Nicholas C. Zakas writes:
Shortly after that, led by these first few web developers, Yahoo decided that all of those talented individuals were actually software engineers. Every single “web developer” became a “front-end engineer” overnight. They were now officially part of engineering, where they should have been all along. What followed was, in my opinion, the development of the greatest front-end community in the world. This was before Google became the place to work and long before Facebook and Twitter entered into the minds of engineers. A lot of the best practices we have today, especially in the realms of performance, progressive enhancement, open APIs, and accessibility, come directly from the work that was done at Yahoo during this period. By the time I arrived at Yahoo in 2006, the front-end community was vibrant and thriving, transforming Yahoo into a company that took incredible pride in crafting Web experiences. I was honored and privileged to be able to contribute to that community and work with all those people.
I probably owe it to Yahoo for formalizing the term “Frontend Engineer”, it seems. So many great things came out of Yahoo for Frontend Engineering, and so many great engineers I admire. I’ve always been a fan of Yahoo’s from a engineering standpoint. I tried, and used YUI, in the early days. Particularly the CSS reset, and the font normalizing CSS bits.
I started this blog in the hops of collecting all the amazing work being done in the engineering niche, known as Frontend Engineering. Places I’ve worked at did not have this position, or realize it’s a real needed position for someone to focus on.
If your company isn’t setup this way, it’s time to make the case. Web developers are software engineers and should be treated as such. The overwhelming success of the front-end community at Yahoo serves as a lesson to all companies: when done right, you can attract a phenomenal amount of talent and do amazing things. Yahoo’s recent struggles aren’t a reflection of the front-end community, and as mentioned earlier, there are a lot of former Yahoos who are now trying to build proper front-end organizations in other companies.
Almost all of the “top companies” you can think of right now are thriving because of the contribution of front-end engineers. There’s still an arms race going on among Google, Facebook, and Twitter, trying to find and hire more and more front-end engineers. Make no mistake, this is our time. So the next time someone asks you what you do, simply answer, “I’m a software engineer.” Then you can explain that your focus is on making web applications.
I wholeheartedly agree. Some fantastic projects are coming out of Twitter, like Twitter Bootstrap, and Flight, recently. I hope more of these top companies continue the solidification of Frontend Engineering as a specialization.
I also agree with Nicholas on this point:
(Note: I’m intentionally skipping over the typically arbitrary distinction some make between “developer” and “engineer”. As far as I’m concerned, they mean the same thing.)
Exactly. I’ve worked at places where your title is simply “developer”, and I think it carries a stigma with non-technical folk. “Developer” (often referred to as “web developer”) is an odd word, whereas I think the older, “Engineer” term carries more meaning – to build, or to design. “Develop” sounds less cool, honestly.