Maybe the real Next JS was the friends we made along the way

Maybe the real Next JS was the friends we made along the way

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and YouTube about the merits of serverless and reliance on companies like Vercel. The cause of this was recent changes to Vercel’s pricing that led to massive increases for developers particularly in the hobbyist space. The debate centres on two points: the first is that you should maintain your own infrastructure to retain ownership and independence. The other side believes that Vercel’s pricing increases are insignificant compared to the value they provide.

When I was first playing with web applications and exploring the internet the main technology recommended to beginners at least in the open source space was PHP with Rails being a distant contender. I would write these small applications for ideas I had but never knew how to share them with others. After a lot of learning I discovered the idea of a VPS (Virtual Private Server) and managed to get a great deal through an IRC friend for Digital Ocean. I loved learning to setup my server and deploy my applications. Every day was a new challenge.

The skills I learned setting up my personal servers carried through to my career. I entered the workforce confident using SSH, jump servers and most importantly debugging remote machines through the command line. Since progressing in my career and the rise of serverless cloud infrastructure I have less need to work on a server and if I do it’s configuring existing tools or established patterns through containers.

I do miss working directly on the server. Not because it provides the best results but because it transports me back to working on applications in my bedroom as a teen. Nothing was cooler than connecting to IRC and chatting about our projects as we all learned together.

I wonder what the rise of serverless means for young people today learning to build online. The technology is certainly easier to use, more secure and less prone to problems. In many cases for hobbyists and personal projects the providers will let you run your application for free. Going serverless does mean giving up control and when you are working on projects that don’t matter beyond learning I believe you should maintain that control, since you are responsible for everything, you must learn to fix everything. I am sure that some will say you should focus on the problem not the infrastructure which is fair for a business but that’s not what I am talking about.

I suspect I am an old man yelling at the cloud telling the kids how we used to patch our own ZNC bouncers but I do hope that people coming to the field are maintaining a core understanding of what happens under the hood and know that you can be independent of cloud providers if you choose to do so.

For NextJS I don’t know what happens next. They have locked so many people in with tight integration to the Vercel platform but you can still self host if you put the effort in. The tooling is excellent and makes initial development very easy which I can see why is appealing to so many. Next probably isn’t going anywhere and the people who can pay will pay while Vercel offers some token gesture to regain goodwill in the community.

For me I’m going to keep building on a combination of VPS’ and serverless never picking a side, remembering simpler times.

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