Yes Virginia, we still need servers

Over on Facebook, Mike Rodriquez asks an important question.

“I think you’ve spotted and are working on something pretty big here, but I keep stumbling over the concept of not needing servers. The reason is that the software has to get to the browser somehow, and that’s via a server. Now I get the difference between a server to deliver the JavaScript to the browser and a server doing the traditional workload, but I stumble as my first thought is, you do need a server, to get things started.”

So, do we need servers, or are they obsolete?

  • Yes! We do need servers. They are not obsolete. šŸ™‚
  • The question is how much of the functionality can you move off the server and onto the user’s workstation.
  • In the past this meant adding Internet functionality to applications, which we did, but even in 2002, people didn’t want to install software on their machines.
  • In the meantime, the runtime environment of the browser has developed, but more than that, developers have learned how to develop fully functional software in this place (or maybe more accurately, I have learned how to do that).
  • So the answer is you can move almost all of it to the user’s machine, leaving the server to be very simple, and therefore virtually free.
  • And scaling there is a totally solved problem, by the great engineers at Amazon and Dropbox. That used to be a big problem for me, because I’d get to the point where I have all the functionality I want, but there’s no easy way to deploy it. It costs a lot of money to do that, and for whatever reason, the investors didn’t believe in me.
  • Now I can do it without their help.
  • This makes me very happy! Because it turns out there’s nothing you can’t do in there that you can do on a server in PHP or node.js, thanks to the people at Amazon and Dropbox.
  • And finally because they’ve done it, now I figure everyone else will too. The ones I want most are Evernote, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook. I already have the storage I need with Amazon and Dropbox.

About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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