Instant, Collaborative Development Environments
Our Investment in Stackblitz
Written with Corinne Riley
Software development is an infinite exercise of downloading, setting up, and working on other people’s code: some written by people you work with, much written by people you’ve never met but who have contributed to libraries on the internet. Developers are left to manage their own local environments, package versioning, and dependency hell in this complex and often hostile setting. Working on multiple parts of a code base at once amplifies this toil and friction. The shift to hybrid work intensifies these problems.
Individually managed, client-side developer environments are also a massive security risk. According to OWASP and others, modern commercial applications (as a percentage of the code base) are 60-70% existing open source. The dependency tree is untenable to traverse, with median open source dependencies per application ranging from 528 (per Synopsis) to 683 (per GitHub). After the log4j debacle, software supply chain is the #1 issue on security leaders’ minds. Upstream vulnerabilities in a dependency can root developer machines.
The difference between environments has caused untold pain in engineering organizations. Given these productivity and security issues, the obvious answer is to move web development into the web, as Google Docs and Figma did for knowledge workers and designers. However, 99% of development still happens on local clients today, and it’s worth understanding why. Cloud developer environments have a heavy, expensive footprint. They can’t work offline and they are severely impacted by latency. Imagine if Google Docs charged by the minute, took minutes to load any document, and users had to wait a second for each keystroke to show up. Toy “Playgrounds” that only support front-end code can’t replace core stull-stack development workflows and toolchains. Luckily, the browser-as-operating-system continues to advance – and the increasing maturity of WebAssembly and new browser capabilities create new opportunities.
Enter StackBlitz, the first production-grade development environment that harnesses the power of the web. It is a beloved VSCode IDE in the browser that leverages your local machine resources in a “thick client” model: there is no container or VM. They're better than local.
StackBlitz automatically takes care of installing dependencies, compiling, bundling, and hot reloading as you type. You can instantly spin up an environment and build tools in milliseconds, significantly faster than you would on a local machine. StackBlitz works offline, and supports full stack Node.js toolchains. Every environment in StackBlitz is “live” on the web, previewable and shareable with a URL. To enable this magic, StackBlitz is powered by WebContainers, their emergent virtualization technology powered by WebAssembly that runs entirely within the browser security sandbox.
Earlier than expected, StackBlitz has also experienced strong enterprise inbound, including from Fortune 500 companies in financials services, healthcare, and tech. Even with only the limited beta release, enterprise customers see massive time savings per developer and improved developer onboarding, amounting to millions of dollars in ROI. We have experienced especially strong enthusiasm from teams trying to drive design systems adoption, those who want to use StackBlitz live environments for rapid prototyping and sharing, and those who want to improve their supply chain security posture.
Zooming out to why any of this matters: there is an insatiable appetite for software development, and yet it remains far too hard to code. Arming the builders of software is a mission we can get behind. Access to coding is access to economic mobility, and the web is the canvas for that access. Eric and Albert have an authentic, decade-long commitment to democratizing software development, dating back to their prior company Thinkster, a web developer education startup. They’re doing the work, and trying to move the entire ecosystem forward, and it shows.
The StackBlitz team is now 20 strong and I couldn’t be more excited for the major releases they have coming up, and their extension into production-grade workflows. Use StackBlitz for free, ask about StackBlitz enterprise, or join the team that’s finally bringing web development to the web.