Social Discovery is a space that several startups are trying to win, so anything that helps companies get their products to market more quickly gives them a leg up. One tool that can help is an application framework called Meteor. It allows engineers to write real-time features in an easy and efficient manner.
The creators of Meteor have solved general problems around real-time subscriptions and cache invalidation among other common problems that developers face. Meteor exposes reactive data sources, so that when data changes somewhere in the system, other components of the system can get updates in real-time.
We have yet to use Meteor as a whole in production at Tagged, but it is very possible that we will in the future. This framework gives developers more time to think about the product they are building and how to improve it, rather than trying to solve obscure problems in data-synchronization and distributed computing.
For example, our new mobile app Swoon includes a real-time messaging feature. Someone on our team had to write that feature. Using a stack built around Meteor, it may have taken them a day or so to write an MVP of this feature. Rolling your own system, it can take weeks or even months. Using Meteor could help us win Social Discovery by cutting down the time between our team coming up with a product idea and the feature being shipped to our users.
Outside of my work for Tagged, I used Meteor to build a website for a college professor so that her students could interact online. When students posted comments and questions on the site, other viewers saw them immediately without having to refresh the page. Not only was the site more viable for the students and professor, it was also quick and easy for me to build, with all the basic functionality taking only a few days. The rest of my effort was spent on including all the right content and really getting the user experience right.
Many believe that using Meteor in production is not totally scalable yet, and for parts of Meteor, that may be true. However, one of the best things about how the code is written is that it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can pick and choose which components of Meteor you want to use. As such, the barrier to entry for using them in production can be much lower than using the entire Meteor stack. The core team sees Meteor as more of a build-tool for combining all the libraries they have written rather than a monolithic web stack.
The important thing about Meteor is not what the feature-set looks like right now, or how scalable it can be, but rather that it’s a representation of where the technology powering the web is going.
Social discovery – and more largely, the internet – is becoming more integrated into our daily lives. As demand for rich real-time features continues to grow, application frameworks like Meteor will become more and more attractive to engineers. I won’t stop playing with technologies like this until the refresh button becomes a relic of an era gone by.