I want to go back to the 1950s of Web Development

Dion Almaer
Ben and Dion
Published in
3 min readOct 5, 2016

These posts hit a nerve across the community.

Some violently agree, and others argue that diversity is good and that life isn’t that bad!

I find that there is truth to both sides, and it reminds me of folk who talk about the golden era of the 1950s in the US. It isn’t hard to look at the current political climate and long for another time. Remember the white picket fences? Life was so good! Those glasses sure are rosy though, and when you take them off you see a society that had huge problems, some of which we have made important progress with even though we can see that we have a long way to go. Is 2016 really so bad when you look at the data?

There was a time in which we could develop for the desktop browser and reach our users. It was a great time, especially if we put those glasses back on. There was some level of simplicity that was very useful, but what about the fact that:

  • As great as the reach of the desktop web was then, it is a FRACTION of who we can reach globally today
  • We couldn’t bring the Web with us wherever we went, we had to go plug into the matrix like battery sucking animals
  • The browser capabilities were weak, and thus many of the experiences were also far inferior to what we have today. Remember when we were pioneering desktop web apps and the pain we had to go through to make something great across the variable browsers?

The problems that we have to solve now are far broader and the UX bar is much higher. We now have a vast array of form factors and capabilities to deal with and all of this change has happened while we pivot an underlying browser platform that was built for very different purposes.

It has always been hard to do complex experiences on the Web. When I use the frameworks of today, while I understand that there is a paradox of choice, I also feel so grateful.

If I could show Dion Of Web Past time travel debugging, with real user errors coming in that I can capture and clone a version of that world and see what was going on…. opening up Chrome DevTools to see rich information to debug?

We went from throwing up some code to a few servers that we monitored, to a mature world where we have a deep understanding of scaling, A/B testing, rich monitoring, and progressive primitives to allow us to improve our experience using all of the capabilities available to us.

The parts that resonate with me though are still there:

  • The getting started experience is too hard.
  • Going from prototype to production involved a lot of work, littered with choices.
  • The system is evolving quickly under you, with layers upon layers.
  • It needs to be easier to make performant UI.
  • Having something work well on mobile, especially mobile for the next billion users, takes an immense amount of work.

We need to work together as a community to attack these issues and up level us all so we can be productive at meeting “what’s possible”. We are still going through the growing pains of mobile on the Web so it makes sense that there is still much to do across the board.

We need to violently debate as a community, but we also need to push each other here as we can’t wait for one person to make the Web great again, and sometimes I wonder when I see certain storms…. are we missing something bigger?



Dion Almaer
Ben and Dion

Developers @ Shopify; Karaoke Ready