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Cover image for The Future of DEV
The DEV Team

The Future of DEV

ben profile image Ben Halpern Updated on ・4 min read

Here's the latest update on all the ideas outlined here...

DEV (dev.to) has been growing a lot lately. We're now reaching around 5.5 million monthly unique visitors, up from about 1.5 million this time last year. Our open-source code has 11.2k GitHub stars, and this past month we received exactly 500 pull requests.

That's all to say that with each passing month we're playing a more important role in the software ecosystem. Along with increasing importance comes the great responsibility of growing our code and business model in ways that continue to uplift, rather than exploit. We want to add to a rich ecosystem, and not descend down a path where we become the ecosystem.

Continued Iteration

The future of DEV, this website itself, is primarily a matter of incremental improvements. This means that we’ll continue to refine our moderation tools to provide the safest and most enriching environment possible. We will improve our platform’s accessibility to ensure we are providing a consistent and inclusive experience to all. We will continue to polish our author/reading tools, to provide better and better ways to produce and enjoy content. We will enhance our design and upgrade our native mobile applications.

DEV is a becoming a pretty amazing resource, built on top of a foundation of constructive ideals. We will finish off half-built features, squash bugs, and expand our ecosystem APIs. We are committed to doing all of these things — and, as an open source project, we're going to do them transparently with the community’s direct involvement.

Company Evolution

Impending broader initiatives of our company, Dev Community Inc., represent more uncharted territory that I'd like to discuss. We have written about all of this before, but it always bears re-examination as progress makes future plans increasingly tangible.

The future of our company will be based on delivering the DEV open-source software to power new standalone communities. We will work with a network of partners both inside and outside of the software ecosystem. These independent instances will serve community needs ranging from hobbyist groups to enterprise software providers, and everything in between. We want our software to empower the community web, hopefully as a genuine alternative to data-driven monopolies.

Details and Challenges

Our networks, distributed but compatible with one another, can be interlinked for discoverability or possibly browsed for convenience through a higher level application (although web browsers already do this pretty well 😋). Profiles may be linked for convenience across communities that you are a part of, but they don't need to be. Instances of the software will have control of their own data, entirely private from one another. As we learn from scaling DEV and new nodes come online, we will provide solutions compatible with small communities (served today by, say, a Slack group) to large social networks (served today by, say, a Facebook Group or Subreddit). In each case, we will provide tooling to ensure that the communities can evolve with grace.

This outcome is important to us, and many within our community, because it breaks up the capacity for billion and trillion dollar enterprises to control the entirety of our data and survey our online presence. As a community leader, you will no longer have to trade your users’ privacy and safety for a modern social networking experience.

This is not just a conversation about data and power. We truly feel that niche communities have the power to enable a more authentic web, which can allow passion and activism to thrive. None of us are singularly-focused in our interests, but social media sometimes forces us in those directions. Once we've picked "our thing" on Twitter, for example, it's hard to de-niche. By leveraging the power of open-source, and sharing incentives with a network of community-oriented leaders, we can help provide the seeds for more amazing and unique communities to grow and blossom.

Our commitment to safety and inclusion on DEV has been at the core of everything we do. Every feature our team and community develops is evaluated on the basis of protecting the most vulnerable among us. While the propagation of our toolkit and code of conduct for future community builders is a good thing, the decentralization of this future also presents its own challenges in terms of potential for malicious use. We will continue to be discerning in terms of how we distribute our support, hosting services and discoverability features. As the broader ecosystem grapples with these issues, we intend to be leaders.

Bringing It All Together

The core DEV Community itself will continue to thrive and benefit as the ecosystem of DEV-associated instances matures. As improvements are made across the broader network, each community will benefit from that expansion of resources being invested into the open-source code. We will lean into our commercial open source business model rather than relying on a system that would require us to max out on the value of user attention and data. We will build the company’s leverage on our ability to host, support, and provide services to community leaders that are leveraging our open-source software.

Within the DEV Community, our set of revenue-generating features will continue to evolve. We already have sponsorships, community listings, and future services in the works that will diversify and complement our open source services business. These features will also form the basis for tooling which may enable future communities (in different niches) to sustain themselves with community-oriented offerings.

Communities naturally grow and software naturally finds new use cases. We try to discover growth opportunities and interesting use cases in the most thoughtful way possible. We want to contribute to a thriving ecosystem that delivers exponentially more value than we could possibly hope to deliver with a monopolistic mentality.

If you are interested in being a part of this journey, you can find issues labelled as area: generalization in our GitHub repo. The journey towards re-use of our code and community-building practice is a matter of constant discovery and iteration, one issue or pull request at a time.

Happy coding!

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Ben Halpern

@ben

A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.

The DEV Team

The team behind this very platform. 😄

Discussion

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this past month we received exactly 500 pull requests.

Too bad it couldn't be a nice round number, like 512.

 
 
 

i cant like this post cuz it's 128

 

Thank you for your sacrifice zachary

 

By leveraging the power of open-source, and sharing incentives with a network of community-oriented leaders, we can help provide the seeds for more amazing and unique communities to grow and blossom.

I grew up spending a ton of time in "niche" forums hosted on phpBB and vBulletin. It was amazing to go incredibly deep in different subject areas, create true human connections on those boards, and even build a reputation as a member of these communities.

In the past decade or so of internet time, it feels like so many of those awesome "small" communities have been consumed by the bigger platforms. We've traded away the magic of those experiences for a "modern" feature-set on big monolithic platforms.

I'm still a member of a few "old school" communities, but it's clear that keeping up on the technology side is usually super difficult, expensive, and just generally out of the leadership's core experience. It's also clear that for many of these communities, inclusivity, user safety, and data protection is something of an after-thought.

I'm incredibly excited that DEV will be able to empower community leaders to host interesting, independent, and constructive spaces for their communities. They'll get all the benefits of a modern social platform (backed by a network of open-source contributors), without trading their users' safety and privacy to a large corporation.

Hopefully DEV is able to play a part in restoring some of the magic to these communities, helping them come back better than ever.

 

Do you think that it would be "super difficult, expensive" to take forums like gearslutz.com and rewrite their client experience? It doesn't seem that crazy... - but not doing something is way easier than doing something. I just don't think anyone is selling them on the value, yet. Niche communities don't seem new or different - just more or less ugly and filled with different ads and being scraped for data for different purposes.

 

Our future outlook isn't possible without the wonderful humans that make up this community - from the anonymous readers to the daily writers. It's amazing to have shared values with so many people. Thanks everyone for being part of DEV - and we're really looking forward to what we can all accomplish together :)

 

You may also appreciate a backlog reading material based on posts we've made which highlight the why and how of what we do.

Here's an example of an ongoing code quality/maintenance project calling for contributions...

Here's a recent post outlining what's currently available with our API and an overview of our general approach to this component of our platform...

Here's a post outlining the evolution of our team dynamic...

Here is a post from a recent product launch outlining some of the ways to interact with DEV as a component of the ecosystem...

Here is another ecosystem post, showing off the new "Share to DEV" button that is live on Stack Overflow...

Here is a post celebrating a year of open source...

Here is a post commenting on the nature of Medium in the developer ecosystem, contrasting it to what we're working on...

And finally, here is a post from a long time ago from the very very early stage of some of the topics we discuss in this post. Some of our ideas have changed, many of the core principles have not. It's exciting that we have been able to make progress on these ideas while continuing to be practical devs squashing day-to-day bugs.

 

Do I hear a dev.to conference any time in the future?

 

Hopefully! We're looking into it. No promises.

 
 

I'd love to help, I've helped organize a few. Let me know if you start getting serious.

 

5x Growth at that scale is amazing! Congrats on the success.

There's a storm brewing in the online world and I feel like things are about to get shaken up a bit with DEV at the forefront. Personal sites are coming back and hopefully with it small hyper specific forums and such.

 

I'm sooooo excited about the role of personal sites online. I think some people see them as a one-to-one replacement for, say, Facebook, which is missing out on the common space that Facebook created that just wasn't so much a thing before.

But with personal sites that are compatible with communities we get to take back our digital identities while having standard ways to engage.

As developers we can be early adopters of solutions that have one or two steps of complication (perhaps exciting complication), but the average internet user seriously needs this system to just work in order to adopt it.

I think we can get to the point where enough of this just works.

 

I love this community and I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into it! <3<3<3

 

Thanks Tammy! I have to say it's always a pleasure to see you show up in my feed and comment sections. You're always here to be helpful 😄

 

As a community leader, you will no longer have to trade your users’ privacy

But still, I'm forced to use Github or Twitter to authenticate on DEV. Why not offer email based auth rather than proprietary based auth ?

You talk about decentralization but I don't see ActivityPub nor OStatus feature coming out. Still, it would be an amazing feature to interconnect many "small" communities and to be independent from proprietary platforms.

Finally, working on ease the self-hosting and on the interoperability of the DEV platform would help to make it the most resilient and inclusive platform of the Web.

That should be, IMO, the next priorities of the staff and contributors.

Thanks for the great work and for sharing your thoughts with the community.

 

But still, I'm forced to use Github or Twitter to authenticate on DEV. Why not offer email based auth rather than proprietary based auth ?

That's a very good question. Yes, eventually we would like to expand authentication methods. Currently we rely on social auth as a component of our anti-(spam/trolling/harassment) measure, but would love to offer other solutions provided we can make it compatible with other user safety concerns.

You talk about decentralization but I don't see ActivityPub nor OStatus feature coming out. Still, it would be an amazing feature to interconnect many "small" communities and to be independent from proprietary platforms.

That's another good point, and speaks to our nature to focus primarily on user safety and user experience as the first priority, but we've had various types of protocol compatibility as a component of what we do to whatever extent is possible.

On the journey to distribute power and leverage we're a bit more inward focused on the day-to-day practical choices we need to make to get from zero to one, but as we get more momentum here, we want to be more thoughtful about shared standards.

 

I'm totally fine with Twitter or GitHub login. Adding other platforms would be an awesome improvement, will help to open the community more. Like, here in Argentina Twitter it's not soo popular between Devs, first time I saw the login I was like "eh?". But you can add, let's say, FCC auth, StackOverflow, some more dev platforms.

[/spoiler]I've explained my self right? God knows xD[/spoiler]

Using GAFA auth makes GAFA stronger and strengthen their dominant position.

Yeah, that's why I'm not saying Google login, Outlook login... FCC would be great, Hackernews, Stackoverflow

 

As we learn from scaling DEV and new nodes come online, we will provide solutions compatible with small communities served today by, say, a Slack group

That's a super nice goal.
Slack is amazingly bad for small communities

 

Slack has always been sort of a round hole/square peg for most of the things it's used for. We use it within DEV for inter-team communication but I've never been satisfied with the "community" applications of it. (And they've never been particularly interested in supporting this).

If Slack were a better solution I probably never would have started DEV in the first place.

 

Thanks a lot for this!!!

I've really felt "at home" here recently, and, as a great upside, I'd like to think that I'm actually getting more motivated to learn new things so I can write about them, and, my Flask series already has enabled me to build my most complex side-project to date. And I keep coming up with new ideas :) Thanks so much for this awesome platform :D

 

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the Dev.io team for keeping their recurring updates low volume and high quality. One of very few email updates that I actually look forward to reading through.

Well done guys, well done!

 
 

I've been hoping to see the team do this for a while. I think the direction StackOverflow took with communities (if not moderation) was great. Really excited to see it happen!

 

I think there is some crud which still makes it hard to adopt DEV.to to launch your own platform because parts of the codebase need to be more vanilla so people are comfortable launching their own instances.

I wish I had the time, but I would love to launch a Cloud Computing version of DEV.to that is more niche in terms or tagging. I think DEV.to really needs someone to adopt an alternative to push it so it can be more agnostic.

I think if we want to make the platform-agnostic we need to start moving sections of the codebase into Rails Engines to prepare them to be their own repo.

Once you have a vanilla codebase and modular codebases you create provisioning scripts for multiple multiple cloud providers.

It just depends on how you want to monetize. Is it the platform or the traffic or both?

 

Yep, this falls into stuff we more or less have agreement on as far as how we get there. There is a long list of challenges ahead which we haven't wanted to address because the number one way we fail is losing touch with the basic needs of running this single DEV instance.

In the past few weeks, mostly since @molly_struve and @jacobherrington joined the core team to bring relevant experience and new perspective, we've begun truly thinking through some of what you're describing. But we're giving ourselves a long leash in terms of eventually making this codebase appropriately agnostic and technically efficient.

We'd eventually like to provide a few managed options and do support for the ecosystem alongside continuing to thoughtfully monetize this and any other networks we spin up to operate ourselves.

 

I do feel I should say sorry to you Ben. You've probably heard my complaint about modularizing one too many times now.

 

Please add possibility to ignore posts tagged with specific tag (i.e. I don't care about 'react') so such a posts doesn't appear on my home page and make useless noise.
Second idea to round up your future plan would be events organiser component as alternative to broken (search, spam comments, ..) meetup.com

 

I plan on forking and starting an industrial automation blog, where people can do the same like on dev.to. At the moment most PLC talk, and industrial automation is on vendors sites. plctalk is a forum site but if you want to write articles is extremely hard to find a home. I almost started on one vendor site but it was too rigid, too many guidelines, don't post anywhere else, submit articles in word doc, etc. I got discouraged to even write about my expertise.

 

This is an awesome move. I love the vision of distributed and independently controlled platforms that can still cooperate on accounts and content discovery. This will hopefully be the future of all digital platforms.

 

Do you have any examples yet of other people/communities using the platform to do their own thing? It's totally cool if not, it's still early days, but it would be neat to see what others are doing with it.

Apologies if this is something that could have easily been answered by looking on Github; it's already been a long day and it's still an hour before lunch.

 

I love this direction -- helping other communities grow in spaces that have their best interests at heart is a great, great goal.

Have you all thought about what could be done to minimize the "friction" of getting non-technical communities up and running? Making it as approachable as possible seems difficult, but so worthwhile.

 

Similarly to other technologies like, say, Kubernetes, I think there's a period of natural complexity before better tooling and abstractions are built on top.

I think we will naturally have a "one click solution" where the hosting and open source and everything in-between is kind of abstracted away, but in terms of order of operations we're trying to first get the fundamentals and underlying metal to be sound before trying to layer simplicity over top.

 

Thanks for explaining -- that makes a lot of sense.

 

I have no idea how I missed this, but I really love this news. Thank you for adding value to the community where we've seen others extract from it!

If I could, I'd invest in dev.to (I used to! But iirc the paid portion faded away...)

 

So excited for the future of DEV! This is a truly special part of the ecosystem, which I have no doubt will keep making an unmistakable, indelible impact for good on the programming industry.

 

I'm really interested and looking forward to how Dev.

Could help developer communities to move from meetup to Dev due to their recent price changes.

 

Since conceiving of this plan, knowing it was in the distant future (now still longterm thinking, but we're getting closer to day zero), it's been fascinating to see so many shakeups we could have capitalized on if we were ready.

The meetup thing, many broken promises from some of the giants, and generally problematic monopolistic tendencies abound.

Each time I get the feeling of "oh darn, if only we were ready". But then I think that if we're truly supposed to be in it for the long haul, we'll be ready when we're ready and hopefully deliver a lot of good to the online community when we are.

 

No worries as techies some of the developer communities are thinking of ways to counter the recent change to meetup.

Hopefully, when Dev is ready I could influence the developer communities to move to Dev as our goto platform for it.

It has always been a blast to be Dev ever since I had signed up for it.

 

Great and ambitious ideas that can definitely be accomplished! Kudos!

I think the key driver that makes dev.to so unique and successful is the culture that the core team has established either through posts of their own or through encouraging contributors. Adopting the dev.to platform is the easy part. Replicating the culture is the most difficult.

 

will be nice some builder to build in all the languages .. AI , the builder asking and select the best way to create .. all mixed :)

A lot people like me , dont have natural skills for languages but we have skills to design soo i wanna my fuking builder

 

Please add possibility to ignore posts tagged with specific tag (i.e. I don't care about 'react') so such a posts doesn't appear on my home page and make an useless noise.
Second idea to round up your future plan would be events organiser component as alternative to broken (search, spam comments, ..) MeetUp.com

 

This is awesome! In addition to developer communities, I would love to run a local instance of this site as a company intranet and/or knowledge sharing platform - effectively replacing tools like Confluence.

 

wooow, perfect thoughts. well written article, was a pleasure to read!

 

Kudos! It's really great to hear that Dev.to has been doing so well. Well deserved.

 
 

Really happy to see the community growing. I am really proud to be one of the early users of this platform. Keep up the good work. All the best.

 

Great work! I love being a fly on the wall here.