API Economist: How long have you been developing code, and what was it that got you interested?
David Walsh: That's a good question. I was sitting in my keyboarding class freshman year of high school, and my friend nudged me. He said, "Hey, check out this website.” It was a GeoCities website about Pulp Fiction. I said, "Oh, man. Whose is that?" He replied, "It's mine." I was totally blown away that you didn't need to be this big genius developer to create even a basic web page. That summer I totally nerded out and learned everything I could. I think I was 14 years old then, and I've been in love with web development ever since. I spent a ton of time back then using view source to see how people did things, and 15 years later I'm doing the same thing every day. So that is basically how I got into web development.
API Economist: You have a massive following on your blog with over 30,000 RSS feeds and 15,000 Twitter followers. To what do you attribute that success?
David Walsh: I'm super passionate about what I write regarding web development as a whole, and I think that shows through with my blog. I have also put some effort into search engine optimization, which is also a big part of why people end up coming back. I've also met a lot of people in different parts of web development. I know people who work on the jQuery team, the Dojo team, and the MooTools team. Working for Mozilla allows me to go to conferences, meet a lot of people, and spread the word with other developers.
I like solving problems that I run into. It’s one of the big reasons I started the blog in the first place. When I had these problems I would go search on Google. It would take me forever to find the solution. I wanted to make that process easier because I knew I couldn't be the only person who was running into these problems. I would write about them to make it easier for developers to find the solution so they wouldn't have to go through the hell that I had to go through.
David Walsh: I will be the first person to tell you that I am not a designer. If I have an empty canvas, I'm just going to stare at it for a long time. But if I have something to work with, it's really easy to add little touches to make something better. As far as user experience goes, I'm one of those people that gets annoyed really easily with things that I feel should be implemented. For example, it bugs the hell out of me when a label element on a form doesn't have the pointer cursor because it's something that you're supposed to click. So it's little things like that that really annoy me and drive me to share my ideas about creating a better user experience. I think that's where that attention to detail comes from…being very annoyed with things that should be obvious.
API Economist: Where do you see HTML5 going?
API Economist: Where do you see platform providers such as iOS and Android going with support for HTML5?
API Economist: What makes a good API?
Extensibility and intuitive methods are the two things I really believe make a good API. It you have those two things, a community is going to rally around those ideas because your API is just so easy to use. If you have an API that's not easy to use and you need to keep going back to the documentation, even for things that you've already done, that's a really bad API.
API Economist: Open APIs are really taking off. Do you dabble with some of these open APIs?
David Walsh: Whenever I hear about a new API coming out, whether it was Twitter way back when, or the newer stuff, the first thing I do is check it out just to see how it works and see what I can build with it. These companies aren't dumb. They realize that if you create an API, not only are you marketing yourself out there, but you are making people rely on you as well. How many websites out there completely rely on the Twitter API and couldn't exist without it? Google has created these CDNs. Whether you want to believe it or not, these APIs are hooking you into their stuff. APIs are also a great form of marketing. If you open up an API and people create something off of it, more consumers down the road might use your product because they're excited about the site that uses your API.
API Economist: Do you believe the proliferation of open APIs and mobile app development are going to undermine the dominance of traditional web development?
David Walsh: It’s actually happening. Based on pure popularity, we're looking at things going more mobile than desktop in the future. But it really depends on the API usage and its purpose. The whole purpose of building these APIs is to be able to use them and use the information in as many places as possible. I wouldn't say that it would be a bad thing that it would overtake desktop. But I think it's a great extension in allowing us to build flexible apps for any device that we'd like.
API Economist: How has that changed the way you look at your web development? Are you optimizing for mobile environments?
David Walsh: For the longest time, the thought was always desktop first, and then mobile would be nice. It's gotten to the point where mobile is just as important, if not more important than desktop. Mobile devices have changed the landscape of development focus probably for the rest of time.
API Economist: Are you having to learn new skills and approaches, or is this just a natural extension of what you've already been doing?
David Walsh: It's a little of both actually. You have to be able to evolve into a mobile state of mind. Now you have to think about your web app in two orientations, whereas before we just needed the one desktop orientation. But with languages, a lot of apps are moving back to HTML5. We're able to use those skills that we've had all along. We just need to keep the different possibilities in mind when we create the app and when we use that language.
API Economist: As a Mozilla evangelist, what excites you most about where things are going,
David Walsh: It’s definitely Firefox OS. I just want to steer people toward Firefox OS because I think it's absolutely incredible how easy it is to create an app, how easy it is to debug. One of the worst things about iOS for me in the beginning was that you couldn't remotely debug well. But that's baked into Firefox OS from the launch, so it's easy to develop your web app. If there's one thing people should do today, they should take ten minutes out of their day and go the add-on site, download the Firefox OS simulator, install it, and just play around with it because it's incredible. It's so awesome, and I think that Firefox OS is going to be making big waves within the next year or so.
API Economist: You are active in open-source software contribution. What projects are you involved with?
It really all just boils down to what you're passionate about, and that passion is intangible. You can't force it, but if you really believe in something, you're going to spend the time to take the extra step to get more involved with it.
API Economist: What are some of your favorite mobile apps?
David Walsh: I use an iPhone and many of the social apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. I used to be obsessed with Words with Friends but now that app bombs out on my iPhone. I am going to call them out for that because it annoys me. I have an iPad and I usually use my iPad just for reading on business trips or playing games. And of course there is Netflix. It’s an amazing app and they do great work on basically anything that you want to use it with. I'll use Netflix on a business trip if I have sufficient Internet connectivity.
API Economist: David, thanks for your time!
David Walsh: It’s been a pleasure!