ReactiveConf 2019 was a three-day functional programming event that happened from October 30 to November 1 at Prague. The event hosted a number of great talks sharing the latest global trends in web and mobile development. This year among the topics covered were PWA, optimizations, security, visualizations, accessibility, and diversity.
Predicting the future of the web is about safer bets than about trends
Feldman started out by asking a question that developers often come across: “which technology stack to choose for their next project?” Previously, it was often advised to go for technologies that are “boring” or mature instead of the latest and shiniest ones. Going by this advice Feldman and his team chose the technology that had the biggest library ecosystem, most mature in the LAMP stack, and was adopted by many successful companies: Perl.
Since then, however, Perl gradually started to lose its popularity. The lesson that Feldman learned here was that “any technology that we choose, no matter how popular, how mainstream, how much traction it got today, you are still making a bet.” He says that predicting how the future for the current technologies will look like, and following that is safer than blindly accepting what everyone else is doing.
After setting up the premise, Feldman moved on to sharing his predictions:
Prediction 1: “TypeScript takes over the JS world”
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Prediction 2: “WebAssembly is going to expand the web app pie”
First announced in 2015, WebAssembly is Assembly for the browser with a compact binary format that runs with near-native execution speed. It is also a compilation target for other high-level languages including C/C++ and Rust. Its “closer to metal” property enables a number of computationally-intensive use cases on the web including games, media editing, speech synthesis, client-side computer vision, among others.
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[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Feldman predicted that by the end of 2020, WebAssembly will not make much difference to the makeup of the web. By the end of 2025, however, we will start to see the niche of heavyweight web apps that are basically native apps distributed through the browser.[/box]
Prediction 3: “npm lasts, surviving further problems”
In recent years, developers have witnessed and survived quite a few npm disasters. In 2016, a developer unpublished more than 250 npm-managed modules that affected Node, Babel and thousands of other projects. Then in 2018, we saw the event-stream case, in which an ill-intentioned user took ownership of the widely-used package through social engineering and infected it with a malicious package.
Another problem with npm is that it can allow the execution of arbitrary code from thousands and thousands of packages through the “postinstall” hook in package.json. Feldman recommends disabling “postinstall” and “preinstall” scripts by using the following command:
npm config set ignore-scripts true
Also, we are seeing some alternatives to npm. Feldman mentioned about Entropic, a federated package registry with a new CLI introduced by the former CTO of npm, C J Silverio. Feldman believes that despite these alternatives, financial, security, or other problems developers will continue to use npm because of its strong network effects.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Drawing from these events, Feldman predicted that by the end of 2020, we can expect one more security incident. By the end of 2025, he predicts that we might see at least one malicious npm package infecting many developers’ machines.[/box]
Prediction 4: “JS alternatives stay niche, but age well”
Representing the Elm core team at the event, Feldman listed a few reasons why developers should try Elm. It renders faster and generates smaller builds than most top JS frameworks and almost never crashes. It has its own package ecosystem and is often praised for its very detailed error messages.
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