The Deskilling of Web Development

Baldur Bjarnason:

But instead we’re all-in on deskilling the industry. Not content with removing CSS and HTML almost entirely from the job market, we’re now shifting towards the model where devs are instead “AI” wranglers. The web dev of the future will be an underpaid generalist who pokes at chatbot output until it runs without error, pokes at a copilot until it generates tests that pass with some coverage, and ships code that nobody understand and can’t be fixed if something goes wrong.

There are parallels in the history of software development to the various abstractions accumulated in a modern web development stack. Heck, you can find people throughout history bemoaning how younger generations lack some fundamental knowledge since replaced by automation or new technologies. It is always worth a gut-check about whether newer ideas are actually better. In the case of web development, what are we gaining and losing by eventually outsourcing much of it to generative software?

I think Bjarnason is mostly right: if web development become accessible by most through layers of A.I. and third-party frameworks, it is abstracted to such a significant extent that it becomes meaningless gibberish. In fairness, the way plain HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work is — to many — meaningless gibberish. It really is better for many people that creating things for the web has become something which does not require a specialized skillset beyond entering a credit card number. But that is distinct from web development. When someone has code-level responsibility, they have an obligation to understand how things work.