Thoughts on the status of web development

Classified under opinion

TL;DR It is nice to have free powerful stuff, but let's not forget about the standards.

Web development is becoming more and more relevant every day, as private companies, public organisations and even individuals develop ever more complex (and useful) applications that manage all sorts of processes: buying a pair of shoes, applying for health insurance and even purchasing tickets for your next international flight.

The exciting parts

In my opinion, one of the most exciting things happening in the field is the proliferation of incredibly powerful, cost-effective tools that are at the disposal of the public. I am referring to tools like cloud application platforms (e.g. Heroku), continuous integration services (e.g. Travis) and so on.

The concepts behind these tools are not new, but the convenience and affordability they have brought to the community of web development is remarkable, usually allowing people to develop their skills free of charge through their freemium models.

On top of that, there is an increasing trend to share code within the community, not only from individual developers but also from origanisations. It is hard to find a technology company not sharing interesting solutions on their GitHub account.

At a more technical level, how all that code comes together without conflicting with each other is no trivial matter, but tools like Bower or Ender are easing the pain that frontend dependency management used to be.

The steady shift to rich client-side applications in recent years offers developers the opportunity to create an enhanced user experience with faster, more responsive sites and meaningful lightweight animations, among other things. Frameworks like AngularJS or React facilitate that work by providing ways to organise, extend, and reuse easily testable modules. All these frameworks are still in a relatively early stage of maturity, so it is my expectation that their continued improvement will drive the foundation for a better web.

The necessary specs

Moving onto not so exciting aspects of the field, web developers have already adopted CSS3 and HTML5 as part of their daily workflow. AngularJS is designing version 2 using ECMAScript 6 that compiles into 5.

However, it is worth mentioning that neither of those have final specifications: only a few out of over fifty CSS3 modules have been published as recommendations, and HTML5 as well as ECMAScript 6 are still works in progress. It is easy to get excited about the possibilities for innovation that new languages bring, but a greater effort and willingness to be involved will be needed in the coming years.

This ensures that the reality of web development does not fall out of sync with the specification of the necessary standards to support it.

Written on July 12, 2014