Simon Willison’s Weblog


Serving a billion web requests with boring code (via) Bill Mill provides a deep retrospective from his work helping build a relaunch of the site.

It's a fascinating case study of the choose boring technology mantra put into action. The "boring" choices here were PostgreSQL, Go and React, all three of which are so widely used and understood at this point that you're very unlikely to stumble into surprises with them.

Key goals for the site were accessibility, in terms of users, devices and performance. Despite best efforts:

The result fell prey after a few years to a common failure mode of react apps, and became quite heavy and loaded somewhat slowly.

I've seen this pattern myself many times over, and I'd love to understand why. React itself isn't a particularly large dependency but somehow it always seems to lead to architectural bloat over time. Maybe that's more of an SPA thing than something that's specific to React.

Loads of other interesting details in here. The ETL details - where brand new read-only RDS databases were spun up every morning after a four hour build process - are particularly notable.