Needed: a new paradigm for Web development

January 18th, 2008 § 0 comments

In the past few days I have been thinking about the future of development–especially about the growing interest in tests and domain specific languages, and about the new trends in Web development. I was surprise to realize that, despite the fact the much talking has been done about how they may revolutionize the field, no significant application or framework is combining those concepts in something truly new.

The historic of the field is abysmal. We are now forty years into a period of very few changes in the conceptual basis of software development. For twenty years we have been using basically the same tools, practicing the same moves, and not moving are all. The industry remains bound to the minefield of object oriented programming, relational databases, and bottom-up design.

With regards to Web development, for example, although innovative in many ways, Rails and Django share two flaws that will make them obsolete as quickly as the other many frameworks that have graced the field in the last decade.

The first flaw is conceptual fragmentation. In an attempt to make Web development “painless”, those two frameworks and their descendants have diluted the way the application domain is considered in the application. It’s a more manageable–dumbed-down, if you will, way to develop application but the disconnection between code and domain is fairly evident.

The second flaw is the fixation of opinionated solutions. The use of REST by Rails is a good example of this kind of fixation. REST is a very useful concept, even necessary for some applications, but Rails half-baked external solution, full of accessory tricks, is sub-optimal. But Rails developers are sticking to it without questioning what it represents for their applications because Rails is opinionated software.

In fact, many of those so-called modern frameworks are just pretending complexity does not exist or that they can be easily managed by the use of small methods and a couple of tests.

Test-driven development is now being considered a silver bullet. New developers are using it as a panacea–as a way to guide design as if it would be possible to analyze the problem domain of the application by peering at the small window offered by TDD. The enormous amount of examples showing how to test what has been already tested is quite insane.

Seaside, which I tend to defend as a next step in Web development because of its innovative application of old concepts and its refusal to submit to the common solutions, is not the full solution though. Is great, it’s necessary, but it is still a step below what we really need.

Hopefully, the interest in concepts like language oriented programming will invite attempts to solve the Web development problem is new ways that will transform the field until the next revolution is needed.

Maybe we need a way to generate executable specifications that will really a way to build applications, and not a inferior way to model the expected behavior of an application. Maybe that can be a New-Year resolution: to think of a way to connect the dots, to join the loose treads created in the past twenty years. Is anybody up to it?

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