Svelte creator: Web development should be more fun

Svelte creator: Web development should be more fun

Svelte and its full stack framework, SvelteKit, have surprised and won applause, including a recent award for best open source software, for thinking outside the box about their approach to developing JavaScript.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Rich Harris, creator of Svelte, about front-end JavaScript trends and the way forward for Svelte. We also talked about multi-page applications versus single-page applications, document applications, their “transition application” concept, and running an open source software project, among other things. .

Matthew Tyson: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk. You work for the New York Times. Do you live in New York?

Rich Harris: In fact, I live in New York, in Brooklyn. However, I actually delivered my notice to the New York Times and am now struggling to bind all my responsibilities before I leave. I start a Vercel on November 8th.

Tyson: Oh, Vercel is a good synergy with SvelteKit. (Vercel is a front-end delivery platform.) I remember Vercel recently added SvelteKit support.

Harris: SvelteKit was inspired in part by Guillermo (Guillermo Rauch, CEO of Vercel), both in the sense that it is based on Next.js (Next.js is maintained by Vercel), and because Guillermo had commented that Vercel users often do not they were safe. what was the “blessed” way to create a Svelte app.

Tyson: It’s interesting to me that Svelte has managed to successfully overcome the status quo, that is, go in compilation time. How do you and your team look at things in new ways?

Harris: In two ways. We maintain a good level of skepticism towards front-end trends in general. People outside of the JS world tend to look at us inside as if we were all a little silly, and our position is that they are often right in doing so.

We approach the task of designing the framework as an essentially playful task. We do this because it’s fun and because we want web development to be more fun. This gives us the space to entertain some rather distant ideas, which after a long process of bike removal and refinement often become distinctive features.

Tyson: The ergonomics of using Svelte is what initially attracted me as a developer. Are you dedicated to cultivating the developer experience?

Harris: We do. “Developer experience” is almost a dirty word in some circles because it is supposed to conflict with the end-user experience, which has priority, but that’s not necessarily true, especially when you have more solution space. great that offers a compiler-centric mindset. . Svelte is largely an experiment to maximize UX without damaging DX and vice versa.

This was not always true. Prior to version 3, DX was a bit later. But it turns out you can have the best UX in the world and it won’t matter at all unless the DX is good enough for people to really want to use it. People tolerated Svelte 2, but they did love Svelte 3, and that release was when we started making waves.

Tyson: In your recent talk at Jamstack Conf 2021, he described the apparent conflict between multi-page applications (MPAs) and single-page applications (SPAs) and how this is not a very nuanced way of looking at it. You offer the idea of ​​the “transition application” as a resolution. Would you like to talk briefly about what you mean by a transition application and how SvelteKit adapts to this image?

Harris: There are many tribal thoughts on the “right” way to create applications, and recently this has manifested itself as a division between the traditionalist and modernist camps, which advocate the construction of AMP and SPA, respectively. At least that’s the cartoon.

The reality is that most frameworks converge on a much more nuanced set of rules about things like where your representation logic should live, but the discussion about these things is not as productive as it might be because that nuance tends to be drowned out by absolutist rhetoric.

I have noticed that one way to reorient debates like these is to introduce a new language, rather than trying to add warnings and clarifications to existing terminology, because it allows participants to get rid of the baggage that is already attached to terms like “SPA”. . So I coined “transition applications” to describe the rules I mentioned. The name “transition” rises from the school of interior design that combines traditionalist and modernist sensibilities.

SvelteKit is our attempt to create a transitional application framework. It is designed to be the best possible way to create a Svelte app for the vast majority of people. But the term also covers frameworks like Next and Nuxt.

Tyson: Another area of ​​apparent conflict that you identify is applications versus documents. Would you describe how you and SvelteKit view this division in a more productive way?

Harris: I kind of break my hair with people who treat documents and applications as completely separate things, with totally different technological requirements. The goal of interactive media is that documents can be like an app!

The web has the potential to be this radically new tool for cognition and communication. Interactive media allow you to think previously unthinkable thoughts, and the web is the most accessible manifestation of this never-before-developed idea. However, for the most part, we are still blocked from treating web pages as a canvas for text and images.

Documents and applications are just dust in a spectrum. Very often, a single site will show features across this spectrum, so it’s important that the tools we use reflect that.

The platonic ideal of a web design framework would allow you to create sites without even having to think about what “type” of site you are building. An example of how this works in practice is to limit the JavaScript that end users download to only the things they need for the “appy” parts.

SvelteKit allows you to disable client-side JavaScript at the page level, and some frames are even more granular than that. The idea that you should choose one “documents” framework or one “application” framework, to the exclusion of the other, strikes me as terribly short-sighted.

Tyson: Let me ask you about Wasm. What impact do you anticipate it will have on the development of the front-end as a whole, and specifically what measure will it be for non-JS languages ​​such as Java or C used in the front-end?

Harris: I think people tend to overestimate the impact of Wasm on front-end development. Wasm won’t make you a faster wrangler div. It certainly opens up new possibilities. It’s amazing that we can now run FFmpeg in the browser, for example. But I don’t anticipate that most of us will interact with him on a regular basis.

I’m venturing out of my field of specialization by saying this. (These comments will probably look desperately naive in two years!) But most non-JS languages ​​are not suitable for the front because Wasm binaries are usually a bit thick, unless you use something low-level. without a huge stdlib. In some fields (games, video editing, etc.), this is worthwhile, but not in web development in general.

Tyson: Can you talk a little bit about SvelteKit’s support for multiple output environments?

Harris: We realized from the beginning that it was essential to support different environments, in a way that made the most of their unique capabilities. It is useless to be tied to a specific platform or technology, such as Node or Lambda servers, nowadays. That’s why we were able to design the frame so that people could add their own own support for new environments with very little effort. There are definitely some details we still need to figure out, but overall it’s been a huge success, and I can’t imagine the frameworks working any other way in the future.

Tyson: Do you have any tips for people interested in creating successful open source projects?

Harris: There is no silver balance, and what works for one project or maintenance may not work for others. But in my experience, community is absolutely essential. Surround yourself with as many high-quality collaborators as you can find, and make it easy for people to invest in what you’re building. I have found that interactive playgrounds are very useful in this regard as they allow people to try things without friction and can dramatically increase the frequency and quality of bug reports.

Finally, invest in documentation. It seems obvious, but it is often a later idea, and good documentation will bring great benefits. In fact, I’m a big believer in Readme-driven development, which means writing documentation even before writing any code. This way, you’ll know why your API design hurts before you invest in it. Too many developers are obsessed with implementation details while neglecting the API design, which is completely the other way around. Deployment details are temporary, but APIs are incredibly difficult to change.

Tyson: Great thoughts, thank you, Rich. Good luck with your new place in Vercel!

Harris: Thanks!

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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