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Modern JavaScript Development Is Hard

It’s not uncommon these days to see people complaining about just how complex JavaScript development seems to have become. I can have some sympathy with that view when it’s coming from someone new to the language.

If you’re learning JS, it won’t take long for you to be exposed to the enormity of the ecosystem and the sheer number of moving pieces you need to understand (at least conceptually) to build a modern web application.

Package management, linting, transpilation, module bundling, minification, source maps, frameworks, unit testing, hot reloading… it can’t be denied that this is a lot more complex that just including a couple script tags in your page and FTPing it up to the server.

Some people who have been involved with web development for years are still pining for those ‘good old days’, and it’s this kind of complaining that I have much less sympathy for. One such comment I read this last week claimed that web development had been hijacked by those who enjoy using the command line and writing JSON config files.

For a long time, JavaScript was looked upon by many as a joke; a toy language whose only real use was to add non-essential eye-candy, such as mouseover changes, and was often a source of weird errors and broken pages. The language is still not taken seriously by some today, despite having made much progress since those early days. It’s not hard to have some sympathy with PHP developers.

For better or for worse, JavaScript was (and still is) the only language supported natively by the vast majority of web browsers. The community has worked hard to improve the language itself, and to provide the tooling to help build production-grade apps. I find it ironic that now people attack JavaScript development fo being “too complicated”. Unfortunately, you just can’t have it both ways.

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