Two factors are driving low-code demand. First, the shortage of skilled programmers: there were 1.2 million job openings for software developers in September 2021. Second, the pressure companies have been under during the pandemic to accelerate the creation and launch of apps to keep millions of remote employees and ecommerce customers happy. According to an IDC January 2022 survey of 380 enterprise leaders, nearly half said they had begun investing in low-code or no-code platforms.
“Front-line business people aren’t trying to write code,” says Matt Hubbard, head of operational excellence at TrackVia, a low-code app-building platform. “They’re trying to solve problems with apps.”
In the future, machine learning and other advanced technologies promise to make low-code/no-code app design even easier. A developer might start with a basic template, then refine it by inserting snippets of code written by trained AI models, in much the same way that Gmail suggests quick-reply responses. It’s already happening. OpenAI’s Codex project takes simple language instructions such as “Create a web page” and translates them into working code using natural-language processing.
To be sure, highly skilled professional programmers aren’t becoming an endangered species anytime soon. As van Rossum sees it, low-code specialists (and AI tools) will take over the more rudimentary aspects of programming in the years to come, freeing up pros to focus on more complex, mission-critical tasks and projects.
“Writing the more interesting and creative possibilities of code will always be fundamental,” van Rossum says. “Humans will still be very much in need.”