A Fundamental Disconnect
The modern web is always changing, and this article is more than two years old.
The one problem I’ve seen, however, is the fundamental disconnect many of these developers seem to have with the way deploying code on the Web works. In traditional software development, we have some say in the execution environment. On the Web, we don’t.
If we’re writing server-side software in Python or Rails or even PHP, one of two things is true:
- We control the server environment: operating system, language versions, packages, etc.; or
- We don’t control the server environment, but we have knowledge of it and can author your program accordingly so it will execute as anticipated.
In the more traditional installed software world, we can similarly control the environment by placing certain restrictions on what operating systems our code can run on and what the dependencies for its use may be in terms of hard drive space and RAM required. We provide that information up front and users can choose to use our software or use a competing product based on what will work for them.
On the Web, however, all bets are off. The Web is ubiquitous. The Web is messy. And, as much as we might like to control a user’s experience down to the very pixel, those of us who have been working on the Web for a while understand that it’s a fool’s errand andhave adjusted our expectations accordingly. Unfortunately, this new crop of Web developers doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo.
All we can do is author a compelling, adaptive experience, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.
The fact is that we can’t absolutely rely on the availability of any specific technology when it comes to delivering a Web experience. Instead, we must look at how we construct that experience and make smarter decisions about how we use specific technologies in order to take advantage of their benefits while simultaneously understanding that their availability is not guaranteed. This is why progressive enhancement is such a useful philosophy.