Rome has fallen

Issue #219.September 4, 2023.2 Minute read.

Today’s issue: How to quantify tech debt, how SvelteKit jumped on the View Transitions hype train, and how I made $75k at Burning Man.

Welcome to #219.

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The Main Thing

The Teletubbies house

The one true biome.

Rome has fallen

…and another toolchain is rising from its ashes. But before we get to how it all ended, let’s go back to how things began.

August 9, 2020: Sebastian McKenzie introduced Rome to the world as “the spiritual successor” to Babel (his first creation). This first beta release was for Rome’s JS/TS linter, but Sebastian proclaimed that Rome would eventually become a monolithic toolchain that would “replace Babel, ESLint, webpack, Prettier, Jest, and others.”

August 17th, 2020: We wrote about Rome in the 9th ever edition of Bytes 👴👵.

May 4, 2021: On the back of this (very) bold vision, Rome announced that they had formed a company and raised $4.5 million of venture capital. The announcement declared that Rome “consolidates dozens of separate tools into one”, but at this point they were still just a linter in beta. Lucky for them, they also had 14,550 GitHub stars, which they were able to redeem for 4.5 million US dollars at Ye Olde VC bank. (I miss those 2021 exchange rates 🥲)

September 21, 2021: Rome announced that they were doing a full rewrite in Rust. Hindsight is always 20/20, but this seems like the point where things started to go off course. Co-founder, Jamie Kyle left the company three months later, and in February 2022, the team wrote that they were still in the thick of a “rather long, difficult [rewrite] process” ☠️.

November 8, 2022: Rome v10 was released, which included a fast linter and a Prettier-inspired formatter. This was the first stable release since the Rust rewrite began 14 months earlier, and it was the last noteworthy release we would see from the Rome project. Sebastian never tweeted about Rome again after this release, and all Rome employees were laid off within a few months.

August 29, 2023: Emanuele Stoppa and other former Rome core team members announced the birth of Biome, “the official fork of Rome.” In the introductory blog post, Emanuele wrote that the rome package will no longer be maintained and that “many attempts to reach out to the current owner were all void” — so they chose to start fresh with a new name and project.

He did not explain why the Biome logo is pretty much a yellow version of the Remix logo, but he did share that the team is working on the foundations of a new Rome Biome compiler, so we wish them all the best.

Bottom Line: It’s nice to see that Biome will continue building on all the hard work the Rome team put in, but this story is another reminder that pouring VC gasoline on an OSS fire often leads to lots of third-degree burns.


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Cool Bits

  1. Jenna Smith wrote an article called, Challenging Established Norms: Making Component Fetching the Exception. Everyone laughed at me when I “challenged established norms” by towing my own personal porta potty to Burning Man last week, but guess who made $75k charging for “Ebola-free poops” and got to meet Chris Rock and Bella Hadid? This guy.

  2. CarbonQA’s high-quality QA services for dev teams gives you a team of dedicated, US-based QA testers who make sure you’ll never get stuck QA testing your own apps again. 🙏 [sponsored]

  3. ModelFusion is a library for building AI applications, chatbots, and agents with JavaScript and TypeScript.

  4. Astro announced that they’ll be launching Astro Studio in 2024 — “a globally-distributed edge data platform, built for Astro”, which is also “not a web hosting company and not a CMS.” Feeling slightly confused/curious/nervous? Good, that means it’s working.

  5. Ahmad Shadeed created this case study on Rebuilding TechCrunch layout with modern CSS. TC has so many paywalls now that I’m not actually sure what it looks like.

  6. Ryan Donovan wrote an article called, If you want to address tech debt, quantify it first. This might help you finally convince your boss’s boss to stop forcing you to use jQuery, but no guarantees.

  7. Product for Engineers is PostHog’s newsletter dedicated to helping engineers improve their product skills. Subscribe for free to get curated advice on building great products, lessons (and mistakes) from building PostHog, deep dives on top startups, and very cute hedgehog illustrations. [sponsored]

  8. Sara Verdi wrote an article on the GitHub blog about Why Rust is the most admired language among developers. Personally, I don’t think that means you should rewrite your entire open-source toolchain in Rust after you’ve already been working on it for a year, but to each their own.

  9. SvelteKit v1.24 adds new support for View Transitions, the web dev trend that’s sweeping the nation.

  10. McKinsey Consulting wrote a report titled, Yes, you can measure software developer productivity. And that’s great news, because if there’s one company I trust on this very nuanced topic, it’s the people who helped bring us the opioid epidemic, the 2008 financial crisis, and Enron. 🫠