The amount of money that tech giants have spent capturing and co-opting the arena of Web-development is truly breathtaking. But where's the payback on that mind-boggling investment?…
I wonder what it must be like to have to buy a stake in every new programming framework that ever looks like catching on? Quite seriously, that is the position in which Big Tech now finds itself…
Hey Google! We got this really rad new CSS lib that requires 684 NPM packages, 2GB of dependency installations, three separate transpilers and a quantum computer to run.
Whaddoes it do?
Same as CSS3 but with 6,441 bugs and 758% more hassle.
Dude, get off the Internet.
But 6,441 bugs is 6,441 Google searches, and more hassle for competitors is less competition for you, right? I mean, if it takes MuskTube 12 months just to do the CSS, that's another year of GLORY for YouTube, innit?
It takes that chud-worshipping dollop 12 months to do his CSS anyway! And we can generate our own bug searches thank you very much.
But Space-Age CSS works on the Moon.
So does CSS3. Piss off.
Ha ha, well Musk just pledged $750K and says he will run it as a SaaS decentralized across four separate planets, so you can piss off yourself now!
Whoa, wait!... That rocket-polishing clown is trying to decentralize OUR candy store???... OK, so after some consideration, it sounds like quite a slick product you got there. We will put up $1.5 million on the following conditions…
- You histrionically reject Musk's pledge on TechRadar and Techdirt, inserting the jocular observation that the only thing he's ever managed to decentralize is his hair.
- You do 100 hours bootcamping on our top secret "Warn Inhabitants Of Other Planets That Musk Failed Basic Python For Under 10s" alert system.
- You embed us in the core, obviously.
Take it or leave it.
I'll take it!!!
Umm, where would I find "the core"?
THE DEAL IS REAL
<!DOCTYPE html> <html lang="en-gb"> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8"> <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0"> <script src= "https://unpkg.com/some-unnecessary-bullshit/dist/unnecessary-bullshit.js"></script> <script src= https://cdnjs.com/more-shit-no-one-needs/unnecessary-bollox.js"></script> <script src= https://jsdelivr.com/cookie-dressed-as-file/total-waste-of-processing-energy.js"></script> <script src= https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/such-bullshit-that-even-bootstrap-has-now-ditched-it.js"></script> <title>My First Web Page</title> </head>
No, it wasn't. I checked.
So why do the cybertech powers feel it necessary to chuck a wardrobe full of cash at every demented new dev framework that comes along, when such products don't do anything that can't be done using browser-native languages? Why are companies forking out the dizzing sums it costs to delivery-network all these wondrously over-complicated development layers to the consumer for free?
Because the code is not the product. The developer is the product.
ARE YOU SURE?
When it comes to the content of your Facebook updates, Zuck doesn't give a… hoot. Yet he still throws $billions into facilitating that content. And he does so because he needs some way to bait the public into a den of brainwashing and exploitation. User-generated content is time-honoured bait.
In demanding that every user "enrol" on its bullshit 2FA surveillance racket on pain of lockout, GitHub has proved that the real value in the coding circus is not in the code, but in the time-honoured cash-cow of all online platforms - the registered user.
Code is just another form of user-generated content, and the dynamics are almost the same.
I say "almost the same", because developers are exploited in a slightly different manner from the average Facebook user. There's still a marketplace, in which products (and dreams) are sold to developers, and developers are sold to employers. But developers also unwittingly act as an advert for Surveillance Valley's ideals, and as a convenient push mechanism for its spyware.
NPM is a means to channel every download through one system and monopolise the usage data for sale to the highest bidders. It's basically the Facebook of the developer world, and the energy all that unnecessary and duplicate downloading wastes in the name of surveillance is criminal.
If you isolate ten SMEs who hire developers, chances are that none of them are using the browser-native website building languages standalone. They're all using a raft of superficial layers from a vault of gratis unnecessaries that resides within a vast Trojan Horse called Node Package Manager, or NPM.
That didn't happen by accident. The company bosses didn't suddently wake up one morning and say:
Right, so today I think I'm gonna download Node.js and then pump 1,746 random dev packages onto the IT system. What a joyous day of fun that will be!
No. They hired developers, and the developers dropped all those layers and layers of crap onto their computers. And the developers installed all that crap because they were taught to install all that crap - by companies who are paid by Silicon Valley giants to teach them to install all that crap.
And you may say that all those extra coding layers are a good thing - providing a richer experience for developers and speeding up processes (once you've subtracted the two years it takes to install a thousand NPM packages and learn to use them all, that is). I mean, how does that benefit Big Tech?
It benefits Big Tech in that it's controlled by Big Tech. Which means it produces output that serves Big Tech.
- Pages that don't accept anything but the latest scripting protocols, which causes those pages to break when viewed via anything but the latest, most surveillance-sharpened means of access.
- Pages that necessarily incorporate third-party dependencies that help the preds spy on visitors.
Then there's the literal developer-brainwashing that exists within the various packages' documentation. Like…
Use CDNs… Use CDNs… Use CDNs… Did we mention USE CDNs?… Oh, what's that? You wanna use a CDN? Well here's a nice free one that just happens to give all its data to our main funders! You're welcome! Have a nice day!…
So NPM is a surveillance company's wet dream. Not just because it can directly and deeply monitor what developers (and ultimately the companies they work for) are up to. But also because it inherently breeds people who will distribute surveillanceware at a scale well above critical mass. Too large a scale to stop.
BUT SURELY THE CODE IS THE PRODUCT IF IT'S FEEDING THE AI INDUSTRY, AND TECH CORPS ARE BUILDING THEIR OWN OFFERINGS AROUND OPEN SOURCE SUBMISSIONS…
Okay, so some code is a product within the developer ecosystem, just as some content is a product on social media. But it's not the main product.
It should also be recognised that huge parts of the "AI" industry are only an extension of the same baiting mechanism that humans have been used to propel since the dawn of the commercial Web. That's why so many AI tools are being offered for free-as-in-beer. In the consumer domain, AI tools are broadly no more than toys, with the same role as a game app. To keep the public entertained while they're being sold or rented out. So even after someone's code has been incorporated into an AI model, it's still not the product, because it's being given away for free. Its consumer is the product.
And whilst it's true that some open source code is good enough to serve as a product - and can generate its own profit, those gems are drops in an ocean of worthless spins and duplication. And the Silicon Valley cartel often funds the good stuff on top of what it pays to maintain the ecosystem. So there's no way that the breathtaking investment that the tech giants make in the coding circus can justify itself unless…
… Unless, in truth, the developer is the product.