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ngconf 2017 - Build with Us

The first week of April I was among the attendees at the year’s largest US Angular conference, ngconf, in Salt Lake City, Utah. As one of the keynote speakers last year, I was excited at the opportunity to attend again, and curious about how different the atmosphere would be this time around. Last year the community was anxiously awaiting the release of Angular 2.0, and this year 4.0 was released just before the conference. Sidestepping the understandable confusion about the updated release cycles, it was the atmosphere in the community and the maturity of both the core framework and surrounding tooling that I was most interested in exploring.

This year’s day 1 keynote was delivered by Stephen Fluin and Igor Minar from the core team at Google, and much of it was focused on updates in the wider ecosystem: Angular Material, the CLI, IDE support, and Ionic were specifically highlighted. Each of these was in a fledgling or non-existent state during last year’s conference, but significant progress has been made on them since.

Especially exciting for the Drupal world, though, was the keynote case study presented by Brian Martin of NBA.com, which involved a progressively decoupled Drupal site built with Angular. Brian spoke of the shared programming principles between the two, the simplicity of integrating Angular with Drupal blocks, and more. NBA.com is a fascinating example of a large scale architecture built along lines with which we at Mediacurrent are very familiar, and it was great to see Drupal featured so prominently in the keynote for the second year running.

Further focus in the keynote was given to their new release cycle, where semantic versioning is being combined with scheduled releases that include potential breaking changes in a new major version release every six months. The team is working hard to make upgrading both immediately beneficial and painless, even across major versions, much like the direction one of Dries’ latest blog posts suggests for Drupal. However, they also recognize that not all sites can easily be kept up to date with each release, so the big announcement in the keynote was that Angular 4.x would be a LTS release, with critical bugs and security fixes continuing until 6.x is released.

Several other sessions I attended during the conference are worth expounding on, but for brevity, I will try to hit the highlights. Angular Universal, the framework’s isomorphic or server-side rendering story, is one I’ve spent a lot of time investigating. Since it was moved from community run into the core of the framework its maturity has significantly improved. Jeff Cross’ session on it showed the SEO, social sharing, and performance benefits it can provide, but for a wider understanding of the vision behind Universal, I highly recommend this post by Wassim Chegham. Another highlight was Sean Larkin’s workshop on Webpack, which walked us through creating our first webpack plugin from scratch while helping the audience better understand the thinking behind its architecture.

More big news came on the conference’s final day, when Brad Green and Rob Wormald delivered the second keynote. First announced was TypeScript’s adoption as an officially sanctioned language at Google, a big deal for a company that had previously only condoned the use of C/C++, Java, Python, Rust, JavaScript and Go. TypeScript is being widely embraced across frameworks and companies now, and the strongly typed superset of JavaScript deserves all the attention it has been receiving for the numerous benefits to developer experience and application stability it provides.

But even bigger news, perhaps, was Google’s announced commitment to open sourcing and improving usability around the build tools that allow all of Google’s internal Angular products to always run on the latest master branch. The ABC initiative, for Angular, Bazel, and Closure, has the potential to vastly simplify the use of Angular by enterprise clients, while increasing the performance, velocity and stability of their products. While this commitment is still in the design phase at this point, it points to just how seriously Google is taking improving the community’s ability to scale their apps while keeping up with where the framework is headed.

Initially, as a Drupal architect, I was drawn to Angular primarily by its familiar use of services and Dependency Injection, as well as a curiosity about its use of TypeScript. But much as I have found in the Drupal world, it is the inviting and passionate energy of the community that makes being involved continue to be worthwhile.

The Saturday after the conference, I was invited to participate in a Contributor’s Day event that brought together the core team and some prominent members of the community to discuss ways that Google and the community can better support each other. This ended up being a fascinating and eventful enough discussion that I’ve decided to write a separate post about it, which will be published soon.

Additional Resources
Presentation Framework Generalization, Toward Javascript and Agnosticism | Blog Post 
Decoupling in Drupal 8 Based on a Proven Model| Blog Post 
Decoupled Blocks with Drupal 8 and Javascript | Blog Post 

Matt Davis

Meet team member, Matt Davis

Matt is a long time Drupal developer and avid outdoorsman living in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. He has been working with Drupal since 2003 and has been a...

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