Meteor Streaks Through Social Software Sky

JavaScript framework for speeding development of fast, collaborative applications gains admirers, as the company behind it gains funding.
The Meteor technology is at an early preview stage, where basic programming interfaces could still change dramatically. One tutorial by developer Gabriel Manricks concluded developers should consider it anyway. "Even though Meteor is still in its infancy (beta), there isn't anything you can't get around," he wrote. "The amount of time Meteor saves in your application justifies the rare occurrence where you might need to write a workaround."

DeBergalis likened the potential of Meteor to the advent of the relational database. Before the rise of DB2 and Oracle, application developers often created their own database management systems as part of the programming process. Standardization around the relational database made it easier to create business applications because a whole category of data storage and retrieval operations could be delegated to the DBMS. Meteor wants to do something similar by providing a standard mechanism for Internet application development, on top of which developers can focus on the specifics of their application rather than the details of data replication protocols.

There will still be plenty of room for optimization, however. After the advent of the relational database, there was still a big performance difference between the applications written by novices and those written by experts who knew how to optimize every table structure and query.

Similarly, Meteor will make it easier to create a prototype application, accepting all the defaults provided by the framework, but that will not necessarily be the end of the story, DeBergalis said. "Developers still need to be very thoughtful about how they build the apps and how data moves around," he said. By default, Meteor makes it easy to build an app where "every client has a copy of the same information … and that lets you immediately get a feel for what the collaborative fluid experience feels like, which is great for a weekend project or a small internal app."

"Over time, as the application gets bigger, you'll want to think more about efficiency and scalability, in terms of how do I limit the data I send down to each client," DeBergalis added. "So maybe I write a rule that says only send to the client data that matches this filter."

The core Meteor technology is available under an MIT Open Source license. DeBergalis said the long-range revenue plan for Meteor Development Group is to deliver supporting technologies and services for the needs of enterprises, which are different than those of open-source Web developers.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)