Web Weariness

Posted on: 2014-09-10 22:41:13

A while back I was doing a bit of research on web standards. Specifically, I was looking at the number of documents that were published by the W3C over time. The last several years have seen an explosion of new recommendations with everything from CSS to Web Telephony. Let's face it, the web is here to stay. Technology points to the web. The Internet of Things surrounds us.

The number of technologies that power those things seem to grow every day. Because the internet changes so rapidly, new variants of existing languages pop up, new frameworks are created and destroyed. Optimization occurs. Repos get branched. Integrations get built. New SaaS platforms get launched. Every ounce of ROI gets squeezed out.

10 years ago, a guy could learn PHP and SQL (with a little CSS & JavaScript) and build a pretty decent app. And while it's still possible for one-man-shows to build and launch a site, it's getting harder to do. Sure, the number of modules that are available for platforms like Drupal, Magento, Laravel, Symfony, ZF2, PHP, Ruby, Rails, Python, Django, Perl, Node.js, Java, etc., etc. are growing at staggering rates. Which technology you choose is a matter of personal preference, but Polyglots are fairly normal to come across in most shops now. This is practically a requirement and not just a sign of someone who loves this stuff.

Why is this the case?

Three observations.

  1. Websites being built are getting more complex and intricate because a bigger internet means you must differentiate yourself.
  2. The code bases and toolsets required to build those complex and intricate things are getting larger and more diverse.
  3. The knowledge required to use those code bases is also expanding, but perhaps not as rapidly since frameworks help to make interop better.

The one-man-custom shop is slowly dying. You can still do well focusing on a particular piece of the puzzle, but the expectation that one person can do it all is quickly becoming less of a reality. It's a full-time job just to keep up with the changes, let alone spending the time to actually implement them.

So the conundrum that I see right now is that while things are getting easier to build, they are requiring more complexity. And that complexity seems to be winning in terms of where the "how much do I have to know to build this" gauge is moving.

Sometimes I yearn for something simpler: Needing only a language or two. Solid, one-way approaches to implementation. Solving real problems instead of trying to figure out how to not pull your hair while accomplishing something that should be simple.