Earlier in November Google hosted several summits and conferences on various tech topics. This included a meeting of all Google “Developers Experts” at the GDE Summit in Sunnyvale, and the Chrome Dev Summit 2018 in San Francisco. Jens (Meiert), who works at sum.cumo on frontend development and technical communication and who is a former Googler and current GDE, was on site at both events. Markus (Siering), who himself recently shared his experience at ColdFront, asked him a few questions.
Markus: What were the main subjects of the two conferences?
Jens: Both summits were about a great variety of topics—the GDE Summit even featured separate tracks for all the different GDEs (although it could well be that my own area, Web Technologies, was simply defined much broader), the Chrome Dev Summit was then focused on the Chrome ecosystem and innovations and implementations around web standards.
Markus: What were your three take-aways?
Jens: First, AMP may not be as dead as I commonly claim, and even if it was we probably benefit from some of the by-products, like perhaps Web Packaging. Second, with ideas like Feature Policy we have a nice example for how the whole field of web development continues to mature. Third, with concepts like Portals we see once again how Google is driving the development of the Web—and no matter how critical one may be of Google, I really like to highlight the enormous creative thrust around their efforts.
Markus: What was most surprising for you?
Jens: I found the contrast between the two summits surprising, and interesting; for geographical reasons it was clear that an event in Sunnyvale would come off differently than one in San Francisco—yet then the GDE Summit had a very familiar vibe with presentations that rather scratched the surface, while the Chrome Dev Summit felt a bit more anonymous and distant, but included many in-depth talks.
Markus: Did anything at the conference change or reinforce your views on some aspect of web development? Why? What topic and what view?
Jens: If anything, then my view on AMP has turned a bit more nuanced. There’s an interesting side story, then—during my tenure at Google I knew of Malte (Ubl), who’s in charge of AMP, but wasn’t directly in touch with him; now at sum.cumo I work with his brother, Hauke. In my San Francisco conversations with Malte but also with some other Googlers who work on AMP, my understanding slightly changed. I’m still not convinced of the approach and still foresee a medium-term end of AMP, but I also grant—something I pointed out in early writings—that we as outsiders do not know all the AMP-relevant information and decisions. And then, as mentioned above, I recognize the option that either way AMP may mean positive side effects for the Web as a whole.
Markus: What kind of talk do you consider must-see?
Jens: It’s challenging to single out a particular talk—in general most of the talks at the Chrome Dev Summit were excellent, and at a high level. What one doesn’t necessarily need to watch, but something I wish to call out here, is a talk by Surma, who faced serious technical problems but handled these with an impressive ease—accompanied by great spontaneous support from the moderators, Jake Archibald, Mariko Kosaka, and Paul Lewis. Remarkable.
Markus: Since these were Google events: What trends is Google driving? What’s their main priority?
Jens: Google, which I’m quite familiar with from my own time there, generally regards development and improvement of the Web a key priority—because everyone benefits from a Web that’s taken care of and moved forward and which is not, as we saw in the early 2000s, stagnating. And even if one understands AMP to be a priority for Google, through both events I feel confirmed how there are rather many different priorities Google is pushing on—from web standards to tooling and advocacy to the growth of the Chrome cosmos.
Markus: Complementing the last question, what does this mean for the development of the Web?
Jens: From my point of view almost only positive things, for we all benefit from Google’s efforts—with one catch, something that I’m working on documenting elsewhere: With all those efforts we do indeed make the Web better, but also, which everyone in the realm of web development may have experienced over the years, much more complex. This complexity itself may not even be the main problem—my biggest concern at the moment is that it’s just become much too easy to lose focus among all the different technical possibilities, as well as all the potential metrics. In brief: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should—and not everything that counts can be counted.
Markus: Thank you very much!