Why does everyone "suddenly" hate Single Page Apps?
If you’ve been on the internet the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed a sudden spike in articles decrying Single Page Applications (SPA). The inciting incident was when Guillermo Rauch, the creator of Next.js and CEO of Vercel, tweeted:
As of this writing, that tweet has over 241 thousand views, which led to a firestorm of comments and blog articles.
Alex goes a bit too far when he assigns ill intent to the purveyors of these frameworks. He may be making the fundamental attribution error as none of us are immune to cognitive biases.
In response we have seen a plethora of blog posts like:
- The case for frameworks by Laurie Voss
- Why I’m not the biggest fan of Single Page Applications by Manuel Matuzović
- Rethinking the Modern Web by Oxford Harrison
- The (extremely) loud minority by Andy Bell
- What to expect from your framework by Johan Halse
- And many others…
However, questioning SPAs as the way to build web applications is not a new phenomenon. Almost a year ago, Nolan Lawson wrote two posts detailing why your next application may not need to be a SPA. Nolan is one of many who have questioned the veracity of building a SPA to solve every problem over the past 10 years.
Am I stupid for building a SPA?
No, of course not.
You are stupid for that one piece of clothing in the back of your closet that you couldn’t pull off even though you convinced yourself you could. Since you spent way too much money on it, you can’t bear to give it away or donate it. That’s called the sunk cost fallacy. Just get rid of it — you’ll feel better and have more room in your closet, but hey, I don’t know your life.
Neither do I know what constraints you are operating under. You might be great at building SPAs, or there are some technology choices at work that you need to live with…for now. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing your best job. It’s exceedingly hard to keep on top of all the new developments in technology and the pace is only accelerating.
How did SPAs become popular?
This architecture necessitated duplicating functionality provided by your web browser and web server. For example, browsers handle page navigation using anchor tags, while SPAs need a client-side router to hide and show your HTML views and don’t even get me started on back button behavior.
The other key point about this approach is that a lot of the browser API’s we enjoy today didn’t exist back then, like geolocation, taking pictures and notifications. Without the hybrid approach, the web would have looked like a second-class citizen next to native applications.
So should I still build SPAs?
No, probably not, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Today’s modern multi-page applications (MPA) have access to way more capabilities than ever before, reducing the need to build a SPA to give you that native-like application feeling.
- Back/Forward caching makes navigating between pages of your application faster than ever.
- Offline support is possible with service-workers
- Web Components provide a reusable UI component layer
It’s time to clean out your closet
Photo by elCarito on Unsplash
Not unlike that embarrassing hoodie, you know the one I’m talking about, it’s the one with all the holes and all those stains. It’s time to re-evaluate the tools and frameworks you use to build web applications. Do you need to use these frameworks that reproduce what the web platform already gives you? Maybe it’s time to transition away from them like that pair of jeans that hasn’t fit you since before COVID?
Where do we go from here?
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
US Navy SEALs
There are so many remarkable new approaches like Astro, Qwik, 11ty and Enhance built around HTML-first promise that leverages the platform. If you decide to try out Enhance, please let us know what you think, as we’d love the feedback. Follow us on Mastodon and join our Discord.