Web Development

What To Do About The Sorry State Of Web Development

What To Do About The Sorry State Of Web Development

A commenter on previous article (The Sorry State Of Web Development) make a good point: I put out a lot of negativity without offering anything constructive in return. Well, I’m going to make rectify that mistake.

Here is what I think needs to be done to improve the Web, as far as programming goes. I admit, much of it is rather unrealistic considering how much inertia the current way of doing things already has. But just as Microsoft (eventually) threw off the anchor of the 640 KB barrier for legacy code, we need to throw off the albatrosses around the neck of Web development.


HTTP is fine, but there needs to be a helper (or replacement) protocol. When HTTP was designed, the idea that anything but a connectionless, stateless protocol would be needed was not in mind. Too many people are laying stateful systems that need to maintain concurrency or two-way conversations on top of HTTP. This is madness. This applications (particularly within AJAX applications) would be much better served with something along the lines of telnet, which is designed to maintain a single, authenticated connection over the course of a two-way conversation.


HTML is a decent standard, but unfortunately, its implementation is rarely standard. Yeah, I know Firefox is great at it, but its penetration still "isn’t there" yet. More importantly, while being extremely standard compliant, it is still just as tolerant of non-standard code as Internet Explorer is. If Internet Explorer and Firefox started simply rejecting non-standard HTML code, there is no way that a web developer could put out this junk code, because their customer or boss would not even be able to look at it. Why am I so big on HTML compliance? Because the less compliant HTML code is, the more difficult it is to write systems that consume it. Innovation is difficult when, instead of being able to rely upon a standard, you need to take into account a thousand potential permutations of that standard. This is my major beef with RSS; it allows all sorts of shenanigans on the content producer’s end of things, to make it "easy" for the code writers, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to consume it in a reliable way.

When developers are allowed to write code that adheres to no standard, or a very loose one, the content loses all meaning. An RSS feed (or HTML feed) that is poorly formed has no context, and therefore no meaning. All the client software can do is parse it like HTML and hope for the best.


This dog has got to go. ActiveX components and Java applets were a good idea, but they were predicated on clunky browser plug-ins, slow virtual machines, and technological issues which made them (ActiveX, at least) inherently insecure. The problems with JavaScript are many, ranging from the interpreters themselves (often incompatible interpretation, poorly optimized, slow) to the language itself (poorly typed, pseudo-object oriented, lack of standard libraries) to the tools to create it (poor debugging, primarily). JavaScript needs to be replaced by a better language; since the list of quality interpreted language is pretty slim, I will be forced to recommend Perl, if not for anything else but its maturity in both the interpreter end of things and the tools aspect. Sadly, Perl code can quickly devolve into nightmare code, thanks to those implicit variables. They make code writing a snap, but debugging is a headache at best, when $_ and @_ mean something different on each and every line of code, based on what the previous line was. Properly written Perl code is no harder to read and fix than JavaScript. Perl already has a fantastic code base out there.

Additionally, the replacement for JavaScript needs to be properly event-driven, if it is to ever be able to work well in a web page. Having a zillion HTML tags running around with "onMouseOver()" baked into the tag itself is much more difficult to fix (as well as completely smashing the separation of logic and presentation which I hold to be the best way of writing code) than having TagId_onMouseOver() in the


Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.