popular in this arena will be presenting before the hacking begins.

Anyone can apply to attend and hack in this event, and invitations will be confirmed at the beginning of June.


Code for America


Code for America is still seeking fellows for its 2012 cycle. This organization assembles teams of crack developers to build open-source apps for governments. Each year, many cities and states apply for the CfA program, and many more developers vie for a spot as a CfA fellow.

The chosen hackers are sent to the cities where the apps will be built and used. Each dev is given a stipend, as well as mentorship and post-program recommendations.

CfA Fellowship applications are due July 31, 2011 for the 2012 fellowships.

image courtesy of iStockphoto, nyul

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If you’ve always wanted to tinker with hardware — up to and including building robots — but didn’t know how to start, Grant Imahara of the science-themed, blow-em-up TV show MythBusters has some advice:

“Anything that’s already broken is fair game! The worst-case scenario is it stays broken. The best-case scenario is you find out how it works or, even better, transform it into something else.”

Hardware hacking, like other kinds of hacking, boils down to getting your hands dirty and possessing a desire to know what makes things tick. And for many hackers, that desire starts at an early age.

“I think it’s something you’re born with — the desire to know how things work inside,” Imahara tells Mashable. “And you can tell your kid is a hardware hacker if none of the Hot Wheels cars have wheels, if the remote control gets take apart on a weekly basis.

“The best thing to do is give them more things to take apart so they can see how things work on the inside. Give them tools, and teach them how to use those tools.”

Imahara, who is hosting a Memorial Day Science Channel special on combat robotics, says he also started hacking at a tender age. “Even when I was young, I would build things with Lego or make ‘robots’ out of cereal boxes — long before I learned metalwork. The desire to build was always there.”

Although Imahara has a degree in electrical engineering, he says the robot-builders he’s met — especially those who take their bots into combat competitions — come from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds.

“When I started Battle Bots in 1999, the guy sitting next to me was a high school teacher with no robotics experience at all. There were special effects guys, engineers, software guys who just wrote code — all kinds of people who had a desire to build something,” he says. “And they would do it in their garages or even their kitchens…. You don’t need to be an engineer or have your own machine shop.”

Imahara also notes how much the tools for would-be hardware hackers have grown in the past decade or two.

“I remember when I was a kid and I was interested in robots, there was really nothing out there but Erector Sets and Tinker Toys,” he says. “But now there’s such a variety of robotics-specific choices that you can buy off the shelf and get someone building and programming and exploring.”

For older sorts, Imahara also gives a nod to Maker Faire, which he calls “fertile ground … It’s about ideas, and taking those ideas into something physical.”

He recommends taking a trip to Amazon to browse through the many available books on robotics. His own book Kickin’ Bot is a specific how-to guide for building combat robots.

“And these days,” Imahara adds, “you’ve also got the Internet. There are thousands of webpages and open-source guides.”

Image based on photo from Flickr, dahveed

More advice from Imahara on first design.

More About: developers, engineers, gadgets, grant imahara, hackers, hacking, Hardware, maker faire, mythbusters, robotics, robots

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Imagine you’re a gaming console manufacturer, and some kid hacks your console to do “neat tricks.” Do you help him or sue him?

The question isn’t a hypothetical one; currently, two rival companies have each taken one of these roads. What remains to be seen is which approach will be more profitable, both financially and in terms of gamer goodwill.

Microsoft is set to release a Kinect software developer kit (SDK) to academics and enthusiasts later this spring; the company really is welcoming hackers and curious minds to go to town on its hands-free gestural control interface.

Who could have guessed that the Windows maker, which has struggled to shake an unjustly stodgy image, would be the first to invite experimental development on its gaming platform? Or that its biggest rival in the gaming space, Sony and the PlayStation 3, would be gathering some bad PR of its own for suing PS3 hackers at the same time?


Why Is Sony Suing?


Here’s the skinny: Sony is suing, among other entities, George Hotz, a.k.a. geohot, a 21-year-old hacker who is well known for his iPhone jailbreaking. In fact, Hotz created the first-ever public software exploit for jailbreaking the iPhone 3GS. After working on jailbreak software for the iPhone 4, iPad and a slew of other Apple devices, Hotz turned his attention to the PlayStation 3.

Hotz hacked on the PS3 for at least seven months, successfully opening up the console for homebrew games and PS2 emulation. Along the way, he released the root key (also known as the metldr key), which decrypted the PS3′s loaders, allowing anyone who wanted to open up their own PS3s to do so.

Because of that, Hotz is now knee-deep in a bitter lawsuit with Sony, a lawsuit that’s cost him more than he can afford to pay. In fact, he had to beg the Internet for the more than $10,000 he needed to cover his legal bills.

While Sony says Hotz violated copyrights and committed computer fraud, Hotz, who claims to have never played a pirated game in his life, retorts, “They don’t really care about piracy; they care about control.”


How Microsoft Is Helping Hackers


In a stark contrast, Microsoft seems to not give two shakes about control, at least as far as hacking with the Kinect is concerned.

The company’s brand new gestural control system is as hot as it is financially successful. While many corporations would keep a money-maker like that tightly locked down, Microsoft is doing everything it can to invite more hackers to play with and create experiments with the Kinect.

Microsoft’s big test came last November when a prominent Google engineer staged a Kinect-hacking contest. Previously, Microsoft had made statements that it wanted to make Kinect tamper-proof and would work with law enforcement to ensure that it remained so. But the company changed its tune last November, saying it was “excited to see that people are so inspired” by the possibilities inherent in the Kinect.

Since then, hackers have used the Kinect for everything from World of Warcraft “magic” to music video production.

And today, given the success of Kinect hacking for Xbox, Microsoft announced it will release a non-commercial “Kinect for Windows” SDK. The company says the reason for “a starter kit for application developers is to make it easier for academic research and enthusiast communities to create even richer experiences using Kinect technology.”

The SDK is coming from Microsoft Research (MSR) in collaboration with the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), and it will give devs “deep Kinect system capabilities such as audio, system APIs, and direct control of the sensor.”

A commercial version of the SDK will be available soon.


Which Company Is Right?


The bigger picture Microsoft is trying to convey is that, as a company, Microsoft has long been excited about natural user interfaces; and it wants you, the hacker, to be excited about them, too. Granted, there are still likely some strings attached, and we doubt the company would be tickled to have you blog about Xbox jailbreak codes.

Nevertheless, suing users who hack your console versus helping users who hack (part of) your console are two interesting and opposed actions that are likely to be judged with great relish in the court of popular opinion.

How should Sony be handling geohot and other PS3 hackers who just want to make the console do neat tricks? Is this lawsuit really doing anything other than garnering the multinational corporation a boatload of bad PR?

In the comments, tell us what you would do if you were a Sony exec. We look forward to reading your responses.

More About: geohot, george hotz, hacking, kinect, microsoft, PS3, sony, trending, xbox

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While social media is largely used for its ability to connect people, it also has potential to help antisocial types — as proven by a clever site that tells people when museums, libraries and theaters are least busy.

The site, When Should I Visit?, uses Foursquare’s API to map traffic on each day of the week for about 20 venues in London. People who want to avoid crowds can use the site to make decisions about when to visit.

Since Foursquare doesn’t make any historical data available, site creator Dan W. Williams wrote a program that calls its API ever 15 minutes to make a database. The concept is pretty simple: Since Foursquare tells you where people are, it can also tell you where they aren’t.

Other sites for San Francisco and New York are supposed to launch in about a month, but Williams has no plans to expand beyond that or to try making the sites profitable.

“It’s more of a personal project to see if it’s possible,” he says.

Williams set up the London site at Culture Hack Day — a weekend hacking event for which cultural organizations contribute their data — after someone on Twitter asked a local museum what day it would be least busy.

“It’s sort of this class of act that has become popular lately that gives you this really mundane superpower,” Williams says. “Like there are apps that tell you where to sit on the London underground so that you can get off faster, which doors are nearest the exits on the platforms. This is kind of the same. You can go to a gallery when it is slightly quieter. It’s nothing amazing, but it makes city life slightly more pleasant.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, spfoto

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As a class, developers have had a fantastic year in 2010.

We’ve made headlines, grabbed the limelight, been vilified and glorified beyond all reason and gotten paid pretty nicely along the way. And the bubble of consumer web apps just continues to swell, so there are no signs (yet) that 2011 will bring anything short of grandeur for the web and mobile development communities.

Looking ahead to what the coming year might hold, there are a few sure bets and a few speculations we’d like to offer. Some are, as noted, almost certainly bound to come true. Others are more along the lines of hopes and prayers than hard-and-fast predictions we’d stake money on.

With that in mind, here are 10 things we think the world of hacking will hold in 2011.


1. There Will Be a Need to Understand and Optimize for All Form Factors


Even the most brainless of “social media gurus” could tell you this one. With the surging popularity and newfound accessibility and affordability of smartphones — thanks in large part to the growth of the Android platform — we’ve had to optimize for the mobile web and learn about mobile applications a lot in the past year in particular.

Now, as tablets begin to creep into the market, we’re having to craft new experiences for those, as well. We’re constantly forced to consider form factor when creating new sites and apps. Will it run Flash? What about screen resolution? Font size?

Almost every developer worth his or her salt will have to become increasingly adept at developing for the myriad form factors set to dominate the gadget market in 2011.


2. There Will Be Breakout, Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools


With all the mobile growth that’s been occurring, especially given the current state of the iOS/Android market shares, the time has never been riper for a great mobile framework, SDK or IDE to enter the arena.

Hopefully, sometime in 2011, we’ll see a new group of flexible and robust tools that can facilitate app development for any number of operating systems — including tablet-specific or forked OSes. We’re talking more than WYSIWYG, DIY app-builders and more than iPhone-to-Android porting tools; we want to see serious, mobile-centric power tools in 2011.


3. Investment in Cloud-Based, Collaborative Development Tools


We’ve seen some interesting starts in community-based, online coding. There are a few collaborative code editing apps, some of them with real-time capabilities.

We’re looking forward to seeing more and better apps for cloud-based, collaborative coding in 2011 — something like a better Wave, created specifically with hackers in mind. This will allow for better and faster work to be generated by an increasingly decentralized hacker community. It’ll also pave the way for improved on-the-job learning and open-source hacking.


4. WYSIWYG Tools Get Better and Grow


While WYSIWYG tools of the past — and, who are we kidding, the present — often lead to spaghetti code of the ugliest variety, we just keep seeing more and more of them.

We’re going out on a limb and predicting (or hoping) that WYSIWYG and split-screen (WYSIWYG and code) developer tools become more sophisticated. Whether they get better or not, they’re definitely going to continue to proliferate, especially for the novice coder and the DIY non-coder markets. Still, we’re being told the code on the other side of the GUIs is getting better all the time.

Who knows? 2011 could be the year WYSIWYGs stop sucking.


5. We’ll Keep Building “Touchable,” App-like UIs


Facebook Mobile Privacy

All that stuff we said earlier about form factors kind of applies here, too, but in reverse. Your sites will have to look better on mobile devices and tablets, yes; but also, they’ll continue to natively look and feel more like mobile and tablet apps.

Some folks, a couple of Mashable staffers included, aren’t happy about the app-itization of the entire Internet. Call us old-fashioned, but we like our websites to be websites and our mobile apps to be mobile apps.

The average consumer, however, seems to delight in the shiny, touchable, magazine-like interfaces taking over the iPad and similar devices. Expect to be asked to make more and more app-like sites in 2011.


6. There Will Be a Higher Standard for Web and Mobile Security


The past year has been a bit of a horror show when it comes to web security. There have been a handful of high-profile hacks that exposed user data to the world; there was also much confusion on the user’s side of the screen as to how security works on a personal level.

We predict — nay, we dream — that in 2011, developers of consumer-facing apps will be extra careful with things like data encryption, user privacy controls and other security issues.


7. Third-Party App Development Will Plateau


Building a Facebook app or a Twitter app was all the rage in 2009, but something shifted in 2010, right around the time of Twitter’s Chirp developer conference: Developers found out that building on someone else’s platform was a good way to set yourself up for failure, especially when the platform decides to shift direction, change its APIs, acquire a competitor, or simply change its terms of use.

We predict that developing these kinds of apps will plateau and even taper off in 2011. The web is glutted with third-party social media tools; many devs are beginning to realize there’s more money and more interesting challenges elsewhere. In the end, social networks will be more interesting to advertisers large and small than to independent and third-party developers.


8. Ruby Will Get Some Cool Optimizations and Tools


We’ve seen lots of cool tricks and optimization tweaks around Python and PHP; 2011, however, will be the year for better Ruby tools.

The Ruby language is becoming extremely popular in developing consumer-facing web apps, and we’re sure to see some big-name companies release open-source tools and even improvements to the Ruby core — think along the lines of what Facebook did last year with HipHop or Google’s Unladen Swallow project.


9. NoSQL Technologies Will Stake Their Ground


We’ve seen and heard interesting things from the NoSQL corners of the web this year… and by “interesting,” we don’t necessarily mean “good.”

NoSQL technologies have had some high-profile hiccups this year (remember that MongoDB/Foursquare disaster?), but we’ve been assured that what doesn’t kill NoSQL only makes it stronger and more stable.

That being said, we’re not predicting the demise of MySQL any time soon. As one astute Twitter friend wrote, “Relational databases have their place, as do NoSQL solutions. To blindly choose one over the other is shortsighted.”


10. Open-Source Software Will See Unprecedented Growth


Open-sourcing interesting or unused tech is a trend we like to see from companies like Google and Facebook. In fact, we hope to see even more open-source contributions from proprietary software giants in 2011.

It’s not just the big players who are writing great open-source code. We know a lot of web startups are working on internal tools that’ll also be open-sourced in 2011. There are more youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) joining the ranks of hackers every year; many of them are being encouraged by sites like this one to make valuable contributions to the open-source community.

We predict more awesome open-source software than ever in 2011. Will it be a victory by Stallman‘s standards? Probably not, as it won’t be exclusive of proprietary software creation, sale and licensing. But the trend toward more FOSS is a good one, and one that we’ll continue to report on in the year to come.


What Are Your Predictions?


In the comments, let us know your predictions for what 2011 may bring to the world of web and mobile development. And if you disagree with our predictions, let us know. They’re only educated guesses, after all; join the conversation.


More Dev & Design Resources from Mashable:


HOW TO: Make the Most of TextMate
Hacker Web Design: Words of Wisdom for Building Great Apps
5 Better Ways to Read “Hacker News”
A Beginner’s Guide to Integrated Development Environments
10 Chrome Web Apps to Check Out

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, loops7

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