On the Question of Too Many Programing Libraries

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

exponential growth of programing language libraries

in the past 5 years, there is a exponential growth of programing language libraries.

this can especially be seen in JavaScript land.

this is different from say 1990s, where, there is usually widely accepted “the best” lib for X.

today, there are so many, that usually a programer never heard of.

so, the question to me is, what to do about it?

i'm the type that tend to know it all, alway keeping a eye on all things. But that has been impossible now, or even, impractical and meaningless.

i want to think about this, as to have some kinda conclusion or closure on the situation.

if i do nothing, then, libs will just grow without my awareness. This been the case for many years already. It can be likened to not knowning all latest movies, or all latest comic books published, or Japan comics books published in Japan, or say TV shows published in China, or not keeping up with gaming community, new games, etc. There are, thousands, millions, of them, things, you don't know. When you were a teen, you might know all the best new video games, or hot movies, or comics books, but not now, because you haven't been following it, no longer interested, or no time.

so, what's the deal with programing language libraries? well, today, not just lib grows exponentially, but also languages, and now programing paradigms.

[see Proliferation of Programing Languages]

for example, few years ago, node.js popularized event based programing. Now, reactive programing seems to be hot. There are language and libraries doing it. And, the idea of Persistent Data Structure seems also getting popular. First popularized by clojure, now Facebook immutable lib for JavaScript.

in the end, i don't think there's much one can do, or should do. Do you know all the movies published in India? In programing, even in the 1990s, not everyone knows about all fields of programing, such as operating systems, database, game programing, networking, scientific programing, etc.

but if you are a philosopher, a observer, then, you might still try to follow, keep in the know and analyze trends and have opinions about where are we going. In some sense, the task now is harder, and more exciting, than compared to 1990s.

exponential growth of everything!

actually, the phenomenon of exponential growth, is happening not just in programing libs, but every day things too. Everyday things, trends, inventions, practices, behaviors, i think they are all growing. (for example, think of cell phone, payment methods, dating practice) In this regard, am thinking, humanity has entered a era, sometimes depicted in dystopia scifi, where you have massive diverse groups and things each one odd to another.

i think, the speed and number of new things springing up, is faster than the speed they can be digested or merged with some universal status quo. So, you end up with lots regional phenomenon.

ok. So far so good. But, how does this compare to the era before? say, before the internet, or before industrialization?

before the internet, communication tech isn't as strong, so, first of all, new things may be happening around the world, just that you don't know about them. (the internet made us known things we never know before, such as sexual practices, and all sorts of others things, e.g. we can see and discuss on reddit now.) before the internet, even old things we don't know, such as different cultures. For example, to know what Chinese do, you have to be a academic, or go to library to dig book and look at a handful of pictures, or have lived in china. But now, you can know what chinese do daily, or watch their daily lives if you want to. (for example, twitter, facebook.)

ok, but do new things happen as much in say 1990s as now? I think in general no. Today, the tech is vibrant that new things happen far more often.

Technology ⇒ Change

now thinking about before industrialization, i think the above is confirmed. Without technology, things don't change much. It is technology, instigates change.