For this inaugural issue of Browsertech Digest, I want to talk about what we mean by browsertech, and why it matters.
Web browsers have grown in scope from humble hypertext renders to a runtime for full-fledged applications (see: Google Maps; Figma).
Along with this evolution, the term “web application” has expanded in scope to include not just webmail clients and social media sites, but anything that happens to run in the browser, from video editors to 3D games.
When we talk about browsertech, we’re talking about that latter emerging subset of web development, which consists of writing desktop-like applications on top of browser APIs like WebAssembly, WebGPU, and WebRTC.
It’s useful to distinguish browsertech from traditional web applications, because they often have little in common besides running in the browser.
Consider Makepad. It’s a full live-coding environment, written in Rust, compiled to WebAssembly, and rendered with WebGPU. From its code (it’s open source), it looks more like a desktop application than a web app. Notably, the same codebase can be run on the desktop, not by bundling it with a browser runtime (as Electron does), but merely by swapping out the WebGL backend for a native GPU interface.
Makepad is an extreme example, but it exemplifies a tendency of ambitious browser-based applications to have more in common with native applications than they do with traditional web apps.
At Drifting in Space, we follow the evolution of browsertech pretty closely, as well as the applications that are built on it. Browsertech Digest is our way of turning our obsession into something informative for anyone else with an interest in the tech. Future issues will include links and commentary about the evolving API surface of browsers, as well as links to recordings from the in-person Browsertech events we host. This is also the list we’ll use to announce future events.
We’d love to have you follow along. If you’re not reading this in your inbox, you can get it in your inbox by subscribing here.
In-person events: we’re working on another Browsertech NYC and a first Browsertech SF. The NYC event will be Dec 7, and the SF event will be Jan 26, 2023. Stay tuned to this list to be the first to know when we announce speakers and open RSVPs.
Until next time,