Live from JAXConf 2013

The future of the web is decentralized innovation says Katz

Chris Mayer

Wednesday’s opening keynote took Java developers out of their comfort zone but to focus on the future of the web platform.

Wednesday’s opening keynote at JAXConf 2013 took a change of pace, moving away from the Java world to look at where the Web platform is heading.

Our guide was JQuery, Ruby on Rails and Ember.js core member Yehuda Katz, who began the presentation by comparing the web platform of today with the problems France had in the 19th century with their rail infrastructure.

The offbeat start from Katz, citing Future Perfect by Steven Johnson, explained that when France set out to build their radical rail infrastructure in the 1800s, The Legrand Star, they encountered plenty of problems. All lines led to Paris in a centralised hub, in hope that it would create more efficiency. It turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. During the Prussian War, German troops could get about quicker due to their decentralised network.

Katz linked back to the topic at hand, stating that “we’ve now created our own Lebrand Stars” with the Web. Innovation continues to be driven centrally HTML5, and while Katz argued this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there could be more efficient ways of working.

“We spend a lot of time centrally managing things,” Katz explained, before adding that people want to do things differently and in general, most prefer working with libraries and decentralised design – libraries such as picturefill and jQuery.

The jQuery in Action co-author then went on to outline the reason why we prefer libraries, explaining that we can iterate without risk (and not break the Web like vendors keep insisting) and focus on domain specific solutions.

Katz argued that we, as a web developers, are “most effective when not arguing with standard lobbies”.

“Often it feels like [standardization] should be urgent – there’s no rush to standardize things that could be implemented as a libraries,” Katz said.

Katz went on to look at what is currently happening to amend the “untenable” model we have today, such as centrally planned new capabilities. He also looked at Polymer, Google’s new UI web framework introduced at Google I/O a few weeks ago, as well as NavigationController, a new browser system that provides scriptable caches.

“In practice it sucks to write the code – but in the next few years, it will suck less,” Katz said, before concluding that “the future of the web is decentralized innovation.”

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