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Discussion on: What has the Marko Team Been Doing all These Years?

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brucou • Edited on

For what it is worth I looked at Marko at the same time as I looked at React and... I did not get it. Admittedly that was maybe 7-8 years ago when Marko did not use a vDOM, and the message was oriented about speed (direct DOM updates!). That may be the only point I got then. Can't really remember much more.

I would not say that Svelte's promotion was good. I am not even sure there was something you can call the promotion of Svelte. I just got to know it because I was a big fan of Ractive and I was a big fan of Ractive because... it had a terrific website that was the nicest of all the other frameworks (documentation, concepts explanation, everything was just crystal clear for the novice that I was then). It was a blast so I picked up Svelte immediately when it went out. Same docs quality, appealing syntax choices, reactive model just clicked etc. I don't see Svelte popularity as a result of deliberate marketing but very simply as a result of good design choices. People get it because it is designed for people to get it -- fast: not much new to learn, terrific docs, feels like just javascript even when it is not... And all of that in my mind is due to Rich Harris being more than a multi-skilled programmer. I believe that programmers with two or three skills bring more to the table. In the case of Rich, I hypothesize that working in a newsroom forced him to to have empathy with non-programmers that still need to get a page up quickly. That means good communication and didactic skills, and a lot of pragmatism (Ractive had double binding at a time when most of the frameworks were going away from it). Ractive never focused on the speed of the code, but on the speed of the developer (onboarding + producing). Ractive tag is "web apps made simple". In a newsroom you don't do too much long-lived apps, you have a few days to write a story with some captivating infographics, and then you move on and hardly come back to it (the story isn't gonna change). So Ractive website had a ton of graphics, and clear story telling because that's what you need to succeed in a newsroom. Svelte only improved on that. Whatever "marketing" there is today is the unprompted effort of the folks who loved it. (Interestingly enough, and not seeking to discourage anybody but the folks who took over Ractive I think actually did away with a good part of Ractive attractiveness - at least to me... That is the difference people make).

React is a different story. There is a team of people and a ton of budget invested in supporting the external communication. They also suffered somewhat from the departure of the early folks, they had a serious problem when Facebook decided to change the licensing but they went through that. They did well in terms of community handling even with the initial communication mistakes around hooks. They are learning and improving constantly which is nice to see even if I disapprove of the recent directions they took. But ultimately they have all that because React picked up for the simplicity of vdom = f(state). Otherwise they would have been deemphasized like Flow or React Native or several other projects at Facebook. Success brings success.

Microsoft, which is a consumer software company and is about the best you can find when it comes to proper marketing and open source management. The quality of its documentation, developer support, and tooling is constant across the board. A real turnaround for the bad days of the browser wars.

All those examples are to say that unless you have a proper marketing company behind you for which open source is strategic, success needs to come from the community of believers. They need to be preached to, and there need to be a clear message, value proposition, and differentiating point. The way I understand Marko now is that it is the framework for e-commerce. Proof -> eBay use it. The rest are technical details. The bottom line is you get the money-generating speed that you need in scalable e-commerce apps (did I mention eBay?). It is Next.js for e-commerce. Next.js recently added an e-commerce product, and they can do that because Marko has not occupied that space when it has a very credible story for it. And Next is doing it because it has huge incentives to do so (VCs breathing in the neck), which Marko does not (2-3 folks doing what they want and can). In fact, if Marko was to become successful for e-commerce I wonder if eBay would let possible competitors use part of their secret sauce.

Well ok that is just some musings. Hope it is somewhat useful in your reflections. Just thought out a tagline: webapps at e-commerce speed.

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ryansolid profile image
Ryan Carniato Author

Yeah Marko never knew how to present itself. Even to this date it has been strangely difficult to explain the use case from a technical stance. And I agree that has largely been due to focusing on it from a technology standpoint, something that probably didn't matter with the suitable audience. I think you are right about the argument/tagline. It also suggests that any head to head should be with things like Next, rather than focusing on core technology of say React.

I think a lot of people never really heard of Svelte until Svelte 3. I suppose if you were there from the start it might have seemed different. But around release time the message was simple: VDOM is pure overhead, Disappearing Framework, the Candyman of JavaScript framework benchmarks. Rich's amazing communication skills present in his talks and videos definitely shone through but that was the narrative. He's given some of my favorite all time talks.

And all directly from his mouth. That is why I consider it marketing because it was deliberate and successful. And all those messages have since disappeared into the ether in an official sense. Svelte has many merits as you outlined. And I agree about origins. It's really obvious Svelte was designed with small apps/demos in mind. Just it isn't hard to find people who will tell you to this day that VDOM is pure overhead, or that Svelte compiles away the framework with no runtime. But the message is much better now.

Still I spend more time correcting Svelte myths than even React. I probably should thank Rich for that too since he successfully cracked through React's myths. From what I've seen you don't get to dispute the mythos only replace it. And that is incredibly hard. It goes beyond "believers" to enter the overall consciousness. And that is where Svelte has succeeded in a way hard to believe in this relatively jaded post-javascript fatigue time.