In my last post, I philosophized how new technology is going to change the bottleneck of web (and other) systems (which despite everything else, have remained surprisingly stable for awhile).
This spelled the demise of many systems that relied on a given system bottleneck, specifically, slow runtime systems.
But there is another technological shift conspiring against many web frameworks that isn't focused on performance, but instead focused on "ease of use" - which in many cases may hit far closer to home.
That shift is the reorganization of MVC.
MVC stands for "model-view-controller" which loosely means you have a datastore/database (the model) which is retrieved and manipulated (by the controller) such that it can finally be shown to a user (the view).
That is, pretty much always the flow. Well - kinda. The first thing you might notice is that "MVC" is an out-of-order acronym per the dataflow. In that case it would be "MCV". And happily, given that dataflow is paramount to my story - I'll use that in the rest of this article (that might irk you if you're CDO (which is like "OCD", except in alphabetical order, like it SHOULD BE)).
A predecessor to MCV was a simpler idea of simply "client/server" where client was the view, server was the controller and model (or, some or all of the controller could be in the client too). However, the client in that case actually implied it was a real client - that is a program that received the data and showed it.
In the web, the browser is the client, but interestingly in things like Rails, Jails, Nails, Grails, Struts, Play!, PHP, ASP.Net, and many others the "view" is on the server which then renders HTML and sends that to the browser. As far as the programmer is concerned, the whole MCV is on the server. The browser is often just a dumb terminal.
In the last year or two however, the popularity of a new type of framework is changing all that.
That change is coming from libraries such as backbone.js and ember.js (and many, many others).
The computing power of rendering is moved to the client's machine. Rendering isn't probably your biggest computing expense, but take off that computing cost from your server (times every web request you get) and its measurable.
And as you can imagine, if the "V" of MCV actually migrates to the client, all that's left on the server is "MC" (to be fair, sometimes even part of the "C" goes to the client).
What thousands and thousands of Rails developers discovered upon moving to backbone is that they no longer needed their fancy template views. Their backend became a system that pushed JSON over HTTP.
Very clean and very simple. At my new company Refresh (we're hiring!), our backend pushes the exact same JSON to our webpage as it does to our IOS app. And that same system will someday seamlessly become our API too.
For me, using Rails for webapps over Java (where I spent plenty of time years ago) was a simple decision. ActiveRecord was beautiful and elegant (especially compared to things like Java's hibernate). Also, the view layer was simple, well-laid-out, and standardized. If anything, Java had too many choices.
But these days, I tend to use NoSQL on the backend. And ember on the front-end. All I need in the middle is something to manipulate and push JSON. Why was I paying the Rails tax? (again insert any language that is a multiple slower than Java in that sentence).
I'm not particularly picking on Rails - it is just a full MCV solution that I no longer need. There are plenty of those.
So my not-so-amazing prediction is that in a few short years time full web frameworks from any languages disappear. Node picks up some of that slack but so do less feature-ful frameworks (and maybe performant ones). Even non-frameworks altogether get more use.
There's surely no mourning required here. Web frameworks change every few years no matter how you slice it. But between this post and my last, I see two converging fronts out to kill some our most popular ones right now.
Personally, I'm hoping to never server-side render HTML again. I'll let your browser do my rendering while I sit back, chill, and push some JSON.
And yes, Mailinator is in rewrite now to use ember, much to the chagrin of web scraping programs everywhere! (but much to the happy of JSON receivers)
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