Writing code isn't that important anymore in Web Development?

You’ve probably got to Web Development for a reason that wasn’t to scale a system to millions of concurrent users or accumulate telemetry data to display bar graphs on a dashboard, much less to integrate a payments API. So did I.

I remember when I was a kid, sitting on a very cheap wooden chair on my parents’ computer and opened an application called Microsoft Frontpage on Windows 95. At first, I had no idea what the application did. It took me a few minutes and eureka… I’ve said out loud:

Hey mom, I can make a website about Pokémon, that is so cool! - 10-year-old me about to embark on a Pokémon Software Development journey.

So this journey so far has lasted over 20 years, paid all my bills, made me choose to study Computer Science, and moved me to a country that I only knew before about its great cars, beers, and terrible ex-leader with a funny mustache.

I’m sure every Software Engineer has had their version of that story. But each of them ended up in a similar place: in front of a text editor writing code, searching on Google, and ending up on Stack Overflow. Scrolling, copy-pasting, writing tests. Pushing to ‘code’ to a distributed version control system.

Is this all to it? Not really. Every year that passes, I feel like I get more done. Bigger scale, many environments, different programming languages, more complexity… all this with less code.

With so many pipelines, dependabot, linters, APIs easy to integrate, highly integrated deployment solutions. Github Copilot. Low code solutions. So many features complete SaaS-y applications.

Writing code seems to be ever less important. No complex code is ever needed, just plug in that or the other API. Scale up pods. Weight trade-offs. Glue everything together.

Why build a solution when there’s a SaaS for $10/month that gives exactly what you want on its well-regarded GraphQL API completely internationalized able to handle almost all jurisdictions on this planet?

Day after day, our job is becoming much more solutions and knowledge oriented. Less about being able to code well. Nowadays, it’s about knowing how to write programs in all languages, and all platforms and have a solution for all kinds of problems.

This craft where I had to write code for hours and hours, thousands of lines of code is long gone.

A great engineer nowadays for a company needs to be proficient at gluing stuff together and know many libraries.

They don’t necessarily need to write lines and lines of CGI/Perl to increase a value saved in a text file. Or write data structures and algorithms to use it for distributed systems purposes, as there’s Redis. And so on.

Web development is becoming more and more feature complete.

There’s rarely an OSS package that wasn’t built yet. Even that rate of 1000 new JS or web frameworks a year is already gone, with a few winners.

The main programming languages have an absurdly big ecosystem. There are not so many new packages to build, but a lot to maintain, apply bug fixes, and support.

Just like a programmer that mastered the wizardry of Assembly after years of practice but felt that art is no longer supreme as it once was as C was “good enough”.

I have mixed emotions about all of this, as I’ve invested a huge amount of time in my career learning about different programming styles, clean code, design patterns, DDD, and whatnot.

But it is time to admit that Coding isn’t as important as it once was before, at least I can say this for Web Development.

All things considered, this is what got me excited about the Web. Building it. Isn’t that awesome?