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State of Meta Frameworks Recap

Bruce WigglestonJul 28, 202312 min readIn this State of Meta Frameworks event, our panelists discussed the current State of Meta Frameworks.This wrap-up covers the panel discussion on the ever-evolving state of meta frameworks in the digital landscape. Our expert panelists delved into the latest trends, advancements, and challenges faced by developers and businesses in adopting and utilizing meta frameworks effectively.You can watch the full State of Meta Frameworks event on the This Dot Media YouTube channel.Here is a complete list of the host and panelists that participated in this online event.Hosts:Panelists:The discussion got off to a quick start, and there seemed to be a consensus that the web development ecosystem is currently going through a phase of experimentation, with numerous frameworks and tools popping up and evolving rapidly. This creative and innovative environment allows developers to explore various solutions, leading to a wide array of choices.Looking ahead, it's difficult to predict the exact form of an ideal development environment in 5-10 years. However, there is an expectation that the web development community will eventually converge on some consensus regarding best practices and tools. Some current practices, like hydration (the process of converting server-rendered HTML into a fully interactive application on the client-side), might be considered wasteful in an idealized future and could be replaced with more efficient approaches.One significant consideration for the future of web development is competition between web applications and mobile apps. While the web has advantages in terms of faster initial loading and no need to download large app files, mobile apps are often perceived as having better user experiences. Closing the gap between web and app experiences will likely be a focus in the coming years.The ease of creating meta frameworks is seen as a positive aspect of the current ecosystem. The availability of bundlers and underlying tooling has made it possible for developers to build their frameworks on top of existing libraries and tools. This ease of creation has led to an explosion of ideas and innovation in the space.However, the growing complexity and the abundance of choices can also be overwhelming for newcomers to web development. The abundance of frameworks and tools may make it challenging for beginners to know where to start. Simplifying the development process and making the technology more approachable for new developers will likely be a concern for the future.There's also a cautious perspective regarding abstracting complexity too much. While meta frameworks and high-level abstractions can make development easier and faster, there's a risk of losing touch with the underlying technology and ending up with monolithic solutions that become difficult to maintain and replace.In summary, the web development landscape is currently characterized by experimentation and rapid evolution. As the community continues to explore and innovate, it is expected that the industry will eventually converge on more standardized practices and tools. Finding the right balance between abstraction and maintainability will be crucial for the future of web application development.The discussion revolves around Next.js adopting React's server components, which indicates a shift towards server-first approaches in their development. The conversation contemplates the potential impact of this trend and whether it might lead to similar shifts in other tech stacks.React's server components are viewed as a new and hot trend in the React ecosystem, with no similar implementations currently in other tech stacks. The participants discuss how web development has evolved over the past years, from server-rendered PHP and Rails applications to the rise of JavaScript and single-page applications (SPAs), and now the current move back towards server rendering and server component rendering.Opinions differ on the real benefits of server components compared to more established server-side rendering approaches. Some participants express support for server components, appreciating the server-first philosophy and the idea of shipping HTML from the server to the client. Others question the advantages of introducing server components when client-side models are already highly capable and suitable for building dynamic apps.The conversation touches on the challenges of adopting new approaches and integrating them with existing ecosystems. Legacy concerns and the need for education within the React community are mentioned as potential obstacles to widespread adoption.However, it's acknowledged that some frameworks have already taken the path of starting with server rendering and then adding client-side functionality later. The debate continues, with participants emphasizing the ongoing innovation and experimentation in reducing JavaScript costs and execution in the browser.Despite the differing approaches taken by underlying libraries and frameworks, there seems to be a degree of consolidation and agreement among metaframeworks in terms of handling progressive enhancement, server functions, file-based routing, and other patterns.React server components are considered a special addition to the Redwood framework, which already incorporates a back-end component, mainly focused on GraphQL. The advantages of back-end flexibility and server-side rendering, particularly for tasks like handling Open Graph meta tags, are highlighted.In conclusion, the participants express various viewpoints on the adoption of server components and server-first approaches. While there are differing opinions on their benefits and practicality, the conversation suggests that innovation and experimentation in web development will continue to shape the direction of tech stacks in the future.For developers starting to learn a new meta framework, the panel suggests considering the purpose of their project and what they want to achieve. For simple projects like personal blogs or static sites, options like WordPress or templating with Astro may be more straightforward. However, for dynamic applications or job prospects, learning a popular component framework like React is recommended due to its extensive documentation and community support.The importance of having a strong foundation in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS is emphasized before delving into meta frameworks. For beginners, learning the fundamentals is key, and then they can progress to using a meta framework that aligns with their interests and goals.The panel acknowledges that the choice of framework might not be as crucial as many believe. The important thing is to pick one that feels comfortable and appealing, as the skills and patterns acquired will be transferable to other frameworks if needed.Job market prospects can be enhanced by being well-versed in cutting-edge frameworks, as companies using less common technologies may highly value developers with expertise in those areas.Ultimately, the advice is to avoid getting paralyzed by the fear of making the "wrong" choice and to focus on finding a framework that resonates with personal preferences and aligns with project requirements. Being adaptable and willing to learn new technologies will make a developer stand out in the job market and as a valuable consultant.When it comes to deployments in different ecosystems, the panelists shared their experiences and challenges. They discussed the adoption of adapters to simplify deployment processes across various platforms. Some mentioned using AWS S3, Netlify, and Parcel for static sites, while others emphasized the importance of considering the platform's limitations and performance.The conversation touched on serverless functions and edge deployments, with mixed experiences across different frameworks. While some found serverless functions efficient and fast, others encountered configuration challenges and a lack of clear documentation. Overall, the panelists highlighted the ongoing experimentation and search for optimal deployment solutions, with open-source collaborations being key to driving progress in this space.The panelists addressed common misconceptions and misunderstandings about their respective frameworks. Redwood was mistaken as a new framework, but in reality, it has been stable and established for over four years. They emphasized their focus on startups and core infrastructure, partnering with incubators to support end-users in that market.Astro clarified that it is not limited to static sites and can handle dynamic single-client rendered apps with its flexibility in mounting components. SolidJS emphasized its goal of raising the baseline of primitives in the ecosystem, encouraging the use of existing libraries and promoting a future without lock-in frameworks. Crown showcased its selling point of partial hydration for optimal performance but acknowledged the challenge of explaining the concept to potential customers. Lastly, Nuxt was differentiated from Next, and it was clarified that Nuxt is optimized for performance, aims to simplify developer experience, and is not just the "next" version of Vue.The panelists agreed that maintaining a meta framework is not easy and often involves complex version upgrading and bug fixes. Overall, the conversation shed light on the unique strengths and goals of each framework, debunking common misconceptions and providing insights into their usage and focus areas.In this candid conversation, the panelists discussed the changing landscape of testing in libraries and frameworks. They acknowledged that many new releases are moving away from first-class testing in favor of end-to-end testing tools like Cypress and Playwright. Some frameworks, like Redwood, continue to support unit testing with Jest and JavaScript testing library, while others, like Svelte Kit, are shipping with Playwright out of the box. The shift seems to be driven by the complexity of modern applications, where bugs often emerge in the integration of various components and data sources.The panelists emphasized that testing needs to address the actual complexity of the application, and in some cases, end-to-end testing proves more effective in detecting bugs and ensuring the overall system works as intended. However, they also acknowledged that there are still benefits to unit testing and emphasized the importance of having both types of testing in a robust application.The challenge lies in finding the right balance and tooling to suit different types of frameworks and projects. The diversity of opinions and preferences within the community makes it difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach to testing. Some frameworks prioritize ease of use and simplicity for beginners, while others lean towards comprehensive end-to-end testing for complex applications.Overall, the future of testing-first tooling remains uncertain. While there may be a shift back towards unit testing in some cases, it seems that the focus will be on finding the right combination of testing approaches that best suit the specific needs and complexities of individual frameworks and applications.The panelists discussed their thoughts on documentation tools, particularly Docusaurus. Some mentioned using their own custom solutions or other frameworks like Vpress and VuePress in the Vue ecosystem. Astro introduced their own documentation starter called Starlight, which aims to bring Docusaurus-like features to static templating languages open to any framework.The panel also mentioned Next.js and how the React 18 documentation process used custom React components rather than Docusaurus. The focus on partial hydration was highlighted as a key factor that can make documentation sites even better.Overall, the discussion reflected a diverse range of approaches and preferences when it comes to maintaining documentation for projects.The panelists had an interesting discussion about transpiling and infrastructure as code. Regarding transpiling, there was a consensus that while modernizing code to ESM (ECMAScript modules) is becoming more accessible, transpiling will still be necessary for a variety of reasons, including ensuring optimal performance and compatibility with different environments. The panel acknowledged that build tools and compilers are still widely used and will likely remain integral to the development process.On the topic of infrastructure as code, the conversation centered around how frameworks are starting to offer more opinionated solutions for deploying applications seamlessly. Next.js, for example, automatically infers whether a page should be deployed as serverless or static based on code patterns and fetch calls. However, there were also concerns about the potential challenges and risks of overly automatic decisions when it comes to deploying and managing infrastructure. Astra's approach of explicit configuration and allowing developers to set defaults for routes was noted as a more conservative and safer option.The discussion highlighted the ongoing evolution of these practices and how different frameworks are approaching the challenges of modern web development, providing varying degrees of automation and flexibility for developers. The general consensus was that while transpiling and infrastructure as code practices are continuously improving, they will still be essential components of web development for the foreseeable future.During the discussion, the panelists shared challenging problems they encountered while developing their respective meta frameworks and how they approached solving them. One major challenge for Redwood was integrating GraphQL into their framework. While GraphQL can be powerful, not everyone is comfortable using it. Redwood aimed to simplify the process by providing conventions and handling complexities, making it easier for developers to work with GraphQL. This allowed applications to scale better, addressing over-fetching and waterfall issues.In the Crown framework, caching was a primary focus due to the heavy reliance on third-party data sources that were not always fast enough. To tackle this, they implemented various caching mechanisms, including in-memory caches, persistent caches (e.g., Redis), and HTTP caching. They utilized decorators to specify which data should be cached and employed patterns like "reusing stale while revalidating" to ensure fresh data while maintaining fast response times.For another panelist, the most challenging aspects of their meta framework were related to adapters and runtime components. They faced difficulties in balancing a generic interface for deploying apps anywhere while leveraging specific features of different platforms. Integrating platform-specific features without making the framework feel too platform-dependent was a considerable challenge. They explored the potential of generalizing certain aspects, such as key-value stores, to address common needs across platforms.The panelists emphasized that navigating the ever-evolving landscape of serverless and edge computing, and integrating the innovations from various platforms without compromising the core functionalities of their frameworks, required careful consideration and creative problem-solving. Overall, the discussion shed light on the complexities and ongoing efforts to build user-friendly and powerful meta frameworks in the dynamic world of web development.During the lively discussion, the panelists shared some unexpected and innovative ways their frameworks have been used in real-world scenarios.For instance, with Astro, they were pleasantly surprised to see Bloomberg experimenting with using it to template news articles. It was used alongside their existing framework in A/B tests, demonstrating Astro's versatility and ease of integration with other platforms. Additionally, Astro's middleware mode was another exciting discovery, allowing it to be deployed as a node server middleware, making it even more adaptable for existing projects.Redwood, on the other hand, was amazed by the diverse range of use cases their framework supported, from consumer applications to deep vertical SaaS implementations. The community's adoption of Redwood for various purposes showcased its flexibility and robustness.In the case of SolidJS, the team was surprised to find developers using Solid as the foundation for mobile apps and Electron applications. Solid's client-only mode was adapted for these use cases, demonstrating its potential to support mobile development and native-like experiences.A particularly jaw-dropping example came from the Svelte community, where developers managed to recreate the classic game Wolfenstein 3D in the browser using just DOM elements and CSS 3D transforms. This creative use of Svelte showcased its DOM manipulation capabilities and the powerful potential of modern browsers.Overall, the panelists were impressed by the ingenious ways developers harnessed the capabilities of their frameworks to solve unique challenges and create unconventional applications.The overall discussion provided a glimpse into the dynamic and exciting world of meta frameworks and the ever-evolving possibilities they bring to web development. With such remarkable use cases and continuous innovation, the future of meta frameworks looks promising. The panelists expressed their gratitude to the audience for joining and participating in the event, and they all looked forward to meeting again in future events.This Dot Labs is a development consultancy that is trusted by top industry companies, including Stripe, Xero, Wikimedia, Docusign, and Twilio. This Dot takes a hands-on approach by providing tailored development strategies to help you approach your most pressing challenges with clarity and confidence. Whether it's bridging the gap between business and technology or modernizing legacy systems, you’ll find a breadth of experience and knowledge you need. Check out how This Dot Labs can empower your tech journey.Do you want to have the job done? We are ready to provide our expertise!This Dot Labs proudly partners with enterprises interested in transforming their digital assets, upskilling their teams, and finding novel avenues for advanced integration.



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State of Meta Frameworks Recap

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