5 min read

In Computing, Open Always Wins in the End

The modern internet is built on a foundation of open standards and open-source software. New open standards like Codeless Architecture will define the next digital age.

By Nick Gamble, Head of Evangelism at Unqork

Back when I was in college, almost no one took open source or open standards seriously. It was something developers did in their spare time as a sort of techno-utopian pursuit that had little real-world value. Or so most people thought.

They were wrong.

Today, open source rules the digital landscape. The lion’s share of the servers that power the modern internet is in turn powered by Linux. There’d be no graphic websites, at least not as we know them, without open standards like HTML and CSS. And now, Kubernetes is enabling cost-effective cloud-native development. This list goes on and on.

Again and again, open source and open standards drive the next generation of computing. How? Simply by unleashing the power of developers to create and innovate. And I believe we are on the precipice of another such transformation, this time driven by a new open standard: Codeless Architecture.

READ: How to take the first steps on your codeless journey

A brief history of “Open,” from IE to APIs

Since 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has set standards that enable any and all web stakeholders to cooperate and ensure interoperability. But there was one notable exception. You know who I’m talking about. Microsoft, which built its business empire on a closed operating system (OS), decided to try the same with Internet Explorer (IE), its flagship web browser.

Because IE was not built on the W3C’s open standards, developers lost sleep trying to build websites that rendered properly on IE. This eventually led to the creation of entire libraries, like jQuery, to help manage the unique quirks of working with IE.

But unlike with Windows, consumers had a readily available choice of browsers built on open standards. And then we all know what happened. Eventually, the more open systems led to more innovation and better browsing experiences, and once-mighty Microsoft lost its user base to Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. Microsoft finally gave up its web hegemony, and now we have Microsoft Edge, which runs on the same open-source browser framework, Chromium, as most other major browsers.

But that wasn’t the end of Microsoft’s misfortunes at the hands of open standards. Linux-based open-source operating systems, which were limited to the supercomputer community in the 1990s, were embraced by hosting providers and now power 96.5% of the world’s one million domains, arguably making it the world’s most-used operating system. When you add in the fact that Android, the world’s most used mobile OS (by a ton) is based on Linux, you see how the foundation of the global internet is open-source. And I think we’re only at the start.

JSON and Codeless

More recently, an open standard known as JavaScript Object Notation (or “JSON”) has fueled an explosion in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) across the Internet. Indeed the vast majority of APIs are built using JSON. Easy for developers to read and write, this open-standard powers the connective tissue of the modern IT stack and even the economy at large.

“APIs make it easier to integrate and connect people, places, systems, data, things and algorithms, create new user experiences, share data and information, authenticate people and things, enable transactions and algorithms, leverage third-party algorithms, and create new product/services and business models,” write Gartner analysts.

I believe that we are only beginning to see the degree of transformation that JSON and other open, declarative standards can fuel. These declarative formats are the backbone of Codeless Architecture — a new open standard for building complex software without writing, managing, or seeing a line of code.

READ: The Codeless Architecture white paper

From Serverless to Codeless

To understand the potentially profound impact of Codeless Architecture, think of the way Serverless Architecture has transformed the way we manage the technology stack today. Organizations can tap into the power of the cloud without having to take on the complexity of purchasing, establishing, and maintaining physical servers.

Much like Serverless Architecture, Codeless Architecture is a development paradigm in which all code is simplified into reusable components that perform a specific task when triggered by an event. A developing open standard that builds on JSON, Codeless Architecture is inherently agnostic to the technology or programming language running underneath.

So, what does this mean for developers? Some pretty exciting things.

First, it unleashes the creativity of developers by allowing them to quickly compose applications using pre-built, interchangeable elements representing user-facing elements, backend logic, or integrations with legacy systems and third-party services — all without any code.

And just as Serverless Architecture doesn’t do away with servers, Codeless Architecture doesn’t actually do away with code. It just abstracts away all the coding work that previously required humans.

And just as Serverless Architecture doesn’t do away with servers, Codeless Architecture doesn’t actually do away with code. It just abstracts away all the coding work that previously required humans. Thanks to open standards, Codeless Architecture enables developers — or “Creators” as we refer to them at my company — to focus entirely on building innovative value-additive software with great experiences for end-users.

Just as the demise of IE opened up incredible possibilities for web development and APIs opened up the possibilities for far more robust application development, I believe the same is true of Codeless Architecture.

To start, engineers could use the open standard as a jumping-off point to build amazing value-additive functionality. Imagine developers building an awesome, tricked-out integrated development environment (IDE), just like the tinkerers who built amazing functionality on the open-standard backbone of the modern web browser. Then, they push it out to the world and create a community of people who make that IDE evermore robust, just as developers made Linux the force that runs the Internet.

I should note that at my company, we already have a robust codeless IDE. We think it’s pretty great. But at the same time, as we shift towards an open standard, I’m really excited to see what a global community of developers can put together.

But it’s not just about IDEs. Using an open standard, developers can build their own custom codeless renderers — or integrate with existing renderers. For example, we’ve demonstrated that Slack can be used to render the open standard and bring about endless possibilities for cool, codeless functionality (see demo below).

Check out how easy it is to build an integration with the Slack API using a Codeless approach

Beyond renderers, you have SDLC management tools, developer productivity tools, and other valuable functionality that can be readily shared among developers, making the process of development easier for all.

In short, Codeless Architecture has something that all developers can get excited about. It helps you build more powerful apps faster — and take mundane, and often arduous, tasks like debugging off your plate. You can create more intelligent digital tools and make them accessible to everyone. You can even contribute code that expands the very horizons of application development.

Just as open formats like HTML and CSS allowed the nascent web developer community in the 2000s to flourish, Codeless Architecture can propel the development of complex enterprise applications. I’m really excited about what the future has in store.

Want to learn more? Check out CodelessArchitecture.org, follow Codeless Architecture on Medium, sign-up for the newsletter, and follow developments of the open standard on GitHub.

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