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май 21, 2013

Polymer (by Google)

At IO this year a new project to build a toolkit on top of web components was presentedPolymer.

The demonstration was simply brilliant (in contrast of the Web components - tectonic shift talk's demos) and it showed the 'promised land' the exhausted web developer, who has to combine again and again the same JavaScript files with each new project (and mind you, a new web application is built for 6 to 8 weeks these days, so this is a lot of repetitive work) just to get those standard components to work and align as they are supposed to. Then he has to battle with the performance and load times and then and only then he can start implementing the application logic.

Lots of efforts has been spent to put off pressure from the regular Joe developer in recent years as well, lots of frameworks, libraries, utilities, build tools, component architectures and other stuff were invented to make this an easier and faster to complete task and yet we are at the place where it takes days if not weeks to gather everything you will need until you can start implementing application logic.

Everybody wants us to believe that the resolution to this chaotic state is called Web Components. So much, that companies started to implement early prototype frameworks and tool-kits on top of the still emerging standards by shimming the lacking support and polifilling the browser incompatibilities.  So today you can go and test drive the "future of web".

Well, I have so you don't have to.

And it sucks.

It does not work. Half of the examples do not work as expected. Even in latest stable Chrome or Firefox. Some that failed there worked in Mobile Safari, but mostly what you see is a repetition of what we have had for years on our hands from developer's perspective: lots of files that we have to know where to gather from and how and when to include in our page just to get things to load, from then on we have to figure out this new shiny approach to data management (we just learned to use meaningful data structures and consistency checks on the client side and to combine it with two ways data binding). And what about memory management? What about node count? For years we have been taught to not put too much nodes in the document and all of a sudden we are putting nodes in fragments twice as much as the old fashioned applications. Did the browser vendors all of a sudden implemented much better large DOM node list handling?

Anyways, while the approach is very interesting for me (lots of good ideas there, basically from the demo it seems you can have even the most complex interaction models implemented as a tag and you can use it as any other tag, including nesting the same tag inside, which is kind of cool and basically not possible with complex applications unless specially designed to be possible).

However the fact that even the simplest demos do not work or work very poorly (terrible redraws on mobile, terrible response time even when there is only one widget on the page - practically completely useless on mobile for now).

This leaves the developer with very bad feeling about this bright new web future. And then again China has 25% traffic coming from IE6 and companies simply just cannot ignore that. You can ask any international company or a company targeting that market - they do not care about the future, they care about the cash flow and right now IE6 is driving 25% of it in Chine, even if it is less than 6% globally. China is BIG! On top of the mess with IE there is also the performance case: it is still very unclear how is load time being solved in the case where you have tens of components loaded from all over the Internet.

I completely agree that we should not look too much in the rear mirror, but guess what, you cannot drive forward without it.

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