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7 reasons why frameworks are the new programming languages

Peter Wayner | March 31, 2015
Thanks to powerful tools, the need for speed, and the shifting nature of programming itself, your next nerd fight will be over framework APIs, not syntax

Because of this, it's more important to understand how an API behaves and what it can do. Which data structures does it accept? How do the algorithms behave when the data set grows larger? Questions like these are more central to today's programming than ones about syntax or language. Indeed, there are now a number of tools that make it simple to call a routine in one language from another. It's relatively simple to link C libraries to Java code, for instance. Understanding the APIs is what matters.

The shoulders of giants are worth standing on

Imagine you've become a disciple of Erlang or another new language. You decide it offers the best platform for writing a stable, bug-free app. This is a nice sentiment, but it could take years for you to rewrite all the code available for Java or PHP into your latest language of choice. Sure, your code could turn out to be dramatically better, but is that worth the extra time?

Frameworks let us leverage the hard work of those who came before us. We may not like the architecture they chose and we may argue over implementation details, but it's more efficient to stifle our complaints and find a way to live with the differences. It's so much easier to inherit all the good and the bad of the code base through a framework. Taking the macho route by writing everything yourself in your favorite new language rather than one of its more popular frameworks won't allow you to enjoy the cream of your new choice as quickly as it would to simply defer to the framework makers and their APIs.

Knowing the architecture is what matters, not the syntax

When most of the coding is stringing together API calls, there's not much advantage in learning the idiosyncrasies of the language. Sure, you could become an expert on how Java initializes static fields in the objects, but you would be much better off figuring out how to leverage the power of Lucene or JavaDB or some other pile of code. You could spend months grokking the optimizing routines of Objective-C compilers, but learning the ins and outs of the latest Apple core library will really make your code scream. You'll get much further learning the picky details of the framework than the syntax of the language on which the framework rests.

Most of our code spends most of its time in the inner loops of libraries. Getting the details of the language correct can help, but knowing what's going on in the libraries can pay off dramatically.

Algorithms dominate

Learning a programming language can help you juggle the data stashed in the variables, but that only takes you so far. The real hurdle is getting the algorithms correct, and those are usually defined and implemented by the frameworks.


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