From the arena to the Summit

Phew. Chrome Dev Summit 2016 is over, and some of the team decompressed with the ancient art of medi^H^H^H^Hgo karting. You will be happy to know that the emcees of the event, Jake and Paul, ended strong by being winners on the track as well as the stage.

It was one hell of a week. With the turmoil of the US elections as a backdrop I didn’t know how things would go. Would people show up and be willing to talk about technology and the Web with other huge issues on their minds?

With the event being free, you never quite know about the turn out since many sign up and are then not able to make it. When the first day came around I was shocked to see a record turn-out. As I talked to developers many of them told me that they needed to talk to like minded people, or needed distraction, or wanted to focus on something within their control. It was emotional talking to people as they were processing what the future holds. I can’t tell you how often I heard people repeat: “Ok, I need a break and need to talk about something else”, only to end up with a bridge back to what was looming on their minds.


Jake and Paul knew that the show must go on, and they brought great banter to the entire event, which was very much needed. The Big Web Quiz that threaded throughout the event was not only engaging for the crowd, but was also a great example of what a great mobile experience is all about. The fluidity of the desktop and mobile experiences are exactly what you need. The big screen required an expansive layout. The players were mostly on mobile, but plenty were also on desktop. The motion and use of sound made it all come together, and all at the end of a URL. Batteries included.


Darin setup the whole show by showing us how far we have come in the last year and Thao jumped in to tell us about the new PWAs that have launched all over the world, and the impact they are having.

As you read about the new web apps from Lyft, The Weather Channel, Housing.com, Alibaba, Carnival Cruise Lines, Nasa, and more you see patterns:

  • commerce companies seeing massive conversion gains (e.g. 76% from Alibaba!)
  • engagement metrics going up (e.g. 42% bump from push for Carnival)
  • massive drop in size (e.g. Lyft’s PWA is under 1MB compared to their 17MB Android app and 70MB iOS app)
  • user acquisition costs changing the economics (e.g. Housing.com going from $3.75 to $0.07 per user)

We quickly saw that the Web is getting more capable, predictable and more tooling is becoming available.


Alex Russell has been leading the charge by telling the story of performance on mobile devices and just how poor it is and he stepped up again here.

We collectively need to be doing more, but we are also starting to see more examples of how this is working. We saw talks that gave data, insights, and actionable advice from Sam, Addy, and Seth.


There was some chatter on Twitter about Alex’s talk, and that brings me to the subject of the title of this post. I needed a social media detox from politics so I disengaged. One side effect was I was then present and able to fully engage with the other humans sharing the same physical space with me at the event.

One of the people I got to meet was Rachel, and what she says above really resonates. When we engage in the arena that is Twitter and other online spaces, we can often be different. The medium doesn’t let us express ourselves perfectly and we can’t use communication, eye contact and body language. You may read something from me at a later time with different context. It is far from ideal. There is also other psychological aspects that we may not be fully self conscious of. When you are in the arena others are watching and you know they are. What you say sticks around. Your persona thus ends up being quite different. You can imagine this in politics too. In a quite room a democrat and a republican can sit, discuss, and hopefully compromise. In the public eye though there are ramifications (THEY WANT TO GET REELECTED) so they act a certain way. It sucks.

I loved looking around at a break to see browser vendors, framework authors, and web developers all chatting and learning from each other. We need more summits. We need more opportunities to come together outside of the arena. We need a base of facts that we can agree on and then we can discuss how to interpret them and decide what paths to go down next.


I loved talking to everyone that I got to catch up with at the event. Thanks for taking the time. I know that many were sacrificing by being away from their families, including many of my team mates and I thank you.

When I heard that from a developer I smiled. We are getting there together, and with all that has gone on last week we certainly know that the importance of an open, decentralized, and distributed ecosystem has only increased.

I look forward to seeing you at other events, and definitely look forward to seeing you at the next Summit. Please let me know if we can help in any way!

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