Jul
22
2019
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Slack speeds up its web and desktop client

Slack is launching a major update to its web and desktop today that doesn’t introduce any new features or a new user interface. Instead, it’s almost a complete rebuild of the underlying technology that makes these two experiences work. Over the course of the last year or so, Slack worked on shifting the web and desktop clients (which essentially use the same codebase) to a modern stack and away from jQuery and other technologies it used when it first introduced these tools in 2012.

“We want people to be able to run Slack alongside anything else they’re using to get their job done and have that be easy, uncumbersome, delightful even. So we took a look at the environment we’re in,” Jaime DeLanghe, director of Product Management at Slack, told me. “I think the other thing to note is that the ecosystem for client-side development has just changed a lot in the past five years. There have been some major updates to JavaScript and new technologies like React and Redux to make it easier to build dynamic web applications. We also wanted to update our stack to fit in with the modern paradigm.”

02 Speed Slack desktop side by side

Over the course of the last few months, the team actually quietly rolled out a lot of the prep work for this move, though the full extent of the work is only going to become apparent once you update the client to the latest version, as it’s the new Electron app that will bring it all together.

Slack promises that this new version will use up to 50% less memory than before and that Slack will load 33% faster. Joining an incoming call will also be 10 times faster now.

A lot of these changes will be especially apparent to users who are part of multiple workspaces. That’s because, as DeLanghe stressed, the team designed the new architecture with the assumption that many users are now part of multiple workspaces. Those used to take up a lot of memory and CPU cycles when you switched between them, as each workspace used to get its own Electron process in the old app. 2019 07 21 1907

In the updated app, Slack went with React to build all of the UI components, and instead of waiting for all the data to load before displaying the UI, the new app now lazily loads data as it becomes available.

The result of this is an experience that also now allows you to at least read previously opened channels and conversations when you are offline.

04 Low connectivity Slack desktop side by side

What’s maybe even more important, though, is that Slack now has a modern client to build on, which should speed up feature development going forward. “I’m not going to over-promise,” DeLanghe said. “This removes one of the barriers that any company that’s scaling and building features at the same time has to think about. […] This makes that trade-off a little bit easier.”

The update will roll out to all users over the course of the next few weeks. That’s because this is a two-part change. You’ll need both the new desktop application and become eligible for the new version. Some of this is out of Slack’s hands, as your IT department may decide how it rolls out updates, for example.

03 Memory Slack desktop side by side

Jun
12
2019
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Apollo raises $22M for its GraphQL platform

Apollo, a San Francisco-based startup that provides a number of developer and operator tools and services around the GraphQL query language, today announced that it has raised a $22 million growth funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners. Existing investors Trinity Ventures and Webb Investment Network also participated in this round.

Today, Apollo is probably the biggest player in the GraphQL ecosystem. At its core, the company’s services allow businesses to use the Facebook -incubated GraphQL technology to shield their developers from the patchwork of legacy APIs and databases as they look to modernize their technology stacks. The team argues that while REST APIs that talked directly to other services and databases still made sense a few years ago, it doesn’t anymore now that the number of API endpoints keeps increasing rapidly.

Apollo replaces this with what it calls the Data Graph. “There is basically a missing piece where we think about how people build apps today, which is the piece that connects the billions of devices out there,” Apollo co-founder and CEO Geoff Schmidt told me. “You probably don’t just have one app anymore, you probably have three, for the web, iOS and Android . Or maybe six. And if you’re a two-sided marketplace you’ve got one for buyers, one for sellers and another for your ops team.”

Managing the interfaces between all of these apps quickly becomes complicated and means you have to write a lot of custom code for every new feature. The promise of the Data Graph is that developers can use GraphQL to query the data in the graph and move on, all without having to write the boilerplate code that typically slows them down. At the same time, the ops teams can use the Graph to enforce access policies and implement other security features.

“If you think about it, there’s a lot of analogies to what happened with relational databases in the ’80s,” Schmidt said. “There is a need for a new layer in the stack. Previously, your query planner was a human being, not a piece of software, and a relational database is a piece of software that would just give you a database. And you needed a way to query that database, and that syntax was called SQL.”

Geoff Schmidt, Apollo CEO, and Matt DeBergalis, CTO

GraphQL itself, of course, is open source. Apollo is now building a lot of the proprietary tools around this idea of the Data Graph that make it useful for businesses. There’s a cloud-hosted graph manager, for example, that lets you track your schema, as well as a dashboard to track performance, as well as integrations with continuous integration services. “It’s basically a set of services that keep track of the metadata about your graph and help you manage the configuration of your graph and all the workflows and processes around it,” Schmidt said.

The development of Apollo didn’t come out of nowhere. The founders previously launched Meteor, a framework and set of hosted services that allowed developers to write their apps in JavaScript, both on the front-end and back-end. Meteor was tightly coupled to MongoDB, though, which worked well for some use cases but also held the platform back in the long run. With Apollo, the team decided to go in the opposite direction and instead build a platform that makes being database agnostic the core of its value proposition.

The company also recently launched Apollo Federation, which makes it easier for businesses to work with a distributed graph. Sometimes, after all, your data lives in lots of different places. Federation allows for a distributed architecture that combines all of the different data sources into a single schema that developers can then query.

Schmidt tells me the company started to get some serious traction last year and by December, it was getting calls from VCs that heard from their portfolio companies that they were using Apollo.

The company plans to use the new funding to build out its technology to scale its field team to support the enterprises that bet on its technology, including the open-source technologies that power both the services.

“I see the Data Graph as a core new layer of the stack, just like we as an industry invested in the relational database for decades, making it better and better,” Schmidt said. “We’re still finding new uses for SQL and that relational database model. I think the Data Graph is going to be the same way.”

Feb
11
2019
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Google Docs gets an API for task automation

Google today announced the general availability of a new API for Google Docs that will allow developers to automate many of the tasks that users typically do manually in the company’s online office suite. The API has been in developer preview since last April’s Google Cloud Next 2018 and is now available to all developers.

As Google notes, the REST API was designed to help developers build workflow automation services for their users, build content management services and create documents in bulk. Using the API, developers can also set up processes that manipulate documents after the fact to update them, and the API also features the ability to insert, delete, move, merge and format text, insert inline images and work with lists, among other things.

The canonical use case here is invoicing, where you need to regularly create similar documents with ever-changing order numbers and line items based on information from third-party systems (or maybe even just a Google Sheet). Google also notes that the API’s import/export abilities allow you to use Docs for internal content management systems.

Some of the companies that built solutions based on the new API during the preview period include Zapier, Netflix, Mailchimp and Final Draft. Zapier integrated the Docs API into its own workflow automation tool to help its users create offer letters based on a template, for example, while Netflix used it to build an internal tool that helps its engineers gather data and automate its documentation workflow.

 

 

May
19
2017
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Deep Algo offers simple code visualization for people who don’t know how to code

 Deep Algo was one of the more fascinating companies on display in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt this week. The French team aims to make coding languages more accessible for the masses with SaaS (software as a service) offering that promises to do for languages like C++, C Sharp and Javascript what WYSIWYG does for HTML. It’s a pretty bold claim, but the company is confident that… Read More

May
19
2015
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Meteor Raises $20M To Build The One JavaScript Stack To Rule Them All

Meteor framework The competitive landscape for app development tool providers continues to become tighter, with Meteor Development Group raising $20 million for its stack of frameworks and tools for developing web and mobile applications in JavaScript. Read More

Jul
08
2013
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Poll: What programming languages and platforms do you use?

What Programming Languages and Platforms do you use?What programming languages and platforms do you use for large-scale projects in your organization?

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