Posts tagged developers

What Developers Need To Know About The Node.js Fork

On November 26, one of the most prolific contributors to popular JavaScript platform Node.js went public with a divergent copy of the project—or a fork, as it’s known in the open-source world—called IO.js

Since then, the future of Node.js has been brought into question as Node contributors and clients alike debated which version of the project they ought to use from now on.

This debate is possible because open-source licenses give developers the ability to copy and modify all of the software code for a given project. Most of the time, open-source communities try to sort out disagreements and keep one standardize version of the code. When they can’t agree, a fork results, with two or more versions of the code base developing separately.

And the debate matters, because big companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Uber use Node for applications used by hundreds of millions of people. Developers at those companies will want to know which version of Node they can rely on. 

See also: Popular Coding Framework Node.js Is Now Seriously Forked

Some open-source forks have made life difficult for developers. In this case, while the Node.js/IO.js fork is real, it hasn’t yet developed into the kind of contentious situation that will force developers to pick sides.

ReadWrite spoke to two big names in the Node.js community: Scott Hammond, CEO of Joyent, Node’s corporate steward, and Isaac Schlueter, the former Node project lead at Joyent who’s now CEO of NPM, maker of a Node package manager, and the second most prolific contributor to Node.

What we learned is that even if the fork has left users understandably confused, Node community leaders are on the same page on the biggest issues.

Here are some facts gleaned from the interviews that Node developers ought to know.

It Was A Surprise To Everyone

Previous to the November fork, there were tensions in the Node.js community. Earlier that month, we predicted there could be a schism. Since October, Node contributors had been using Node Forward, a community effort to improve the open source project, to air their grievances about Joyent’s stewardship.

According to Schlueter, six of the most high-ranking Node contributors had hoped to create a fork of Node named Node Forward, which would be a “collaborative fork,” a supplement to the work going on at Node.js. However, the fork was quickly made private after Hammond told the contributors there would be a legal issue if they used the Node name, on which Joyent holds the trademark.

Issues over the trademark were slowing down work, so in the last week of November, Fedor Indutny, one of the top contributors, decided to give it a different name, IO.js, and continue with his work. Since it was Thanksgiving break in America, the other contributors didn’t see the new fork had become public until Hacker News picked it up. When that happened, even Indutny was surprised by the repercussions of the fork.

“The guy is allergic to politics,” Schlueter said. “When somebody pinged Fedor to tell him the fork was on Hacker News, he was like, ‘Oh, right, that’s what happens when you do something like this.’ He was surprised it was such a big deal.”

Hammond said that he doesn’t believe IO.js was intended as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Joyent about existing tensions.

“This was not premeditated, it was not some political coup,” he said. “It was a unilateral action by one individual to do some experiments with code.”

IO.js Wasn’t The First Name Choice

Schlueter noted sardonically that if they had kept the Node Forward name instead of choosing something unique, it would have been obvious that it was a collaborative fork. With the new name, however, even Joyent leaders were taken aback. Schlueter said that when the newly formed Node.js advisory board met after the fork, he fielded concern from Hammond.

“Scott was concerned and genuinely wanted to know, ‘Hey what is this? Are you giving up on this project?’” Schlueter said. “I reiterated that it is exactly the same as Node Forward, only we couldn’t use the name.”

Hammond said all the major IO.js contributors were invited to the advisory meeting, and after it was over, he felt that everyone was on the same page again.

“[Indutny] was just anxious to run some experiments with really early code,” said Hammond. “Fedor’s actions were interesting, but I think everybody has come back together unanimously that we’re still very committed.”

Interestingly, Ryan Dahl, the original creator of Node.js, wanted to call it IO.js. So Indutny’s name is a bit of a throwback to the project’s roots.

The Kernel Is Just A Small Part Of Node

It’s easy to see why people would assume a fork like IO.js is meant to replace Node.js. Yet that’s not the intent, according to Schlueter. In the Node community, there are two competing motivations that cause tension in the Node.js project that could be relieved by having two different yet collaborative forks.

“We have this really interesting structure with Node: a really small kernel that enables a really huge ecosystem,” said Schlueter. “Most people who use Node don’t know much about the core runtime is. They use Express.js or Grunt—services built on Node and distributed with NPM. What’s interesting about that is that it makes Node fragile—too drastic a change will make the entire ecosystem fall apart.”

Users need a consistent and stable Node.js in order for their dependencies to work. As a result, Node contributors complain that development is extremely slow and overly cautious. Since the Node kernel, which top contributors work on, is divorced from most people’s Node implementations, IO.js is supposed to be a place where contributors can work more quickly on the kernel and get things done without having to tiptoe over customer needs.

Because IO.js popped up in an unexpected manner, this wasn’t obvious to members of the Node community. to the aforementioned tensions in the Node community, news of IO.js wasn’t completely unwelcome in the community, even if nobody knew why the fork had occurred.

See also: What The Node.js Fork Really Means: A Dissident Speaks

“Basically whatever [a community member’s] personal beef was, they decided to hang it on IO.js,” said Schlueter. “We didn’t have our stuff together to actually tell them what the motivations were.”

Schlueter wrote a blog post as a first step to correcting those misapprehensions.

Node’s Problem Is Communication, Not Collaboration

In short, Node.js has a communication problem. Node Forward—now IO.js—was never meant to be separate from or incompatible with Node.

Since Schlueter is a former Joyent employee and the former leader of the Node.js project, he said he sympathizes with Hammond, who joined the company as CEO this summer. He believes Node.js and IO.js will merge again—but that Joyent has to be on board with the idea that Node can no longer be controlled by any one single interest.

“There’s this interesting transition that happens with an open source project where it goes from just one person, to needing some kind of organization heading it, to truly being owned by the community,” said Schlueter. “Node is shifting from step two to three this year. It can be difficult for a coorporation to see the benefit of handing control to over to a community, but my hope is that Joyent is coming around to this.”

Hammond had similar sentiments about Node’s shift. Since 2009, the open source project has grown quickly. Today it has thousands of users, clients, and contributing developers.

“Node is a living project and it will continue to grow and evolve and mature,” said Hammond. “It blew past middle school without any structure to deal with these issues, so it’s not surprising there was discontent. Every project goes through growing pains.”

Hammond said that he still has trust in the Node community:

“Everyone wants a community-driven project, an environment with passionate, engaged software developers who can contribute to code and we have that. We can heal this fork.”

Photo by zeevveez

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Digital Ocean’s Plan For Cloud Domination: Treat Developers Like Gods

Two years ago Digital Ocean had a mere 140 Web-facing servers and a simple mission: make developers lives easier. Today the New York City-based cloud provider runs 116,000 servers and surpassed Rackspace to become the world’s third-largest Web-facing cloud, according to Netcraft data

See also: Amazon Cloud’s Huge Head Start: It’s All About The Developers

Digital Ocean, once a puddle, is living up to its name. That should have competitors worried, especially given Digital Ocean’s uncanny ability to make lots of money selling to individual developers, Atlassian-style.

Mitch Wainer

While the company is quick to suggest it’s not competitive with Amazon Web Services, its rabid attention to developers increasingly makes it a cloud AWS can ill-afford to overlook. 

To learn more about how Digital Ocean caters to developers, I sat down with Mitch Wainer, co-founder and CMO. 

ReadWriteDigitalOcean has been growing faster than the overall cloud market. What are you doing that is different from what other cloud providers do?

Mitch Wainer: Being developers ourselves, we were often frustrated by the complexity of the majority of cloud providers that catered to the needs of enterprise. That’s why we focused on building a platform that enables and educates developers to successfully launch, configure, and scale their apps on an infrastructure environment with minimal manual effort.

Developers Are Job One

RW: Digital Ocean claims to be developer-centric. What is it that you’ve built that is particularly developer-friendly?

Wainer: Ultimately, we made user experience a top priority. We set out to create the simplest infrastructure solution that would cater to the needs of individual developers. 

The combination of having a simple user interface, straightforward pricing, fast hardware, and provisioning created a very attractive offering for developers. Our API is easy to consume, follows GitHub schema, is curl-able and restful. All of these things greatly reduce the barrier of entry to getting an application into production, which we feel is the bottom-line for developers.

RW: Everyone targets developers these days, but most companies mostly fail to appeal to them. What is it that separates truly developer-friendly apps or infrastructure from those that aren’t?

Wainer: Many companies try to appeal to the broader developer market, but few actually focus on making an ideal solution for the individual developer. We feel a responsibility to ensure every feature we come out with remains simple and puts the user first.

See also: You’ll Never Really Innovate On Someone Else’s Cloud

With the Digital Ocean platform, a lot of the guess work from pricing to feature sets is removed—you know exactly what you’re going to get, you know it’s going to be good, you know it’s going to scale with your application easily, and you know exactly how much you’re going to pay for it every month.

RW: AWS is the 8,000 pound gorilla in the cloud. What can Digital Ocean or anyone else possibly do to disrupt AWS?

Wainer: We don’t consider Amazon a competitor. They’re a great company shipping awesome tools for the enterprise, but at the end of the day that’s not our scene. We’re focused on simpler alternatives that are more user-friendly and truly built for the individual developer.

Getting Out Of Developers’ Way

RW: You make it easy for developers to deploy an application to your infrastructure, but who manages infrastructure/operations in this developer-centric world?

Wainer: We strongly believe that developers will increasingly become the decision makers in technology as more businesses come online. So the best thing we can do as their infrastructure provider is give them an extremely reliable foundation, the best tools, and community resources so ultimately we can stay out of their way and let them be in total control.

We offer one-click installs of leading open-source technologies such as Docker and CoreOS. We have an active community platform where everyone from beginners to sysadmins can come and read Linux tutorials, as well as partake in conversations around open source. 

Developers don’t want their infrastructure provider to hand hold them through the experience—they know what they want for their applications. It’s our job to empower them with the best foundation, tools, and educational resources.

RW: Digital Ocean is based in New York City. Tell me about the New York startup scene and why a new crop of developer-friendly startups are cropping up there. Is NYC the new Silicon Valley? 

Wainer: The energy of the startup scene is palpable in NYC, and people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds are changing their career paths to get involved. We’ve got finance experts, designers, management consultants, and advertising creatives bringing over their unique perspectives and highly specialized expertise. 

The result is a blend of entrepreneurial spirit, aesthetic intuition, and financial savvy that continues to fuel explosive growth. Add to that a fast-growing number of young, talented developers coming out of places like the Flatiron School and General Assembly and you’ve got a recipe for innovation that’s particular to New York.

Lead photo by George Thomas

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Why Booming Mobile Commerce Is Good For Developers

While games continue to dominate the apps that consumers buy, there are clear signs that the future of mobile may not be what they allow you to play, but what they enable you to buy. According to a new research report, mobile commerce is finally getting real. 

How real? This busy shopping season, as much as 31% of all online purchases will happen on mobile devices. That’s a big change from even a year ago, and portends a healthy future for mobile developers. 

Tracking American Purchasing Behaviors

Since 2008 the Adobe Digital Index (ADI) has evaluated the purchasing behaviors of American consumers, tracking more than 1 trillion visits to 4,500 retail websites in that time, and 20 billion visits to ecommerce sites in October 2014 alone. (I recently came across the ADI upon starting work at Adobe last week.) This translates into analysis of 70% of all money spent online with the top 500 retailers, and past-year predictions falling within 1% of actual spend.

In other words, ADI is a pretty good gauge of consumer buying behaviors. (Have a look at it yourself here.)

Source: Adobe

Some of the findings offer clues as to when to get good deals. For example, ADI holds that the best day to find a deal is Thanksgiving Day, when the average discount hits 24%. 

If you can’t wait until Thanksgiving, at least wait until the Monday preceding the U.S. holiday, as ADI predicts a 5% price drop between Sunday, November 23, and Monday, November 24, the largest single-day price drop of the season.

Oh, and if you’re inclined to wait until Cyber Monday to start your shopping engines, be warned: “Out-of-stock messages will increase 5-fold on Cyber Monday due to increased demand and limited supply.”

More Money, More Mobile

But the more interesting data ADI uncovers has to do with mobile buying behavior.

Across the board, ecommerce is booming. As reflected in the Nielsen Global E-Commerce Report, “Online purchase intention rates have doubled in three years for 12 of 22 measured categories,” topping $1.5 trillion on 2014. As noted in the ADI, during the holiday shopping season this growth can reach 28% over last year’s numbers.

But online retail isn’t news. Mobile, however, is.

Last year most mobile ecommerce behavior essentially amounted to showrooming, whereby consumers would visit a Best Buy, for example, to see a dishwasher in person and then would complete the purchase online. 

But in 2014 the ADI predicts huge growth in the number of people both initiating and consummating a purchase on their mobile devices and, increasingly, their smartphones.

That’s right: tablets, those ugly stepchildren, are getting even uglier, even though you’d think they’re by far the better shopping device given their superior screen real estate. The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims captures the zeitgeist well:

Not that the tablet is losing all relevance. While smartphones increasingly take center stage among our mobile distractions, tablets still have a big place in mobile commerce:

Source: Adobe

But the role of tablets is shrinking fast. In 2013, for instance, tablet use outpaced that of smartphones nearly two-to-one, according to last year’s ADI post-mortem on holiday sales. This year, tablets and smartphones are much closer to parity. Next year, don’t be surprised to see phones jump ahead.

At the heart of this shift away from computer-based buying to mobile-based buying is consumer convenience. A few years ago mobile apps or websites were virtually unusable. Today they’re optimized to make it easy to buy. 

As a personal example, I can’t recall ever buying clothes online, and certainly not shoes, which (for me) has always required trying them on to ensure a good fit. 

But yesterday I bought a pair of shoes using my Nordstrom app. I was at work, prompting me to think about the need for work shoes. I don’t have time to head over to the nearest Nordstrom, so I downloaded the app and started flicking through options. Ten minutes later, I had a pair of Eccos heading to my house.

What This Means For Developers

All of which is good news for mobile developers and the companies that employ them. In the past there was essentially one business model: build an app that was wildly popular (which almost by necessity meant it had to be free) and sell it to Facebook for $1 billion.

What this meant, as ReadWrite’s Dan Rowinski highlighted, is a non-existent middle class of mobile developers: “The revenue distribution is so heavily skewed towards the top that just 1.6% of developers make multiples of the other 98.4% combined.” Nearly half of all mobile developers make nothing at all.

Part of this derives from the revenue models available to mobile developers. While the desktop web has a healthy advertising-based market, mobile ads have been slow to catch on, and getting someone to notice and then pay for an app is even harder. 

Mobile commerce, however, offers another, perhaps better way. And according to a Goldman Sachs report (nicely summarized by Jay Fiore), it’s on a tear:

M-commerce, which accounted for a little more than one quarter of total e-commerce retail sales in 2014, will account for nearly half of all e-commerce sales in 2018. That’s 3x growth for m-commerce while non-mobile e-commerce grows only 31% over the same period.

Given that prospective growth, coupled with the growth already seen in the ADI data, mobile developers really need to be thinking about apps that not only encourage consumers to play games or watch video, but also to buy things. Citibank understands this and is reaching out to app developers to help it build the future of mobile banking, but there’s really no reason to go build someone else’s app when developers can focus on their own.

In short, as consumers become comfortable buying with their mobile devices we’re seeing a “shift in revenue models from pay-to-buy [the app] to pay-as-you-use [the app],” according to VisionMobile’s Developer Economics Q1 2014 report. This changes “the role of developers from innovators to value-adding resellers.”

Given the money at stake, that may be exactly what developers need to be in the mobile app economy.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Mozilla’s Firefox Browser For Developers Has Arrived

Mozilla released the Firefox browser for developers it cryptically announced last Monday.

Timed exactly with the Firefox browser’s 10th anniversary, Firefox Developer Edition takes the developer tools that were an add-on in previous versions of the browser and blows them up to occupy the entire screen.

See also: Mozilla Is Working On A Firefox Browser Just For Developers

Firefox Developer Edition predominantly features two major tool suites, Valence (formerly known as Firefox Tools Adapter) and Web IDE. Valence allows developers to deploy and debug across multiple browser environments, while Web IDE allows programmers to develop and tweak apps directly within the browser window.

“We’re giving developers the whole browser as a hard-hat area, allowing us to bring front and center the features most relevant to them,” wrote Dave Camp, director of developer tools at Mozilla. “Having a dedicated developer browser means we can tailor the browsing experience to what developers do every day.”

Image of Dave Camp by Mozilla; screenshot by ReadWrite

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11 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Managing Developers

You may have to alter your leadership style to manage software developers, who don’t necessarily thrive with the same management structure nontechnical talent does. Most important of all? Setting clear expectations upfront—and anticipating differences in work habit before they become an issue.

We asked 11 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share some of the biggest leadership mistakes they see when it comes to managing developers and tips for avoiding the same mistakes. Their best answers are below.

Assuming They Will Speak Up

Don’t assume that software developers will speak up about their challenges, ideas or even triumphs. Many developers are reluctant to share this information during team meetings. You have to solicit open, honest feedback on a regular basis.

Being appreciated for one’s efforts contributes to employee morale and retention. So we ask questions like, “What’s going well in your role? Any wins—big or small—this week?”

It is also far better to learn about an issue before it becomes a nightmare problem. We ask, “Are there any obstacles you are facing and how can I help?”

Finally, asking questions is a great way to expose the ideas lurking inside the brilliant minds of your development team. We ask them to provide one idea to improve our product or the company each week.

David Hassell, 15Five

Assuming Developers Want To Work The Same Schedule As Everyone Else

It’s important to be flexible and allow developers to work during their most natural productive and undisturbed times. In some cases that may be coming in late and working in the evenings. Don’t force creative people to come in at 8 a.m. just because everyone on your business development team is in the office at that time.

Rameet Chawla, Fueled

Not Showing Trust

Founders are often developers themselves who have graduated to taking on the role of leading a company. A common mistake is not letting go of the developer decisions and trusting your developers and tech talent. Delegating and trusting your developers is crucial for allowing you to focus on the bigger picture, and allowing them to take on more responsibilities and grow.

Phil Chen, Systems Watch

Not Managing Distractions

Distractions are the bane of any developer. It’s important to keep an eye on potential external distractions that can keep your developers from staying focused. Manage those distractions actively so you can keep them from interrupting your developers.

Sometimes distractions are generated by the developers themselves, which is a huge red flag. If your developers can’t keep themselves focused, it’s time to find new developers.

Mark Cenicola, Banner View

Believing False Deadlines

Developers are notorious for promising rosy, false deadlines. Double or triple their timeline. Double or triple the budget, also. Now you’re in the ballpark.

Plan your launch and promotion around this timeline. If development finishes sooner your customers and stakeholders will be ecstatic. You’ve hedged your bets so you’re not behind.

Joshua Lee, Standout Authority

Not Playing to Their Strengths and Experiences

It’s important to understand your team’s talents before you begin any project so you can assign the right task to the right person. Team members need to remain engaged throughout the project, which can be difficult to achieve if their assignments don’t align with their experience and dispositions.

Jyot Singh, RTS Labs

Not Focusing on Detailed Requirements

A lack of detailed requirements is a big problem when it comes to development. Most founders who don’t have project management or development experience try to paint a broad picture of what they think their website or app should look like, hoping that developers will have the same vision.

Unfortunately, it never happens that way. Developers rarely have the exact same vision, so they’re unlikely to deliver what you are expecting unless you provide exact details.

In order to save a lot of time and aggravation, I recommend taking time to imagine exactly how your website should look and work, write it all out on paper and then ask your development team to go over it with you in order to make sure that everything is clear.

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

Not Listening to Technical Expertise

Hire great technical talent and then listen to them! So many leaders think they know best, even in domains where they might not be so experienced. Don’t make the mistake of undermining your technical talent by not listening to their opinion. Present them with the problem and let them work out their own solution.

Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar

Managing Based on Whims

The first mistake is thinking that your developers are mind readers. The second mistake is believing that you can just throw any new app feature idea at them and expect them to add it to “the package.”

Communicate every feature detail very clearly and show them (by rough sketches if necessary) how you think the product should work. Then stick to the plan until the first version is out.

The worst thing you can do is to throw them with a vague idea(s), tell them to build it and tell them it’s nothing like you expected after it’s finished. Talk about waste of time and money (for both you and your new hire)! Also, get out of their way when they are creating. You hired them for the role for a reason. Let them show you why.

Juha Liikala, Stripped Bare Media

Assuming They Can Solve Every Problem

Especially if you, the founder/CEO, aren’t so tech-savvy, you can’t expect the IT person to resolve every single issue that arises. Some tech talents actually make magic, but sometimes that magic has limits. It’s good to keep in mind what you need to do and why, and then how, you can do it.

Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Not Understanding the Developer’s Personality

In my experience, there are two types of developers: executors (who want every little thing mapped out before they begin programming) and creatives (who want some leeway to figure out what is best from a tech standpoint).

The executors have no interest in their own opinion on how things should look or flow; they take pride in taking an idea and making it real. The creatives want to be a part of the brainstorming and planning process.

It’s easy to work with both. For the executors, ask exactly what they need to do the job and give it to them. You will save hours of time on development by listening. For the creative types, involve them early in the idea process. They will be more passionate and thus effective.

Adam Stillman, SparkReel

Photo by Phil Whitehouse

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Google To Developers: Here’s How To Score Big On Google Play

Android developers, you too can have break-out success in Google Play—and Google itself wants to show you the way. The creator of the mobile software and its related app store has put together a game plan to help app makers make it big using its resources.

Perhaps anyone can write an app and push it into the store. But the company emphasizes that those are just the first steps. After all, it’s hard to stand out amid more than 1.3 million Google Play apps. According to the company’s blog, the tome is “a detailed playbook on the best practices and tools you can use to maximize the reach, retention, and revenue of your new app.”

See also: OK, Google—Search Inside My Apps!

The main idea is to help developers understand Google’s guidelines and to offer tips for making their apps stand out, analyzing their traffic and turning a profit:

  • Publishing on Google Play—using the Google Play Developer Console to distribute your app to over 1 billion Android users worldwide.
  • Quality—The fundamentals of building a great app and an insight into the Google Play guidelines and policies.
  • Discoverability & reach—Maximizing your app’s discoverability and reaching the widest audience possible.
  • Engagement & retention—Converting installations into active users and improving user retention.
  • Monetization—Monetization strategies to generate ongoing, growing revenue streams.
  • Measurement with Google Analytics—Understanding your users and improving your app experience, conversions, and marketing.
  • Going global—Launching your app in local markets around the world.

In truth, the secret formula—available as a PDF file, a Google Play download or even a print edition—isn’t really that much of a secret. In fact, much of the information here can be culled from other places, like its Android developer portal. But at least it’s handy having the information organized in one place. 

Google offers a limited run of the print version for free to people in the U.S. and U.K. Other countries, it says, are coming soon.

The move may look like a magnanimous gesture on Google’s part, but it’s also obviously part of its general Android evangelism, as it works to attract even more development in Google’s mobile ecosystem—a platform that’s still trying to shake its reputation as a lackluster moneymaker relative to Apple’s App Store.

As it turns out, Google Play is doing a pretty good job growing up into a genuine profit center. Citigroup analyst Mark May estimated that Google Play revenue could jump from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $5.2 billion in 2017.

Although that’s still well behind the $10-billion-dollar App Store, one thing is clear: There’s money to be made in Android apps, if you know how. And Google aims to teach you.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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What On-Page SEO Factors Every Web Developers Should Practice? – Business 2 Community

What On-Page SEO Factors Every Web Developers Should Practice?
Business 2 Community
The most recent introduction and update of Google's Panda 4.0 and the new answer box, reflects that the internet world will soon turn into a critical place, where SEO and strong social network strategies will not be enough. While the SEO team will try

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Mozilla Is Working On A Firefox Browser Just For Developers

Mozilla has a new Firefox browser in the works that isn’t just for anyone. According to the company’s announcement Monday, this upcoming project will be “the first browser dedicated to developers.”

The new browser will integrate some of Mozilla’s most popular developer tools, WebIDE and the Firefox Tools Adapter. These tools are currently available for download to anyone on up-to-date versions of the Firefox browser, but the average user never touches them. This developer-specific browser will put them front and center.

“When building for the Web, developers tend to use a myriad of different tools which often don’t work well together,” the announcement on Mozilla’s blog reads. “This means you end up switching between different tools, platforms and browsers which can slow you down and make you less productive. So we decided to unleash our developer tools team on the entire browser to see how we could make your lives easier.”

Apart from a video that rehashes the words of the announcement, there isn’t a lot of information available yet on the new browser. However Mozilla promises that all will be revealed on its launch date, November 10.

Photo by Nayu Kim

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Amazon Cloud’s Huge Head Start: It’s All About The Developers

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

It’s no secret that Amazon leads the public cloud computing race. The question is by how much.

A year ago Gartner analyst Lydia Leong pegged Amazon Web Services (AWS) at five times the utilized compute capacity of the next 14 largest cloud competitors combined. More recently Technology Business Research ran the numbers and figures AWS is 30 times larger than its next nearest competitor, Microsoft Azure, as measured by revenue.

See also: Amazon: Can It Remain King Of Cloud Computing Forever?

Either way, the disparity is enough to motivate an Occupy Amazon crowd. The problem for detractors and competitors, though, is that Amazon doesn’t seem to be in the mood to misstep. The only thing that will cut into its lead is someone else catering to developers as well as AWS has, and that doesn’t look likely. 

Public Cloud: Big And Getting Bigger

It’s becoming increasingly important to get out in front of AWS. The problem, as noted by Leong, is that the delta between AWS and everyone else is so huge, however you measure it:

Such “scale” advantage isn’t really a matter of data center build-out, she goes on to note, but really is a matter of software. AWS has such an impressive array of developer-centric software infrastructure, which translates into developer services, that closing the gap will be brutally hard.

Even Leong’s report that more workloads are moving to the cloud—to the point that enterprises have started to shift entire data centers over to the public cloud—doesn’t seem likely to cheer up Amazon’s rivals:

Why? Because AWS benefits disproportionately, as network effects drive vendors to focus their cloud attentions on AWS. If you’re a vendor choosing where to host your new service, AWS will nearly always be the first choice. If you’re a student, AWS will be the first cloud you learn, and possibly the only one. And so on. 

Early on, while most cloud vendors were fixated on IT, Amazon devoted itself to developers, and has become the default for most developers.

Competing With The Amazon Beast

Competitors have taken notice, and are actively trying to market against perceived AWS weaknesses.

See also: Can We Please Stop Acting Like Public-Cloud Cost Comparisons Actually Matter?

From the private/hybrid cloud side, we have vendors trying to insinuate that it’s expensive to stick with the public cloud. But such calculations completely miss the point, as they focus on cost when really the public cloud is driven by convenience

And from public cloud peers, we get much the same, with Google and Microsoft lobbing price reductions at AWS. They haven’t worked. Pulling up stakes on one platform to move to another is more than a matter of saving a few dollars. It’s a hassle, one that can only be justified by making the alternative cloud more convenient.

GigaOm’s Barb Darrow asked which one vendor had a shot at displacing AWS, with a broad array of responses. I can’t help but think that most of them are wishful thinking.

Price isn’t going to drive developers into the arms of another vendor. Convenience, however, just might. Of the different competitors to AWS, Microsoft may have the strongest “convenience” story, because it’s able to marry Windows datacenter workloads with Azure cloud resources. 

That’s a strong story, and it seems to be resonating.

Microsoft actually can serve as a role model for would-be Amazon usurpers. When you strike at the Amazon king, you must kill him with developer convenience, not with price reductions or stories of better performance, security, etc. Convenience sells developers. 

AWS took a dominant lead with a strong developer story, and Microsoft may well be closing that lead through a differentiated, developer-focused story of its own. Game on.

Lead photo of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by Steve Jurvetson

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Developers Are Adopting Java 8 In Droves

Warning: serious programming geekery ahead.

With the release of Java 8 back in March 2014, the developer community was primarily excited about two things. One was support for lambda expressions, also known as anonymous functions, which (in Cay Horstmann’s admirably simple definition) are blocks of code you can pass around in a program for later execution—or, if you prefer more formal terms, “a way to represent one method interface using an expression.” Second was Java 8’s embrace of the multicore world. 

See also: Java And Scala: Former Competitors May Be BFFs Before Long

Functional programmers viewed the new directions that Oracle was steering Java 8 as a strong validation of core principles in languages like Scala, Erlang and Haskell. Detractors suggested the new directions of Java 8 were potentially a threat to supplant those languages. (I covered the implications of Java 8 for other languages back in February).

Jonas Bonér

Six months after the release of Java 8, San Francisco-based Typesafe—the commercial backers of Scala, Play Framework, and Akka—has released a follow-up survey of Java developers. A hefty sample size of 3,000 Java developers not only updates our data on Java 8 adoption, it highlights other trends driving enterprise application development today.

For some context on the survey findings (you can download the full findings here), I spoke with Typesafe CTO and Akka creator Jonas Bonér.

ReadWrite: So tell us where Java developers are with Java 8 and what the survey data suggests.

Jonas Bonér: In our original Java 8 adoption survey six months ago, we found that two thirds of Java developers planned to upgrade within two years, which is really aggressive. So we were surprised to learn with this new survey that two-thirds now have actually already upgraded or plan to upgrade within a year—the adopters are six months ahead of what was already a fast pace. 

When you think about how much Java is running in production, you just don’t expect to see this much of the market move that quickly.

Of the excitement around Java 8 for those who have adopted it already, lambdas continue to be at the top of their list of things they’re enjoying. Eighty percent called “lambdas with expressions and virtual extension models” the feature they cared about the most. With Java 8’s support of lambda expressions, type inference, syntactic sugar for static methods, and new APIs like Stream and CompletableFuture, Oracle has basically taken 9 million Java developers back to the future with a renaissance around functional programming.

The Lambda Lies Down On Broadway

RW: Why the major interest in lambdas?

JB: Well, first it simplifies traditional callback-driven programming by adding syntactic sugar on top of anonymous classes. Lots of Java APIs are making use of this callback style and all of these libraries will be able to make direct use of lambdas, enabling its users to write more fluent and less verbose code.

This is great, but the biggest benefit in my opinion is that it enables a functional style of programming, which has a lot of advantages, but primarily delivers more succinct and expressive code that is easier to compose and reuse. But perhaps most importantly, code that allows you to work with state, safely, in a concurrent environment.

In the single-threaded world of the 80s and 90s, dealing with state in applications was a lot easier. But, as we all know, the multicore world of distributed computing today has opened up a Pandora’s box and made it much harder for Java developers to shoehorn all of this state into a perceived reality of running in a single core. 

Technically it is possible, through mutexes and other blocking primitives, but it just doesn’t scale. 

In Java the default is mutable state, but a functional approach to programming—which can be simplified as composition of functions operating on immutable state—can make the design of concurrent and asynchronous (event-driven) applications so much easier, allowing us to take full advantage of all the exciting new multicore hardware on the market. 

Examples of this include the JDK itself with its Stream and CompletableFuture libraries. Event-driven programming also opens up for a more loosely coupled architecture, with isolated components communicating in a non-blocking fashion, and forms the basis for the principles defined in the Reactive Manifesto.

RW: What about those that do not have plans to upgrade, what’s the holdup?

JB: Of Java 8 holdouts, 69% are running Java 7, and 26% are running Java 6. For the majority of the Java 8 holdouts, their decision has nothing to do with Java 8 and more to do with how their businesses operate. Among those shying away from Java 8, 37% said their non-adoption was related to “hurdles with legacy infrastructure” and 19% said “organizational obstacles/red tape.”

However, it would be a mistake to call organizations that don’t upgrade to the latest versions of software “laggards.” Sometimes I think that analysis of market adoption of new versions overlooks the legacy infrastructure and existing libraries that organizations have to upgrade—where the cost of upgrading may not make financial sense, and it has nothing to do with the merits of the new version itself. 

Java’s footprint in production is so massive, there are just a lot of moving parts at most enterprises when thinking about upgrading a language that touches so much of its infrastructure.

Apache Spark Is On The Move; Docker, Not So Much

RW: You polled those 3,000 Java developers on their use of other technologies. Given the large sample size, I’d be interested to hear about other surprise findings that came up.

JB: Amazon EC2 is used by more than half of respondents (57%), making it the most common cloud technology used by Java developers. Apache Hadoop ranked second in popularity at 30% and Big Data newcomer Apache Spark is being used in production by 17% of respondents. 

Given that Spark was only introduced to the market in June of 2013, we think that’s really an incredible production usage statistic, and a sign of just how much mindshare Spark is capturing in the Big Data world.

One of the head scratchers was around Linux containers, where the data didn’t really line up. While 60% of respondents claimed to be investigating Linux containers, and 23% said they use Docker, only 13% said they are actually using Linux containers in production.

There were really no surprises where application server adoption was concerned. The latest findings confirm that adoption of lightweight, open source Java Web servers like Tomcat and Jetty are far and away more popular than traditional heavyweight JEE application servers like WebLogic or WebSphere, which are nearly tied in popularity.

I was also surprised about the Internet of Things adoption: 21% claimed to be running networked devices/M2M/IoT in production, with 22% “planning for future deployments.” That’s way out ahead of the IoT adoption curve for the rest of the industry.

Lead photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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