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Discussion on: In defense of the modern web

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Ryan Carniato

That's interesting. I mean I was there too, and the extent of what I can build with a modern library so extends what I could reasonably do before. And the reason for that is JavaScript. When I was building sites in the late 90s so many things weren't possible and you had no choice but to pay these costs for interactivity. Sure I view sourced a few cool tricks.. image maps etc, but with my table based layouts and a little JavaScript I could do very little. Part of it was the available DOM api's. My lack of understanding of the language but I think we look at the past with rose colored glasses.

It's more interesting to me that native platforms have borrowed concepts from libraries like React in terms of declarative views etc. I'm not saying React invented this stuff but that the trend would suggest the contrary. These trends could be mistakes but popularity has as much stake in the course of events as innate value.

I think this comes down to really this hope of a Silver Bullet. It doesn't exist. Instead we have momentum of a ubiquitous platform that just is constantly aiming to improve. It's not only that the other approaches have already lost, we're getting to a point where any new approach will have to atleast acknowledge the current web. At this point a competitor isn't going to change the tide, but something from within. It's more likely that the web addresses those fundamental shortcomings than people moving to a different platform. Native Apps didn't kill the web even with all their superior capabilities. And on a similar note it is going to take monumental change for this to fundamentally change. Even with React's reach, it wasn't alone in a movement that started years before. This is bigger than any particular library or framework.

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Mark Saward • Edited

There is absolutely no doubt that you can do incredible things with modern web, and the power unlocked by having a programming language in the browser has been amazing. However, when I think about a great deal of the websites I interact with, and ones I build, there would not be much lost if they significantly simplified the tech stack they work with to be closer to the core technologies of the web (including a splash of JavaScript).

What I'm trying to convey is that I think our move to make everything a web app has been a mistake, for multiple reasons. You are absolutely right to say that this tide is going to be very hard (perhaps impossible) to turn, and I absolutely agree there is no silver bullet (I've looked), but that doesn't mean we haven't taken a worse path and shouldn't lament for what could have been.

The advantages of web apps are compelling for developers -- they are easy to distribute, update, control, make cross platform, when compared to native apps. It is not hard to understand why and how we have ended up where we are. I just wish we were somewhere else -- but it would take a lot of work to create that 'silver bullet'.

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manioq profile image
Adrianus • Edited

That whole app environment was basically triggered by one need, and one need only: bandwidth. No idea if anyone remembers when they launched this WAP protocol, making the internet available on smartphones, what failed for two reasons. The providers made it easy to access on their own portals aka AOL strategy at beginning of the web, leaving the rest of the market untouched, secondly the site performance was ridiculous. Apple stepped in, put a bunch of intelligence into the app, dramatically reducing the load time, did not convert so much traffic on their own apps and let developers do what they do best. By 2008 more than 50% of the whole mobile internet traffic was iPhone traffic.

Bandwidth is no longer the breaking point.

Google has for years campaigned the untapped goldmine local traffic, experience flows that often start at the search for getting something done in time, monetising on micro moments as more than half of all mobile searches have a local intend. I posted an example how something to get done interferes cross-applicational from the perspective of a user. With an app-only scheme this is getting impossible. Sure it is understandable that nobody pays so much attention. Most search engines run a change and heavily invested in AI to optimise traffic at the client's frontend. But even this is not enough, when it comes to intends other than something very individualised. I wouldn't care so much about the user, but more about what the user wants to achieve.

oenonono profile image

React definitely didn't invent HTML.

Declarative views, indeed.