Are Browser Vendors Doing Enough to Document Web APIs ?

News

In August 2020, Mozilla laid off around 250 employees citing financial reasons caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a big news, and there was a big outcry.

Apart from concerns regarding future of the Firefox browser, sympathy for laid off employees & general public anger, there was one big concern among web developers — what will happen to MDN docs ?

The concern by web developers is genuine. MDN docs is the only place where Web APIs are properly documented, along with the latest browser compatibility data. In short — there is only a single provider in the market, and now the provider is uncertain on providing future updates. Now where will web developers find trust-able information ? To be trusted, it should come straight from the browser makers. Even books cannot do justice because browser APIs are changing so rapidly.

MDN docs are a great resource, brought forward by Firefox. Don't other browsers vendors have something similar ?

Google Chrome

It was Google who gave a nitro-boost to browser development. From showing the possibilities of AJAX in early 2000's to connecting browser & hardware in 2020, Google is just amazing.

However there is no browser API documentation given by Google. It gives some updates and resources at Web Updates. There are good articles on web.dev. However they are not a complete and connected resource, rather in bits and pieces.

Microsoft Edge

Sparse API documentation can sometimes be found on MSDN. There are some resources on Microsoft Edge Docs. Updates and articles are occasionally posted on the Microsoft Edge blog. Again — it is all in bits and pieces, not connected.

Safari

Few articles and updates are posted on the Webkit blog each month. But nothing more.

Good Documentation Helps

Since the last 5-7 years, web development has gone quite smooth. It is because of less browser compatibility issues, and availability of good documentation on the internet.

Demand for browser APIs documentation was mostly fulfilled by MDN Docs. Developers used to read documentation from MDN with a 100% trust, and then implement their applications on various browsers. MDN was this important.

In last few years there has been an increase in articles coming up on different web development blogs & sites. Technical writers first learn from a trusted resource, and then write. If the trusted resource goes away, how will they learn ? How will they write ? If they don't write, how will other developers learn ?

It is very important for other browser vendors to create their own MDN like resource. Otherwise web development will suffer. If web development suffers, it is a loss for them too.

September 24, 2020

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