Node.js Creator Ryan Dahl on Software Complexity

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Ryan Dahl, the creator of node.js, wrote the following on his Google Plus page, dated ~. (the original post on his Google Plus site is deleted. But you can also find mirrors in many tech news sites)

I hate almost all software. It's unnecessary and complicated at almost every layer. At best I can congratulate someone for quickly and simply solving a problem on top of the shit that they are given. The only software that I like is one that I can easily understand and solves my problems. The amount of complexity I'm willing to tolerate is proportional to the size of the problem being solved.

In the past year I think I have finally come to understand the ideals of Unix: file descriptors and processes orchestrated with C. It's a beautiful idea. This is not however what we interact with. The complexity was not contained. Instead I deal with DBus and /usr/lib and Boost and ioctls and SMF and signals and volatile variables and prototypal inheritance and _C99_FEATURES_ and dpkg and autoconf.

Those of us who build on top of these systems are adding to the complexity. Not only do you have to understand $LD_LIBRARY_PATH to make your system work but now you have to understand $NODE_PATH too — there's my little addition to the complexity you must now know! The users — the one who just want to see a webpage — don't care. They don't care how we organize /usr, they don't care about zombie processes, they don't care about bash tab completion, they don't care if zlib is dynamically linked or statically linked to Node. There will come a point where the accumulated complexity of our existing systems is greater than the complexity of creating a new one. When that happens all of this shit will be trashed. We can flush boost and glib and autoconf down the toilet and never think of them again.

Those of you who still find it enjoyable to learn the details of, say, a programming language — being able to happily recite off if NaN equals or does not equal null — you just don't yet understand how utterly faaked the whole thing is. If you think it would be cute to align all of the equals signs in your code, if you spend time configuring your window manager or editor, if put unicode check marks in your test runner, if you add unnecessary hierarchies in your code directories, if you are doing anything beyond just solving the problem — you don't understand how faaked the whole thing is. No one gives a faak about the glib object model.

The only thing that matters in software is the experience of the user.

Ryan Dahl on node.js

“Ryan Dahl on node.js”
Ryan Dahl
Jun 10, 2011
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