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Anton Frattaroli
Anton Frattaroli

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A Different Kind of War

I came across the following twitter thread and wanted to respond, but it's a bit more complex than can fit in a tweet:

It immediately reminded me of a section of a fantastic analysis by Mark Nutter from a couple years ago. He inferred that Google's deep ties to the web (and standards bodies) make the web, as a platform, a risk that Facebook does not want to be exposed to. He says that React is a step toward abstracting away the browser.

Gramshackle follows up on the Google/Facebook relationship and outlines what he believes would need to take place for Facebook to usurp Google. He identifies React Native as a way to add an abstraction layer over mobile platforms, and GraphQL as a replacement for REST. They may even be targeting HTTP itself, which is a frightening thought given how fundamental it is to the world.

I find that to be entirely plausible and even likely. JS-JS-JS vs HTML-CSS-JS is only about abstracting the browser as a result of one corporation trying to thrive in an ecosystem dominated by an actor who isn't them.

So I agree, it feels like a war for the future of the web, with standards bodies used as weapons (note: GraphQL and JSX are standards, but not W3C), but not targeted towards web developers and not based on team size (we're just caught in the middle). But it's a war we've seen before. Mac or PC? What came about is the browser abstracting away the OS, and other form factors contributing to the success of the browser as a platform. Google won that war. Now Facebook is using a similar playbook in our latest round of tech wars.

If you're unaware of Facebook's intentions, it can be absolutely frustrating how they stomp all over years of web platform evolution. And the current lack of an alternative to the web can make it seem like they're just a bunch of crazies.

But something I've noticed with the most recent generation of tech is the amazing documentation and ease of use, which I believe is there because creators really, really want you to use their stuff. Take GatsbyJS and their amazing tutorial series. I'll admit that the underlying complexity is oppressive, but it's made so that a single person can grasp the tools and use them effectively.

I think everything that is going on is narrowing the gap between large and small teams, and am glad to see the industry moving in that direction.

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