Will real-time data processing replace batch processing?
At Confluent's user conference, Kafka co-creator Jay Kreps argued that stream processing would eventually supplant traditional methods of batch processing altogether.
Absolutely: Businesses operate in real-time and are looking to move their IT systems to real-time capabilities.
Eventually: Enterprises will adopt technology slowly, so batch processing will be around for several more years.
No way: Stream processing is a niche, and there will always be cases where batch processing is the only option.
Frontend Development / Open Source

Anil Dash on Mastodon Joining Fastly’s Open Source Program

Fastly VP Anil Dash talks to us about funding Mastodon, and a new web stack he's floated based on the fediverse + Wasm + Tailscale + SQLite.
Jan 27th, 2023 9:33am by
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Anil Dash is someone I’ve known for a long time, to paraphrase Kara Swisher’s line at the beginning of almost all of her podcasts. I remember sitting down with him at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, in 2007, to get his advice on growing my tech blogging business, ReadWriteWeb. At the time, Dash was working for Six Apart, the company that owned the Movable Type blogging platform (which RWW used). It felt like talking with my older brother. Even though he is several years younger than me, he had a calm, wise way about him that contrasted with my own naivety at the time. He also had his finger on the pulse of web innovation; and that’s just as true today, as I discovered when I caught up with Dash via Zoom.

Nowadays, Dash is VP of Developer Experience at Fastly, one of the leading Content Delivery Network companies. I was curious to get an update about Fastly’s Fast Forward program, which launched in November to support open source internet projects. It turns out, one of the programs Fastly is financially supporting is Mastodon, the open source Twitter alternative.

“Mastodon has joined the Fast Forward program,” he confirmed. “We’re looking at supporting its infrastructure.”

Dash himself has quickly gained a following of over 25,000 on Mastodon. He’s always been a power user of social media (his Twitter following is 574,000), so it’s notable that he’s now having more conversations on Mastodon than on Twitter — crucially, if other power users follow suit, that will eventually create a tipping point for Mastodon.

Dash is a firm believer that the future of social media will be federated; at least in part because it is a return to the best aspects of the early blogosphere that he and I were a part of. However, to get to that future, the immediate challenge is scaling the infrastructure.

“When I would share links to ReadWriteWeb back in the day, it was open protocols and interoperability — and we could build social this way, right, and we had these daydreams. And Mastodon alone, which is only part of the fediverse, is going to pass — across all the different instances — 10 million users in the next couple of weeks. And you and I well remember, at less than that scale there was a ‘fail whale’ every day.”

He’s referring to the infamous Twitter outages in its early days — every day or two, it seemed, the site would go down and a cartoon of a whale being lifted by 8 orange birds was displayed.

“This is kind of what Fast Forward was born to do,” Dash continued. “By providing Fastly scale, Fastly trust and security, all the things we do. We can build trust in the open web by supporting an open source project whose biggest challenge is not building new features, it’s not building an API — not any of that — but is scale and being real-time around the world.”

Dash sees Fastly’s Fast Forward program as “fundamentally enabling of the fediverse” and helping to make Mastodon an “incredible platform […] that otherwise would be very fraught, or fragile, and which would jeopardize adoption of the platform overall, if [Fastly] weren’t there.”

The New New Stack

Before his current role at Fastly, Dash was the CEO at Glitch, a browser-based app creation tool that was acquired by Fastly last May. He continues to manage Glitch now, which (among other things) allows him to monitor what is trending among developers. That’s why my ears pricked up when he said in a recent Mastodon post that “the new web of fediverse + wasm + tailscale is moving very quickly towards something pretty amazing.”

I’ve covered fediverse developments over the past year, and my colleagues here at The New Stack have been all over WebAssembly (Wasm), but the third one hasn’t gotten much attention so far in tech media. Tailscale was founded by ex-Google engineers in 2019 and describes itself as “a VPN service that makes the devices and applications you own accessible anywhere in the world.” But how is it used alongside the fediverse and Wasm?

It turns out that WireGuard, an open source VPN protocol developed by Jason Donenfeld, is what really interests Dash. Tailscale was built on top of this protocol. Donenfeld doesn’t appear to have any current involvement in Tailscale, but he notes on his website that it made a donation to the WireGuard project in 2022.

“The consumer experience is […] like a VPN,” Dash explained, regarding Tailscale. He has installed it, personally, on all his machines and devices, so that he can easily route things between his machines. But there’s even more power for developers, he suggested. “If you install Tailscale on all of your servers or all the development environments you have,” he said, “you can instantly route things between them, as if they’re on a local network — whether they’re in a data center, or somebody’s cloud, or your local machine, or whatever.”

He then tied this back to the fediverse.

“So imagine if I could run my fediverse server or Mastodon server on my laptop, and route that out to the internet; and then cache that with Fastly, obviously, right? To make it faster and performant.”

What he’s getting at here is that federated social software (the fediverse), plus Wasm (a run-anywhere sandbox environment), plus WireGuard (secure networking) is a potent combination for developers wanting a solution to the privacy woes and centralized control issues of platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

When Dash floated this “new web” stack on Mastodon, he got a huge number of comments on his post. Some commenters said he’d neglected to mention SQLite, an open source database engine.

“There’s something really interesting happening with SQLite as the sort of one database to rule them all,” Dash acknowledged.

Power Users Unite

I’ve written several times before about how exciting a time this is for developers, in this post-Musk social software era. But the reality is, we’ll also need the power users of existing platforms — people like Anil Dash — to help guide new users off of centralized platforms and onto federated ones.

Dash is also in a unique position with the developer community, since he’s in charge of one of their favorite platforms: Glitch. His advocacy of open web technologies like the fediverse, Wasm, Tailscale and SQLite helps further the conversation — especially if it happens on the fediverse.

Add to that Fastly’s financial aid to help Mastodon scale, and there is some real momentum now with the fediverse — with users, developers, and (hopefully soon) new startups.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Tailscale, The New Stack, Dash.
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