Front-end Renaissance at eBay

When I started writing this blog post, my original goal was to provide some insights into my first year as a front-end engineer at eBay – such as my day-to-day role, some of the things we build here, and how we build them. However, before I can do that, I feel I first need to step back and talk about the renaissance. “The renaissance!?”, I hear you say.

The web dev renaissance

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you can’t help but have noticed a renaissance of sorts in the world of web development – propelled in large part, of course, by Node.js, NPM, GitHub, and PaaS, all of which are enabling and empowering developers like never before. Combined with the rapid innovations in the browser space – and within HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – what you have is an incredibly exciting and fun time to be a web developer! And I’m glad to say that the renaissance is truly alive and well here at eBay!

Node.js

Of course the darling of this renaissance is Node.js. Discovering JavaScript on the server for me was just as exciting and liberating as the day I discovered it in the browser – and I’m sure many, many others will share that sentiment. Spinning up an HTTP server in the blink of an eye with just a few lines of JavaScript is simply audacious, and to this day it still makes me grin with delight – especially when I think of all the hours I’ve wasted in my life waiting for the likes of Apache or IIS! But it’s not just the speed and simplicity that enthralls; it’s also the feeling of utmost transparency and control.

CubeJS

But I digress. I hear you say, “What does this so-called renaissance have to do with eBay?” and “Isn’t eBay just a tired, old Java shop?” That might have been true in the past. But these days, in addition to an excellent new Java stack (we call it Raptor and, as the name correctly implies, it is anything but tired!), we now also have our very own Node.js stack (we call it CubeJS), which already powers several of our existing sites and applications. Yes, the wait is over; Node.js in the enterprise is finally a reality for developers. Since joining eBay in the spring of 2013, I have barely touched a line of Java or JSP code.

JavaScript everywhere

Why is this a big deal? Well, a common pattern for us web developers is that every time we change jobs more often than not we also have to change server-side languages. Over the years I’ve used Perl/CGI, ASP Classic, JSP, ColdFusion/CFML, PHP, and ASP.NET. Now as much as I do enjoy learning new skills (except the circus trapeze – that was ill-advised), I’d be stretching the truth if I said I knew all of those languages and their various intricacies inside out. Most of the time I will learn what I need to learn, but rarely do I feel the need or desire to specialize. It would be fair to say I wasn’t always getting the best out of the language and the language wasn’t always getting the best out of me. Really, deep down, I wanted to be using JavaScript everywhere. And now of course that pipe dream is true.

Polyglotism

Adoption of Node.js is a win-win situation for eBay as we seek to embrace the flourishing world-wide community of JavaScript developers like myself as well as to leverage our excellent open-source eco-system. Node.js might only be the beginning; as eBay further adopts and advocates for such polyglotism, we increasingly welcome developers from different tribes – Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and beyond – and eagerly anticipate the day they become integrated with our PaaS (Platform as a Service). You see, it’s all about choice and removing barriers – which empowers our developers to delight our users.

Vive la Renaissance

In this post I’ve mainly focused my attention on Node.js but, as mentioned, the renaissance at eBay doesn’t stop there. We also embrace NPM. We embrace GitHub. We embrace PaaS. We embrace modern principles, tools, and workflows (Modular JavaScript, Grunt, JSHint, Mocha, LESS, and Jenkins – to name but a few!). Yes, we embrace open source – and it’s not all take, take, take either; be sure to check out KrakenJS (a web application framework built on Node.js by our good friends over at PayPal), RaptorJS (eBay’s end-to-end JavaScript toolkit for building adaptive modules and UI components), and Skin (CSS modules designed by eBay to build an online store). And be sure to keep your eyes open for more contributions from us in the near future!

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Do you share our passion for JavaScript, Node.js, and the crazy, fast-paced world of front-end web development? Interested in finding out more about joining our front-end engineering team? Please visit http://www.ebaycareers.com for current openings.

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