Claire and Steph discuss the Web, and why it is absolutely crucial to know your Web fundamentals. Inspired by a recent issue on the CSS Working Group's GitHub, we bring it back to the basics.
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And I'm Steph.
And this is Word Wrap.
Unfortunately, it seems like every few months on Twitter we rehash one or another of these languages and how they're insufficient. And let's be honest - we're just going to keep doing that.
These discussions seem to have one thing in common: an unwillingness to learn fundamentals which can also mean missing time-honored solutions baked into the semantics.
And the reason why that's important - I think we'll get to in a little bit. But in my mental process these things are just separate in general. Like HTML is the structure of the page. It is - you know, when we think about accessibility we think of document structure. We are quite literally creating a document and so that's why you can't put two
h1 tags on a page, for example, it's just not good. I mean you can do it. Let me - before everyone's like "oh you can't do that? you can do it!" - but you have to do it in a - in a specific way.
You know, when we talk about Design Systems - we talk about components, you know, it's understandable that some folks want to you know - really combine these things so that they're all in one file. And you know, it's easy to essentially ramp up onto you know, whatever system you're creating and that's understandable.
So I think when these discussions come up, what I think we can agree on as builders of the web is that if nothing else - we all love to tinker, right?
So it's natural that once you pick something up - even if you've learned it pretty in-depth - you probably find things you want to change. That's human, right? We're never satisfied with the answer. You know, we are as developers, we constantly joke about you know looking at code from even ourselves weeks or months ago and just being able to identify how much we've grown.
So like it's natural that if you can see your own growth process that you would also be forming new opinions, new processes. And not only that, but you also - we're going to experience changes in teams, changes in workplaces - and all these things contribute, of course, to how you view the web. And particularly, you know, it's important to keep in mind that people are always entering the field of web development, right?
So when you first enter (the web) that context with which you enter the web is going to color your experience for a considerable amount of time.
For example, myself: I started learning web development with Flash but my first professional experience with it was at an advertising agency. And advertising and marketing were the environments that I experienced web development for a significant amount of my career. And that gives me a completely different lens of how I view these tools then somebody who has always been in product development, for example. And I think that when these things come up on Twitter or what not and we're like, "oh the web should change" its like - those are important discussions to have. I think what usually gets everyone into trouble is forgetting that everybody does have that different context and that different lens with which to view the web. And so what should be and could be productive conversations quickly devolves into that dogpile. So the context is important.
As Claire brought up, you know, there's also some times that lack of understanding of those fundamentals. So learning those fundamentals - if you came from a boot camp you again have a different that entry path in is going to affect when and how you learn the fundamentals versus being solo versus being in a very structured computer science program.
This - this is true. This is going to continue to be true. The languages will evolve - we've seen the languages evolve. That's why we have HTML5 and CSS3! And you know, I don't think we're numbering things anymore. But still the point being the web is evolving.
There's a really great project even to further democratize being able to give your opinion to browser makers. It's called The Web We Want and I encourage you to check that out and you can actually take part in surveys and it's another avenue that's open to you to give your opinion on the way the web should move.
So it's something where it's not necessarily - sometimes it's specific to technology and you know, the languages. So finding the appropriate forum to have these discussion is highly encouraged. We totally encourage that. We'd love to have those discussions with you too, you know.
We're starting a new segment called "listener questions". So feel free to toss us those questions. We'd love to continue discussing these types of things on the show.
To back up on one of Steph's points - you know that we're always learning and these languages are always changing - that was the entire point of the web. You know, people knew that this wasn't going to be you know, the end all be all.
There are several tags, for example in HTML, that are not used anymore that are quite literally said do not use this it will break the web. My favorite is
<xmp>, which was supposed to be an example tag for maybe code or whatever.
It's what you would use
<code> for now, but
<xmp> quite literally tells the HTML parser to stop parsing. And so anything after it just is - just plain text. So you can imagine how that could break something.
node_modules and - and stuff like that.
So, you know, there's a lot of room to grow the Web and to use the Web in many different ways.
I think this topic is something that I'm really passionate about because I find the Web is one of those things that is actually constructed in a way that it can continue to grow. And you know, one of its fundamental points is to be backwards compatible - that, you know, anything that was thought of 30 years ago will still work.
Now, you know that - that's fantastic like that. Think of any system. Think about Apple over 40 some years in existence. It's changed architectures like four times: Motorola, PowerPC Intel, and now ARM. So four times. That's bonkers - like, and none of that stuff is backwards compatible and yet the web has been around for three quarters that long and everything's backwards compatible.
Obviously the newer things don't work.
But you know, you can load the Space Jam website from 1997 and it still works and it's beautiful and it should be archived forever.
But yeah. That's just near and dear to my heart and you know to think about just doing away with that 25-30 years of progress is you know... At first, I was not necessarily offended - I was just like taken aback. But you know it got me thinking of like - we still need to have some conversations like this because, you know, makes us invest in this more. And you know, if there's anything that anyone needs to do in their career, it's just get invested in it from a passion standpoint.
So I think in summary of our discussion today, we would advocate that everyone takes a little more time to learn about the fundamentals that make up the Web so that we can all be better advocates for its future and have more productive conversations to move the web forward.
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