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Timelessness & Maintainers

by Abdur-Rahmaan Janhangeer

Maintainers aim for timelessness. They aim to provide a library that maintains relevance across an ever-changing landscape. The base tech changes. Operating systems come and fade away. Languages come and go. Timelessness is difficult to achieve, unless the essence of the library is captured and ported or re-wired time and again to ensure a living embodiment of it.

But, a more pressing and easier to solve challenge is aiming for relevance in the original setting the library was designed for. The first enemy to avoid is the library itself. If version 1 is a contender to version 2, it breaks the user experience and puts the library authors on a bad reputation watch-list. Backward-compatibility involves lots of efforts. it also requires much foresight to avoid a break in architecture for example. Forward compatibility is also an interesting option.

Sometimes library cannot achieve a top-notch relevance as the environment they operated on changed. Let’s say library x was written for an operating system which broke a consistency aspect. Library x cannot run on all releases of the operating system not due to the library’s fault, but due to an external factor. Still, it strays from an ideal the maintainers were aiming for.

Htmx, a normal, node-less OpenSource JavaScript library was recently included in Github’s first OS funding programme. Alexander Petros, a contributor, wrote this brillant piece on timelessness.