Frontend Development / Open Source / Software Development

The Third Age of JavaScript: An Update from Reactathon

7 May 2022 6:00am, by
This Week in Development

The Reactathon conference was held outdoors in San Francisco this week. One of the highlights was a quick-fire presentation by Shawn Swyx Wang, continuing his thesis that we’re in the third age of JavaScript. He began blogging about this in 2020, the year he pinpoints as the start of “the third age.” This year, the third year of the third age, he provided an update at Reactathon.

Third Age JavaScript

Source: Shawn Swyx Wang

One of Wang’s points was that static side generation (SSG) is “basically dead” and there is now a “huge demand for server-side rendering.” He also notes a movement toward incremental rendering, along with edge routing. Not coincidentally, he pointed out that “Next.js is winning so hard” as a framework that supports these trends.

Looking further ahead, Wang predicts a “re-skilling” away from JavaScript by the end of the 2020s. While he didn’t specify what might take the place of JavaScript, he did remark that WebAssembly is “in its first age” currently.

He also commented that one “moonshot” project for this decade might be to reclaim “the open web,” which he says has taken a back seat over the past decade to native mobile apps.

You can see Wang’s full presentation for yourself in the above video of the event (he gets on-stage at around the 05:30 mark).

This Week in Development

Reasons Not to Use React

Jack Franklin, a Google engineer, wrote a blog post entitled “Why I don’t miss React: a story about using the platform.” The “platform” he’s referring to is, of course, the web browser. Leaving aside the fact that Franklin is biased since he works on Google’s Chrome DevTools team, he made some compelling arguments for “using the platform.”

One example Franklin notes is that you no longer need to use React to build forms. He says “this used to be a justifiable reason to reach for React because browsers offered us very little here beyond primitive functionality.” However, he continues, “on a recent side project I was able to use 100% native functionality to build my form with a solid user experience.” Franklin admits that it was “slightly more work than using a library from npm that wraps this all up for me,” but “I was able to achieve the same result, writing a few extra lines of code myself, but without weighing my application down with an extra dependency.”

In conclusion, Franklin recognizes that it’s easy for him to ditch React, since he only has one browser to worry about in his work. Many other developers have to ensure cross-browser compatibility in their work, which React helps achieve. Still, he hopes that we’ll all soon be able to “look beyond frameworks as a default starting point.”

Not convinced? Read this rebuttal from William Kennedy and decide for yourself (be sure to click the link!):

Babylon.js 5.0 Released

Microsoft announced the latest version of its web-based 3D engine, Babylon.js, which it claims “ushers in the next generation of web rendering technology for everyone.” In my own writeup of Babylon.js, published just before the announcement, I noted that it makes 3D development surprisingly simple — I likened the Babylon Playground tool to Microsoft FrontPage, but for the metaverse.

Perhaps the most impressive new feature in 5.0 is its support for WebGPU, an emerging web standard for web-to-GPU communication. “We have been actively participating in the WebGPU Workgroup from its earliest days and are proud to announce that Babylon.js 5.0 offers FULL support for WebGPU,” wrote the Babylon.js team.

Firefox Reaches ​​Version 100.0

The venerable open source browser Firefox released its 100th version this week, nearly 18 years after 1.0 launched in November 2004.

While the continued presence of Firefox is to be applauded, in recent years its capabilities and overall reach have fallen well behind Google’s open source Chromium browser. Also, new browsers have emerged with specific features that appeal to modern users, such as JavaScript inventor Brendan Eich’s Brave browser — a cryptocurrency and privacy-focused web browser built on top of Chromium.

The Slashdot thread about the 100th version is full of minor critiques, although this user nicely summed up why it’s still critical that Firefox exists: “Firefox is my main browser on both desktop and mobile. We need to have a viable competitor to Chrome to avoid a monoculture and avoid Google taking complete control of web standards.”

Tweet of the Week

How to adapt to the coming metaverse…