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JAMstack - How To Make The Web Slower

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Starting a few years ago everywhere you look, sites are getting updated with a new approach known as JAMstack. JAM, initials for JavaScript, API, and Markup is lauded as more revolutionary, more scalable, speedier, and more flexible than the older style website development.

Some of these claims may be true but for the most part the web crowd has drunk the Kool-Aid and has jumped on the bandwagon, lest be accused of being stuck in the 90's.

Think back about how websites used to work. User accessed a page, the server at the other end, hunted and gathered the data, formatted the page, and threw it back at the browser. It was basically a bit of a delay with a blank page and then an immediate fulfillment. Yes, the designs were sometimes ugly, the fonts were small, and there wasn't much white space but everything was there.

Look at how modern sites work today. There is a shorter initial delay, but the page only fills in with a bunch of inane placeholders. These are a collection of gray boxes, spinning bullets, or wavy bars but there's nothing in them until the browser goes out and fetches the data to fill these placeholders and at times that job seems to take an eternity.

I used to login to my banking site, click on links and the pages would almost immediately return filled with all the necessary info. Now I login and wait and wait and wait for each section to fill in while looking at a bunch of useless spinners and gray boxes.

Call me old-fashioned, and I won't deny it, but is this really called progress? Couldn't we have just cleaned up the pages with better design, more white space, and more appealing fonts using newer styling techniques, instead of creating this monstrosity?

Of course we all want to brag about how our sites are designed using the latest versions of React, Angular, Node.js, and Flask. Weren't JQuery and CSS good enough for us? Did we really need to push a ton of junk into the browser in the name of client-side rendering?

The difference between the old and new sites wasn't as stark to me until I was tasked with migrating my company's CRM platform from Goldmine to Salesforce.com. Salesforce users can operate the site in two distinct formats. The Classic format and the new JAMstack format, known as Lightning Experience which users are slowly being pushed into.

I started out with the classic version. It looks dated but it's fast and responsive. It does the job and does it quickly. But knowing that the classic version will eventually be retired I forced myself to use the lightning version. Compared to classic, lightning is slow and clunky. The pages start with a big spinner, then switch to smaller spinners and then more spinners inside of those and you wait and wait until all the data loads. Then you notice that all the data hasn't loaded because as you scroll down you are confronted with more, you guessed it, spinners. But the design is something else. There are bears dancing, tigers prancing, butterflies fluttering their wings in blue skies with puffy clouds roaming everywhere. I don't know if I'm using a CRM platform or looking at a caricatured Bob Ross painting.

Now I have nothing against cartoon characters zipping around. The lightning experience is an experience alright and admittedly the design is actually pretty nice but anything but lightning fast once you've used the classic version.

You could say that I'm nostalgic for the old days of Perl CGI, and perhaps that's true a little. But I'm actually more nostalgic for how much faster the web used to be at one time, slow modem baud rates notwithstanding. But this is the state of the web as we have today. It has been decided that JAMstack is the way to go even if it's at the speed of molasses, or should I say, JAM.

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