When Hotwire was announced to the world in December, Hansson tweeted that it’s an amalgam of “all the tricks and tooling we used to build the front-end for https://hey.com.” He was referring to Basecamp’s web email product HEY, a Gmail competitor that launched last June. So Hotwire has a similar origin story to Ruby on Rails, which emerged out of the Basecamp product in 2004. Although, unlike Ruby on Rails, Hotwire has not (so far) been open sourced.
“Developing for the web today is seriously complicated […] because the frontend is seriously complicated,” he said, citing “setting up your build pipelines and webpack configs” as two examples. He added that building modern frontends “is really intimidating and it’s segregating in a way that [it] didn’t used to be.”
Naturally, Hansson is still a believer in frameworks as a way to simplify development. While he’s now focused on promoting Hotwire, he noted that Ruby on Rails is still going strong — and indeed was used to build HEY.
The HEY stack:
– Vanilla Ruby on Rails on the backend, running on edge
– Stimulus, Turbolinks, Trix + NEW MAGIC on the front end
– MySQL for DB (Vitess for sharding)
– Redis for short-lived data + caching
– ElasticSearch for indexing
— DHH (@dhh) June 24, 2020
It’s true that Hansson wants to make the entire web development stack understandable for web developers. He has a pet theory for this, called “conceptual compression,” which he referenced several times in the ACM meetup.
“On the back end, Rails reliance on Active Record as an ORM [object-relational mapping] to a single database leads to large cumbersome applications; adding Hotwire to the front end (instead of separate front end applications) just makes the monolith bigger.”
The Future of Frontend
So David Heinemeier Hansson wants a piece of the frontend framework pie; and with his track record revolutionizing backend development with Rails, you’d be a brave developer to dismiss his ambitions for Hotwire.