Pushing for change: why the old way might not always be the best way.
If you’re looking to start a new application – let’s say a web app; you have one major decision to make before you start developing: what will your app be written in?
There are many answers to this question, eg: PHP, Ruby on Rails, Backbone.js, Node.js, Pearl, Java, ASP and many more. Each have their pros and cons, so ideally you’d like to chose the one that best suits your needs. I’m not going to go through each of the platforms because that would take forever. However, I will separate them into two general categories: Legacy and New-Age.
Legacy (PHP, Pearl, Java, ASP etc.)
These are the languages that have been around since the beginning of web development. They’re tried, tested and true. Most large companies tend to use them because they generally have tons of documentation or are very well supported. I’d like to think of these are the well rounded and safe solutions because they can do anything in a “good enough” manner.
New-Age (Rails, Backbone.js, Node.js, Closure etc.)
These are the languages that have been created as a result of the web application age. They aren’t as well documented or supported as their legacy counter-parts because they just haven’t been around long enough. They are generally used with companies that like to innovate and push the envelope by creating cutting-edge products. These platforms, however, are not as well rounded as the former solutions. These each have some flaws, however, what they do well, they do exceptionally well.
I’ve been in both of these situations. I’ve seen the pros and cons for both sides and have had to deal with the development of both kinds of products. As a result, I have made some observations that I’d like to share:
Playing it safe is generally a good idea if you want to create something fast and use existing products. If you’re looking to release as fast as possible and don’t care about creating cutting-edge software, this is your best bet. A plethora of documentation is just a google query away and you can probably even find most of the code that you would need already done. Also, because most programmers post or release a lot of open-source code, you have years of R&D from others at your fingertips that will help you finish your product.
However, if you’re not scared to learn new technologies and are comfortable with finding new ways of doing old things then New-Age is the way to go.
Personally, I lean towards the latter. The world we programmers live in is one that is always expanding and where we crave to use the latest and greatest technologies. These technologies wouldn’t get any better if no one used them. In-fact, the legacy platforms wouldn’t be where they are today if nobody used them and, as a result, improved them. Therefore, I like to use the newest stuff whenever possible. Obviously I’ll use the solution that best fits my needs, but if there is at least one viable solution in the New-Age pile, I’ll take it.