Listen along to this post as you read, or subscribe to the blog
The Web Is Moving at an Unprecedented Pace
That word, “unprecedented” is a bit loaded. I mean it less as sensationalism and more that it’s an important attribute of how the web is evolving today. Because it may mean that we and our teams need to act in ways that we never have before.
Why are things moving so quickly now?
Hindsight now affords us a clear view that many factors have contributed to the acceleration of web tech over the last ~5 years:
- React, Vue and other frameworks matured as reliable application-level technologies which translated into more growth for the use of our core web technologies.
- Communities grew and rallied across social avenues, providing constructive discourse, data, thought-leadership and volunteered action, which trickled directly into the various web spec teams having the person-power and motivation to triage ideas and grow our spec feature-sets.
- Browsers too reacted to the pace picking up and through internal efforts sped up their own release cycles and aligned with each other via the interop project.
- And while there are more specific items to add to this list, I think overall, the momentum built to a point where progress now begets progress, as making the web platform more capable and productive is hitting real bottom lines.
What does this fast pace mean?
I want to cut to the chase: I see the cracks starting to show in teams and projects that haven’t kept up; through various open-source projects, to friends and friends of friends struggling to keep their stress levels down due to tech debt coming to collect. It’s visibly accelerating; more and more deprecated, even abandoned dependencies, projects stuck on incredibly old and now brittle node versions, Dependabot shouting daily about new security vulnerabilities.
Back to things being unprecedented, a lot of web developers kept a mostly even pace set from the early 2000’s to around 2015, which was fairly methodical, not necessarily stagnant, but pretty manageable to deal with the odd new feature that trickled down the pipe. And I think until now, the repercussions of keeping that pace haven’t yet critically surfaced.
So here’s my warning: The old skill sets need updating, right away. The gap is widening between those who are engaged with the change and those who fell into a comfort zone of what they know. Things will only get worse as the new productivity of the web leaves old concepts further in the dust.
Business needs to get involved!
Individually, if this idea resonates with you I think that’s great, the power is absolutely in your own hands. But my bigger concern is with teams; whole companies even. How development teams are managed provides the biggest opportunity to catch up. Time needs to be invested and accounted for in keeping pace with the industry. It’s no longer going to work to offer outdated solutions that miss the mark of being a part of today’s modern web. Without strategic investment in updating role/skill matrices and individual learning plans, we could see many teams and companies succumb to overwhelming technical debt caused by the accelerated rising tide of digital entropy.
The good news is, I don’t think it’s too late. With the right adjustments and investments any person, team or organization can catch up. And not only that, but the opportunity here isn’t just to catch up, it’s about continuing to keep pace in this marathon of a time. Doing that and also building awareness around how the industry continues to move will provide incredible confidence to the software and products you build.
Adjust and get moving
It’s a common trend that as technology matures, it becomes more imperative that businesses understand clearly how to utilize it rather than rely on techno-mystique to get them by; ultimately time with tech leads to the savvy winning-out.
But the abrupt adjustment to the evergreen nature of the web today is disruptive to the idea of this pattern happening in longer-term cycles. Those who haven’t yet, or don’t soon, tighten that loop will start to fall out of sync entirely, and those that do it well will stand to gain quite a bit.
Whether it’s front-end, back-end, devops or other interfacing skill-arenas that power the web ecosystem, the optimal concepts to deploy those domains have changed drastically in the last few years and will continue to move as fast or faster. If you’re feeling left behind, now might be a great, and unprecedented, time to adjust and get moving.
Not sure how to take the first steps?
The great news is that beyond hobby bloggers like me, there are some incredible voices out there making it really easy to get exposed to and learn some of the new cool concepts emerging in web tech. Here is just a glimpse of bloggers and articles that can get you on your way.
- Modern CSS in Real Life by Chris Coyier
- And how about a double-feature: The Web is Good Now by Chris Coyier
- What’s new in web UI by Una Kravets
- The CSS :has() selector is way more than a “Parent Selector” by Bramus
- CSSGrid.io by Wes Bos
- Getting started with View Transitions on multi-page apps by Dave Rupert
- aspect-ratio by Geoff Graham
- buildexcellentwebsit.es by Andy Bell
Better yet, skip the links and join the communities. Across discord, mastodon, bluesky, twitter (meh, sort of), and now threads, there are a ton of folks out there to connect with and learn from in real time.