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Emma Humphries
Emma Humphries

Posted on • Originally published at on

React is a subsidy

After a week of job interviews over video, while the sky was the color of Landry Violence, I decided to watch Stuart Langridge’s GOTO; 2020 talk (YouTube) on JavaScript.

Thirty seconds in, Langridge relates Zack Leatherman’s example of 8.5MB of tweets in static HTML rendering 1/5 of a second faster than a React site rendering a single tweet (Hellsite).

Reader, I howled, despite that being a bad idea after a week of dangerous air quality and six hours a day on video calls. Then I summoned The Infinite Scream (Hellsite) to do the howling for me while I wrote a blog post.

I’ve been thinking of the costs of the Javascript-first, particularly the React-first, state of web development:

  1. Users have to buy and use high-end devices (phones, tablets, and laptops) to access content
  2. Developers abandon the web for native applications
    • Which in turn demand rents (transaction fees)
    • And concessions (non-political content, what content can be sold)
  3. Orgs sticking with the with web use tool chains with high overhead and requirements (every dev needs a high end laptop and training in the React tool chain)
  4. Development jobs go to people who have the time and skills to use React and native frameworks instead of the open web
  5. JavaScript-first and native apps encourage privacy intrusive practices that siphon behavioral data, and reward getting a user “Hooked”

JavaScript in general, and React in particular, is a tax on the Open Web which subsidizes:

  1. Device manufacturers
  2. App stores
  3. Surveillance capitalism
  4. Elite developers

at the expense of:

  1. Users stuck on a device upgrade treadmill
  2. Projects which don’t fit the JavaScript-first economic model
    • Especially anti-racist, anti-policing, and anti-colonialist projects
  3. Creators who have to work under the precarity of large Social Media platforms
  4. Developers without access to tools and training for elite jobs

This subsidy will continue to harm all of us who were told that the Web was a boon for everyone.

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