3 min read

The developer community surely owes respect to the innovation of ‘View Source’ as it had made things much easier for the coders. Well, David Heinemeier Hansson, the developer of Ruby on Rails have made a move to make programmers’ life easy by announcing that Rails 6 will be shipping source maps by default in production.

Source maps help developers view code as it was written by the creator with comments, understandable variable names, and all the other help that makes it possible for programmers to understand the code. It is sent to users over the wire when users have the dev tools open in their browser.

Source maps, so far, have been seen merely as a local development tool and not something that will be shipped to production. Live debugging would make things easier for the developers.

According to the post by David Heinemeier Hansson, all the JavaScript that runs Basecamp 3 under Webpack now has source maps.

David Heinemeier Hansson said, “We’re still looking into what it’ll take to get source maps for the parts that were written for the asset pipeline using Sprockets, but all our Stimulus controllers are compiled and bundled using Webpack, and now they’re easy to read and learn from.”

David Heinemeier Hansson is also a partner at the web-based software development firm Basecamp. He said that 90% of all the code that runs Basecamp, is open source in the form of Ruby on Rails, Turbolinks, Stimulus.

He further added, “I like to think of Basecamp as a teaching hospital. The care of our users is our first priority, but it’s not the only one. We also take care of the staff running the place, and we try to teach and spread everything we learn. Pledging to protect View Source fits right in with that.”

Sam Saffron, the co-founder at Discourse said, “I just wanted to voice my support for bringing this back by @dhh . We have been using source maps at Discourse now for 4 or so years, including maps for both JS and SCSS in production, default on.”

According to him one of the important reasons to enable source maps in production is that often JS frameworks have “production” and “development” modes.
Sam Saffron said, “I have seen many cases over the years where a particular issue only happens in production and does not happen in development. Being able to debug properly in production is a huge life saver. Source maps are not the panacea as they still have some limitations around local var unmangling and other edge cases, but they are 100 times better than working through obfuscated minified code with magic formatting enabled.”

According to Sam, there is one performance concern that is the cost of precompilation. The cost was minimal at Discourse but the cost for a large number of source maps is unpredictable.

Users had discussed this issue on the GitHub thread, two years ago. According to most of them the precompile build times will be reduced.

A user commented on Github, “well-generated source maps can actually make it very easy to rip off someone else’s source.” Another comment reads, “Source maps are super useful for error reporting, as well as for analyzing bundle size from dependencies. Whether one chooses to deploy them or not is their choice, but producing them is useful.”

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