Edge Conference 5: London
On Saturday, I attended the 5th installment of the fantastic Edge Conference at the Facebook London offices in Euston. We had in depth discussions about complex problems and set about creating solutions and providing feedback to browser vendors to keep the web moving forwards. This is my third appearance at edge conference; my first was as a panelist at Edge 2 in NYC, and I’m fortunate enough to say that LiquidFrameworks has been very supportive, enabling me to continue to attend.
Edge has no conventional talks – the focus of the conference is on productive discussion and debate, rather than presenting the experiences of a single presenter for the audience to consume. Two types of sessions are run: highly structured panel debates with pre-curated questions and intimate breakout sessions where small groups work through the finer details of a topic in depth. Every person present is provided with the opportunity to present an opinion, and to ask or answer questions raised during the event. To enable such a rich environment for discussion, several tools are used to surface the most relevant opinions in real time: slack, google moderator, twitter and most fun of all, throwable microphones!
The conference ran sessions on Security, Front End Data, Components and Modules and Progressive Enhancement. The breakout sessions also covered related themes; ServiceWorkers, ES6 Patterns and Installable Web Applications.
Yan Zhu’s opening panel introduction revisited this critical topic for the web. She demonstrated how even simple functionality like emoji support can surface XSS vulnerabilities and enumerated several techniques developers can use to promote private and secure communications on the web. The panel discussed opportunities for promoting HTTPS usage and the blockers to HTTPS adoption; 3rd party content (such as ads) forcing mixed content, CDNs and of course, the tedious process of setting up SSL.
Front End Data
I was blown away by Nolan Lawson’s introduction to the topic of front end data. Storage in the browser is gaining a lot of traction and the number of complex use cases for front end data is steadily increasing as the lines between native applications and web applications becomes more blurred. The number of potential storage possibilities in the browser are quite overwhelming; ServiceWorker, ApplicationCache, IndexedDB, WebSql, File System API, FileReader, LocalStorage, SessionStorage, Cookie…and even notifications (as mentioned by Jake Archibald – notifications contain data fragments). I was particularly impressed by the npm in your browser demo which can stored over a gigabyte of data for offline browsing of npm. My biggest concern from this session was that even today there is no way for a developer to provision data storage for an application that is safe from browser eviction when the system is under space constraints. Hopefully this is something that is rectified as the Quota Management API evolves.
Nolan’s slides from this session can be found here.
Components and Modules
The components and modules session took a dual focus; web components and React components. Even with this dual focus, many common themes were discussed, such as performance, optimization, bundling and portability. Former best practice in this space (bundling components together for optimized delivery) were questioned; with the adoption of HTTP/2, unbundled modules provide granular cache invalidation without the same overheads of managing multiple connections as is the case with HTTP. Through intelligent servers, resources can be pushed into browsers based on previous usage patterns, optimizing for usage of resources that are commonly accessed together. It was discussed that tooling in this space should allow for migration over to HTTP/2 without causing an additional overhead in needing to maintain two ways to deliver the application. This conversation led well into the next topic: progressive enhancement.
One of the things I love about Edge is the breakout sessions. These sessions provide an opportunity to explore many of the concepts raised in the panel discussions in more depth. With access to such a wealth of knowledge in the room, breakout sessions are a fantastic opportunity to seek insight into complex problems and work with vendors and standards bodies to smooth out rough edges. I attended sessions on Installing web apps, components and front end data. I’d love to see these sessions records in the future as there were parallel sessions I’d have loved to go to but missed out on, however the format of these sessions makes that quite difficult.
As always, Edge Conference was a blast this year. If you missed out this time, all the videos of the conference will be available on the website and will be professionally captioned and with content search.
All in all, I really enjoyed attending Edge Conference and am looking forward to future installments!