Alert: This ancient question is from the early days of Stack Overflow, and while we recognize its historical significance and have thus chosen to keep it around, please realize that if a question like this were to be asked today, it is very likely to be closed by the current community of users.
Please feel free to read and learn from the answers to this question, but refrain from asking similar questions just because this one exists.
I'm at the beginning of my career and there are lots of things which are being touted as "The Next Big Thing". For example:
- Dependency Injection (Spring, etc)
- MVC (Struts, ASP.NET MVC)
- ORMs (Linq To SQL, Hibernate)
- Agile Software Development
These things have probably been around for some time, but I've only just started out. And don't get me wrong, I think these things are great!
So, what was "The Next Big Thing" when you were starting out? When was it? Were people sceptical of it at first? Why? Did you think it would catch on? Did it pan out and become widely accepted/used? If not, why not?
It's been nearly a week since I first posted this question and I can safely say that I did not expect such explosive interest. I asked the question so that I could gain a perspective of what kinds of innovations in programming people thought were most important when they were starting out. At the time of writing this I have read ~95% of all answers.
To answer a few questions, the "Next Big Things" I listed are ones that I am currently really excited about and that I had not really been exposed to until I started working. I'm hoping to implement some or all of these in the near future at my current workplace. To many people they are probably old news.
In regards to the "is this a real question" debate, I can see that obviously hasn't been settled yet. I feel bad whenever I read a comment saying that these kinds of questions take away from the real meaning of SO. I'm not wholly convinced that it doesn't. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of comments saying what a great question it is.
Anyway, I have chosen "The Internet!" as my answer to this question. I don't think (in my very humble opinion, and, it seems many SOers opinions) that many things related to programming can compare. Nowadays every business and their dog has a website which can do anything from simply supplying information to purchasing goods halfway around the world to updating your blog. And of course, all these businesses need people like us.
Thanks to everyone for all the great answers!