Meta Refresh 2018

The web in your pocket

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The Web is Different

Submitted by Ankur Sethi (@s3thi) on Wednesday, 6 June 2018

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Section: Full talk Technical level: Intermediate


From floppy drives to CD-ROMs to the App Store, over the years we’ve used many ways to get our applications into our users’ hands. Out of all these application delivery methods, the Web is the most ubiquitous and unique. What makes it so different? How can you, as a product designer or a business, play to its strengths? And where does it fall flat?

Let’s take a closer look at features of the Web platform that make it different from native platforms, and see some examples of how to use them effectively.


The Web started as a technology for sharing simple textual documents over the network. Today, it has turned into a full-featured application development platform that supports complex typography, images, videos, 3D graphics, audio playback and synthesis, and even virtual reality. How did we get here? More importantly, how does the Web’s unique heritage make it different from other ways of building and delivering applications?

This talk is divided into two parts. In the first part, we go back in time and look at some of the major milestones in the evolution of the Web browser that allowed it to transform from a simple document viewer to a platform for building full-fledged applications.

In the second part, we take a look at some unique features of the Web platform that make developing, designing, and conducting business on it starkly different from doing so on native platforms. A few of the things we will talk about are:

  • URLs, and what they mean for virality and discoverability
  • Separation of content, presentation, and logic, and how that allows users to extend and modify existing applications
  • On-demand code delivery, and how that makes getting your applications into the hands of your users completely frictionless
  • Responsive design, and how that lets Web applications respond to their environments
  • How browsers put users before businesses and developers, and what that means for your applications
  • How the Web’s open and forgiving nature makes it the most democratic platform in existence
  • What the Web can’t (or won’t!) do, and why

By understanding why and how developing for the Web is different, we can learn how to build applications that are not only good citizens of the Web, but also attract and retain users in large numbers.

Speaker bio

Ankur Sethi leads the Web Engineering team at Uncommon in Bangalore. He builds applications with JavaScript, TypeScript, and (sometimes) Rust. He has terrible taste in music, which he inflicts on unsuspecting strangers if handed the AUX cord at parties.


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  • Zainab Bawa (@zainabbawa) a year ago

    Who is the audience for this talk, Ankur? If the audience coming to this talk are front-end engineers, do they really need this introduction? What is the value addition of this talk for practising front-end developers?

    • Ankur Sethi (@s3thi) Proposer 12 months ago

      Hey Zainab,

      I would say this talk is most useful for UX/UI people, as well as product managers and businesspeople. However, an engineer wouldn’t be completely out of place in the audience.

      This talk draws attention to:

      • Best practices that you probably aren’t following (e.g shareable URLs or ethical ads) in your webapp, and how that negatively affects your business.
      • Features of the Web you’re probably not using (e.g embeds), and how there are opportunities there.
      • General design principles that inform the Web and Web browsers, and how some of them can take you by surprise (e.g a browser deciding to aggresively block 3rd party cookies, resulting in your app breaking).

      This is probably a “softer” talk than you see at most HasGeek events, in the sense there isn’t very much immediately applicable technical content here. It’s more about the philosophy and history of the platform. I wanted to do a softer talk this year, because we don’t see them so often in Indian conferences.

      I attended RustFest Paris a few weeks ago, and they stared the conference with a talk about learning how to learn. I really enjoyed it and wanted to do something similar.

      Hope this clarifies things.

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