Yesterday the popular YouTuber, Brad Traversy, published his annual ‘Web Development Roadmap’ on YouTube. At the time of writing, just 20 hours have passed since the publication of his new roadmap and already his video has had over 44,000 views. This number will surely be considerably higher by the time you read this message. Whether we like it or not, Brad Traversy is huge on YouTube. What he says has massive weight and for PHP developers, yesterday’s video represents a new low for PHP.

I’d like to respond to Traversy’s roadmap. In this message, I’m going to discuss what his video says about the Traversy YouTube channel. In my next message, I’m going to discuss what Traversy’s roadmap says about the state of PHP and how the PHP community can pick up the pieces and move forward.

In Summary

Yesterday’s ‘Practical Guide’ (EDIT: did he just changed the title?) turned out to be a 90 minute advert for JavaScript. In previous roadmaps, Traversy has covered almost every relevant technology in the entire web development industry - plus a handful of upcoming technologies. His videos are usually presented in a manner that is even-handed and non-argumentative. This year, whilst Travery did give fleeting mentions to almost every web development technology known to humanity - he appears to be throwing all of his chips into the JavaScript basket. We’ve now reached a stage where I think we can rightfully describe Traversy as ‘JavaScript developer’. In previous videos, Traversy has described himself as ‘a developer who uses PHP and JavaScript’. This year was different. He has now nailed his colours to the JavaScript mast.

His entire video, which happens to have a longer run time than The Empire Strikes Back, was dominated by technologies that are centered around JavaScript and - more specifically - NodeJS. The amount of time that he dedicated to discussing PHP was 79 seconds.

Let that sink in.

For the technology that powers 80% of the web - Brad Traversy dedicates 79 seconds. That’s all you get, PHP developers! If you were expecting more then you’re out of luck.

Worse still is the very real possibility that he appears to have simply regurgitated text from the websites of the two PHP frameworks with the most GitHub stars - Laravel and Symfony.

Traversy on Laravel: “PHP is really messy but Laravel is really elegant”
Laravel on Laravel: “Laravel is a web application framework with expressive, elegant syntax.” (taken from the Laravel homepage, at the time of writing)

Traversy on Symfony: “Symfony is a set of reusable components”
Symfony on Symfony: “Symfony is a set of reusable components” (the headline on the Symfony homepage, at the time of writing)

It’s a wonder how many tens of thousands of PHP developers must have sat through a presentation over ninety minutes long - only to hear somebody essentially just reading headlines from a couple of frameworks’ websites. In fairness, he did quickly run through a list of features for those frameworks - but come on Brad, did I just sit through your entire video for this? Can you at least pretend you are making an effort or is that too much to ask?

From a PHP-centered perspective, the only spark of original thought from Traversy came when he said that he likes Slim - a micro PHP framework that, quite frankly, doesn’t really do much at all. By the way, here’s my Slim framework tutorial series on YouTube.. I know all about Slim. My Slim tutorial series has over 70,000 views on YouTube. Slim is bullschitt.

Let’s take a moment to clarify the obvious:

Brad Traversy is perfectly entitled to glorify or ignore anyone or any technology that he chooses. That’s his choice and we must respect his choice. His choice says nothing whatsoever about his skills as a developer, his charisma as a YouTuber or his integrity as a human being.

Having said that, I think it’s insensitive to dedicate 79 seconds to a technology that powers approximately 80% of the web (i.e., PHP). Moreover, I think Traversy’s roadmap displays how hopelessly out of touch Traversy is when it comes to the business of commercial web development. Personally speaking, I have been a professional developer since 1996. I have built apps for tiny companies and I have built apps for companies who are listed on the Dow Jones. When I was hired by a subsidiary of IBM, in 2008, they paid me to build a website that got them onto page one on Google for a phrase relating to database management. Search engine optimisation was their key requirement. With PHP, I achieved this in two months. If I had used a JavaScript based framework then they’d probably still be calling me - asking me why they aren’t on page one!

Any freelance commercial developer who has been exposed to the marketplace will tell you that over ninety percent of clients - regardless of their business size - have an expectation of high search engine ranking when they hire somebody to build for them. That’s reality. Whether we like it or not that is the nature of the marketplace. I'm not saying that you have to be a search engine optimisation expert to be a successful web developer. However, at the very least, you should be able to produce sites with fast loading source code that's readable by the search bots. Thereafter, it's perfectly normal for the developer to step aside and let the real SEO experts step in.

In that regard, PHP wins. That’s because PHP delivers fast page loads, search engine friendly source code and massive levels of convenience that you will not find in any other web technology. If you are planning on starting a web development agency, please use one of the modern JavaScript frameworks. In doing so, you’ll ensure that developers who use PHP continue to dominate the marketplace. I don’t want competition!

In the past, I have drifted to the world of JavaScript. For a while, I considered myself an Angular developer. However, aggressive rewrite culture from the Angular team, coupled with the steely cold realisation that Google ranks JavaScript based websites poorly soon encouraged me to switch back to PHP.

What many developers should find disturbing about Traversy's video is the thought that frameworks for technologies like; PHP, Python, Java, Ruby, ASP.NET and others have now been relegated to the status of 'back-end frameworks'. This shows a complete disregard for the fact that dozens of web development frameworks include front-end solutions - complete with JavaScript, CSS and even entire admin panels! For example, as the creator of Trongate, I can tell you that I don't think of Trongate in terms of 'back-end framework'. To me, Trongate is a 'web development framework'. Sometimes I'll use the term 'PHP framework'. What's all this 'backend' crap? Are you going to relegate my life's work based on an irrelevant technicality to do with hosting?

I’m not going to say that Brad Traversy’s YouTube channel is in decline. That’s not for me to say and - very obviously - I have no clue about how to build a successful YouTube channel. However, I think Brad Traversy is in grave danger of having his channel relegated to ‘Stef Mischook Status’.

What is ‘Stef Mischook Status’?

Stef Mischook is a web developer from Canada with an incredibly popular and growing YouTube channel. He is a very good, talented and experienced developer. He also happens to be a really nice guy. In the past, Mischook has been good enough to host an episode of my DC Radio Network podcast. I’ve spoken with him privately on a few occasions. He’s cool. I like him!

However, in recent years, his YouTube channel has begun targeting - what some might call - low hanging fruit. Over time, his YouTube videos have become increasingly irrelevant for experienced developers and more targeted towards people who are considering having a go at being a developer. “Is X too old to learn web development” (replace ‘X’ with any random number over 30) and “programming language X vs programming language Y” are two recurring themes in his channel.

That type of content, whilst good for subscriber counts and YouTube views, is irrelevant for anyone who happens to have more than two weeks worth of experience in the field of web development. Like Traversy, Stef Mischook is a good developer. His abilities as a developer are not in question, nor is his integrity. However, whilst Stef Mischook is perfectly capable of discussing the deepest and most intricate inner workings of web development, he chooses to go after low hanging fruit. It’s a strategy that clearly works for him - giving his growing subscriber count.

Unfortunately, however, whilst Stef Mischook is liked and appreciated as a developer, it’s a struggle to find any motivation for a developer to tune in and listen to what he has to say. Quite simply, there’s nothing original, thought provoking or even remotely educational - for the experienced developer. Having said that, let’s never make the mistake of judging Stef Mischook in a negative light, simply because he chooses a YouTube promotional strategy that effectively ignores beginner, intermediate and experienced developers. He’s still cool.

I think Brad Traversy’s channel is now crossing into that kind of territory. When we get to the stage where content is just being read from a website and where nothing original, relevant or contrarian whatsoever is being said then it’s time for the real developers to move on.

Originally, I was going to include the year ‘2022’ in the title of this article. I was planning on doing so in anticipation of there being additional responses to future Traversy roadmaps. I have decided not to do so. I made this decision not out of any kind of bad intention but simply because - for me - there’s no longer anything Traversy has to say that is interesting.

Join me next time, where I’ll be discussing what Traversy's roadmap says about the state of PHP.


This concludes Part 1. Join me for Part 2, where I'll be discussing what Traversy's video says about the state of PHP