What is a webdev

February 14, 2005

I was disappointed a few weeks ago to hear two people I respect use the term “webdev” as a term of contempt, referring to the Frontpage-using HTML-monkey type. The odd thing is that both these guys are webdevs, albeit at the other end of the quality scale. Then more recently I went to talk to some other people I respect, who are basically like super high-end PMs. Same thing: to them, webdevs were the folks at the bottom end of the skill scale, someone you would sort of barely admit to having hired — certainly not a potential locus of innovation and big ideas. These experiences made me seriously wonder: is that what most people mean when they use the term?

I’ve had a lot of formal job titles, but in real life I’ve always referred to myself as a webdev. I’ve meant by that something like, “I make stuff that the end user accesses over HTTP”. I’ve always been awfully fond of good old RFC 2616, and never had the slightest interest in apps that don’t connect over the Internet. Over time less of my work as been strictly browser-bound — I’ve done plenty of systems that the user interacted with via Excel or IM or even the command line — but that didn’t change the essential nature of the job for me. Connecting people to knowledge is the entire point of programming as far as I’m concerned, and so far there’s been no better medium for that than the Internet. So in my own heart I’m a webdev.

Let me just make one request: fellow webdevs, please stop using the term to talk about the least skilled and least committed of our kind. If other people do it… well, there’s only one way to change their minds. But we should say it loud, and all that noise. If I hear it again, you will get the smackdown.

12 Responses to “What is a webdev”

  1. Ben Ramsey Says:

    I, too, am a webdev, but for the past few years, I hesitate to introduce myself to others as such. Instead, I tend to use the term “Web Programmer” because I feel it’s more indicative of what I do. However, this is not the true reason for the hesitation; rather, I don’t like the term “webdev” because I’m inevitably met by the reply: “Really? So am I. We’ve been using Frontpage at our office to maintain our Web site, and it’s a really great program. I didn’t realize being a webdev could be so easy.” In the end, managers think that anyone, including themselves, can be webdevs because it’s easy (especially with Frontpage), and I feel that this attitude demeans my position (and awards me a lesser salary). I have a lot of pride in my work, and I work hard to be a quality “HTML-monkey” and Web programmer, but people just don’t see that because they don’t look at what goes on in the background. In the end, they’re not necessarily looking for quality work; they’re looking for cheap work.

  2. patrick Says:

    Can’t believe you guys – you deserve to call yourselves ‘webdevs’ -. Anybody using Frontpage and then complaining they are demeaned are exactly so. Frontpage is the worst editor on the market (eternally) and certainly doesn’t lay W3 code – it naturally builds bloated pages, dog slow code, impregnable garbage – The purest coders use a text editor – and write code native.

  3. LittleHooves Says:

    Hmm. I thought those people using Frontpage were called web monkies.

  4. jim Says:

    Hmm. I’m pretty sure that developers who call people monkies are called “no one who I would hire, no matter what your skills are.”

    In other news, *real* webdevs use the ex editor, and upload their work via kermit.

    How old are we, people ?

  5. Steven Says:

    I just use the term developer. The web will continue to grow and the browser itself may become another medium. All that work in dreamweaver may be for naught.


  6. Only those who understand how to communicate with a web server directly using the appropriate RFCs are webdevs. Everyone else is a web monkey (a web monkey doesn’t understand the underlying technology). You can tell who is a webdev by their personal arsenal of tools. I have raw HTTP extraction, dechunker (chunked transfer encoding), via proxy, and a bunch of other tools in mine (including a written-from-scratch full blown debug/trace-enabled web server – I can watch IE as it sends and receives data). The first three I mentioned are the bare minimum written-from-the-ground-up tools a person MUST have written themselves to consider themselves a webdev.

    So, who wants to wikify this definition?

    Of course, the simpler definition is “HTTP over TCP/IP sockets developer”…but who in the world wants to say that incredibly long phrase as their title when we COULD lay claim to webdev as our own?

    My guess is that the meaning of “webdev” has forever been slaughtered and there is no getting it back. Microsoft is working on changing the meaning of “security” as that is the newest buzzword in use at Redmond.

    http://cubicspot.blogspot.com/ – CubicSpot – Covering the Tech. industry since 2004.

  7. james Says:

    “You can tell who is a webdev by their personal arsenal of tools.”

    Don’t forget that you obviously have some of these tools:

    -Homegrown Pedantic Tone of Voice(tm)

    -“built-from-scratch” Prima-Donna Personality

    I think people are attaching a bit too much vanity and insecurity to the titles of their profession. Linus Torvalds is a “software engineer”, just like the guy who graduates from a “Learn VisualBasic++dotNETdreamweaver-in-one-week” course. The skill differences between the two are not built into their titles, and IMHO they shouldn’t be, except for probably a “senior’, or ‘lead’ put in front of it.

    That is what resumes are for.

  8. ttrenka Says:

    Being one of the two people JP mentions at the beginning of the post (and laughing my ass off at ScottAndrew’s comment) I have to say (in response to the last comment) that, in fact, I do have to care about titles.

    Not because I feel the need to feel elite…but because there’s certain kinds of work I don’t want to be stuck doing, and unfortunately where I live it would seem that the assumption webdev == monkey is pretty pervasive. Especially by those willing to pay for it.

    Ideally I feel the same way as JP does though. It’s just that from a practical personal standpoint it can’t really happen…

  9. CJ Says:

    I gotta agree with JP on this.. I wear numerous hats, and when people ask where I work or what I do, I just give them the generic “I’m in computers”.

    And who the heck uses FrontPage, especially in the workplace?!

  10. lionel Says:

    Hey, was shocked when i heard about the firing, tough stuff. Really sorry. Can’t imagine a company firing someone who helpped so many people with stuff publicly known. Could have at least given you a warning. Blogger kinda raw. anywayz from one cs person to another. reload

  11. Ilija Studen Says:

    I’m web developer. I used the term Web programmer, but then I realized that 50% of my jobs are programming, 50% are client side codding (XHTML + CSS). So, I’m not just a programmer 🙂


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