Frameworks, Libraries, and the Modern Web Developer: Web Development, Overdone

Post from July 28, 2017 (↻ June 5, 2021), filed under (feed).

It’s exciting to be in our field, web development, almost since its inception, and to see it evolve. There’s no shortage in interesting challenges, yet here I wish to point to a more recent one, the problem of abstraction through frameworks and libraries and, generally, tools.

What’s going on? I believe that Jose Aguinaga has done a fantastic job showing the problem with his parody, How It Feels to Learn JavaScript in 2016 (please check it now if you haven’t done so yet); Drew Hamlett I’d name for a dryer account of another specific aspect of the situation when he wrote, in The Sad State of Web Development, how “the Web (specifically the JavaScript/Node community) has created some of the most complicated, convoluted, over-engineered tools ever conceived.” I’ll be brief; many more have written about our troubles.

So what is the problem, what are our troubles? The problem is the one of web developers relying more and more—and too much—on frameworks and libraries and tools rather than knowing how to write native HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as how to write maintainable code; we’re raising tool-dependent rather than self-reliant developers. It’s the problem of us having slipped into a downward spiral, when we look to hire people fluent in Bootstrap, jQuery, and Less, rather than knowing how to write tailored quality code themselves; and to hire more tool-versed developers to solve problems we only have because of Bootstrap, jQuery, Less, and all those other tools.

The abstraction, then, consists of frameworks and libraries and tools being mistaken for and—for all practical decisions like training and hiring—taking on the role of core technologies; and while it’s not that we don’t need or shouldn’t use frameworks and libraries and tools, the situation we’re in now requires us to focus more on the underlying technologies again (including cleaning them up) and to keep our sights on our craft and, you name it,—tailored quality for the long run.

Does this feel like some hush-hush hurry-hurry job to you, too? I had this in my drafts for a while but I don’t have the motivation to rewrite it. And then, something much more exciting is going to complement this post quite nicely—stay tuned. Therefore this must do, for a little moment. ✨

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

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