The elephant in the web application

Speaker: Iwan Vosloo

Type: Talk

In this talk, I'd like to convince you that developing a web application today is an unnecessarily cumbersome and error prone task. It is time for web frameworks to evolve and become more like graphical user interface (GUI) frameworks: these provide abstractions called "windows" or "widgets" that let a programmer write an application using terms that describe what is being built, with less (if any) focus on the underlying technologies needed to accomplish drawing these items on a screen.

A web application programmer (in contrast to a GUI programmer) needs to know quite a few different technologies and a fair bit of effort is required to orchestrate these tools into achieving an end result: a template language, HTML, HTTP, CSS, JavaScript, etc. Reusing something substantial is especially difficult, which means in a sizeable web application the same dragons need to be fought several times over. If a programmer has to constantly deal with all this subject matter, it takes focus away from what actually needs to be built: the application itself.

Why are we putting up with having to know HTML and similar low-level technologies? Is it an elephant in the room? Something we pretend not to see, yet we accept the burden of having to work around it?

I will show you what it takes to build a web application; what repetitive tasks there are and what a programmer needs to be aware of. I hope to convince you that there's a better way, and that what was perhaps an idealistic dream a decade ago can now be done - not only by our own fully-featured Python web framework (Reahl), but also by a small number of others beyond the realm of Python.

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