Are web developers (secretly) drug addicts?

1 minute read

This time, I’d like to start with a comic, courtesy CommitStrip:

A story about Full-Stack Javascript

As part of my job I had the honour to work with many Web technologies and tools such as jQuery, Angular, Backbone, and React with Redux/Reflux, Babel, and TypeScript. Every time I ran away screaming, feeling the urge to bang my head on a wall, promising myself that I would never endure such pain ever again.

The problem with the “Web Applications” movement is that they are trying to force design and development paradigms typical of desktop applications onto a platform that was designed to render documents.

HTML and CSS are, essentially, elements of a glorified typesetting system. The fact that you can hack together something interactive with a bit of JavaScript is just that: an hack. A huge pile of hacks strung together with duct tape. Mostly written by clueless developers.

Whenever I see a desktop application built on top of Electron and HTML5 I cringe. I cringe because I see a thing that burns through my laptop’s battery and eats hundreds upon hundreds of megabytes of RAM and I know that the same thing could have been built with Qt and the result would have been more respectful of my system’s resources and would also have been better integrated with it.

I also cringe at the incredible churn rate with the development toolchain: libraries and tools seem to become obsolete in just few months. A ton of money is wasted every year trying to make JavaScript fast and rewriting stuff just to use the new best-of-breed library du jour.

A moment of nostalgia...

Watching all this fuss come true lead me to the conclusion that “the Web” attracts a very specific kind of developer: the masochist.

They know that they are working with a bad platform. They spend their days trying to figure out why the Rube Goldberg machine built with Babel, Webpack, SASS and whatnot broke. They work sleepless nights to try to overcome very basic performance problems with their application.

They live a hellish life but, when they do manage to get everything working, they feel incredibly accomplished. The endorphin rush is so powerful that, just like a drug addict, they want more.

And the cycle repeats.