Now that the dust has settled after the inaugural Magento Live Europe conference in Barcelona, it’s a good time to recapitulate a smaller but evenly important event that happened just before in Eindhoven, the Netherlands: Reacticon v2
What is Reacticon?
A conference for developers, about next generation frontend technologies in Magento. As the name suggests, it evolves around React.js, which is used by Magentos upcoming PWA Studio and also by some third party alternatives. The conference also aims to bring together represantatives of those current PWA (Progressive Web App) solutions, not only with React.js. The first Reacticon took place in March 2018 (read more), was restricted to 120 people and sold out quickly. Now a lot has happened in the area during the last months and all the solutions start to mature, so it was time for a second edition.
There were 182 attendees from all over Europe and the US. Magento sent their decision makers in the area, product manager Eric Erway, lead architect Anton Kril, frontend architect Andrew Levine and PWA architect James Zetlen, albeit remotely. Not to forget, the omnipresent evangelist Ben Marks. We as integer_net sponsored again and were present with 5 people.
The venue and organization was certainly more professional than last time (which also had its charme!) but did not lose the spirit of spontaneity, it was still unique and adventurous. For example, speakers and topics were announced, but without fixed timeline and without detailed descriptions. Organizer Jisse Reitsma tried to make it a bit more like an unconference with audience participation and much room for Q&A.
The sessions took place in a modern and super comfortable lecture hall in the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven.
Party in the Deity Office
Deity, one of the sponsors and providers of PWA frontends for Magento, hosted the aftershow party in their new headquarters. Fun fact: they have a shipping container in the middle of their office that contains an own barbershop.
— Maria Kern (@maja_kern) 5. Oktober 2018
On Wednesday, the day before the conference, there was already an inofficial gathering at their place. Coincidentally, the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, dined in the same building that day. We managed to grab him for a photo
We are very honoured we had the oppertunity to meet our prime minister mister Mark Rutte yesterday! Our open source launch couldn’t have started any better! 🤩🚀 #reacticon #opensource #proud pic.twitter.com/13HmqC8qUL
— DEITY (@DEITY_pwa) 4. Oktober 2018
But that’s not all. The crazy folks of Deity had prepared a konfetti cannon with a big red button for the launch of their open source product and planned to make the prime minister press that button. Guess what, they successfully headed him off and he even pressed the red button! If not only someone had plugged in the cable the wrong way up… no konfetti! So there we were, a big moment with the head of state, and nothing happened. Let’s hope this is not a bad omen!
News and Announcements
Reacticon v2 was going to be a day of announcements.
#reacticon sounds like a great event. Was there any speaker on stage that didn’t announce or launch something?
— Fooman (@foomanNZ) 4. Oktober 2018
I already mentioned the open source release of Deity that had been announced for a long time. The announcement was a bit different than one would have expected, though. Instead of open sourcing their existing solution which was born out of project implementations at the agency Hatimeria, they released Deity Falcon, a complete rewrite and real modular framework. It is available on Github at https://github.com/deity-io/falcon, not yet feature-complete, but stable architecture-wise. The team is working full time on porting the remaining features to Falcon and expects to be done within a month.
Magento itself released a “2.0.0-alpha” version of PWA Studio with a new element in the toolbox, called UPWARD.
Unified Progressive Web App Response Definitions are simple files describing how a web server delivers and supports a Progressive Web Application. They denote server behavior in a platform-independent way, so that a PWA client application expecting certain behavior from HTTP endpoints can be deployed on any type of tech stack that implements the UPWARD specification.
So, UPWARD is a generic specification and Magento provides a reference implentation in node.js. Magento followed the example of Deity and FrontCommerce with that node.js middleware and does not couple the frontend directly to the Magento API anymore, neither lets Magento generate the app shell.
VueStorefront also had an announcement, namely that they are working on a 2.0 version with new architecture, probably coming in the beginning of 2019. They also go a more decoupled approach now, with node.js middleware and abstractions for the backend services. But they will try to keep it mostly backwards compatible.
Some other announcements were made that are not directly related to the PWA solutions, but nonetheless interesting:
- Bartek Igielski from Snowdog (and VueStorefront core team) released a component based design system called Alpaca, together with a theme for Magento 2:
- Andrew Levine has been removed from the PWA team to give some love to the legacy knockout.js frontend regarding optimization and developer experience. He presented his current work on replacing require.js in favor of webpack
Some love for the existing #Magento2 frontend: @drewml is working on replacing RequireJS with Webpack. This has the potential to improve frontend performance a lot. #reacticon pic.twitter.com/D5g9DYxnVH
— Andreas von Studnitz (@avstudnitz) 4. Oktober 2018
- FrontCommerce has released a “light” version as open source, not to be meant for production but to try it out and get an impression of the code base without having to sign a contract or buy a license first.
- Magento has moved architectural discussions out in the public at https://github.com/magento/architecture (and later also their internal backlog at https://github.com/magento/backlog)
The first session was paying hommage to the original idea that has later turned into Reacticon, namely “Coffee with James Zetlen”. It was intended to be a casual discussion over coffee to learn about the current state of frontend. Now Reacticon v2 should make up for it and the first session was an actual conversation at a coffee table on stage. James Zetlen was excused, but Eric Erway was a proper replacement.
Besides of all the announcements and presentations, I found three talks particularly interesting:
- Mārtiņš Saukums on integrationg Vue components in the current Magento knockout frontend. We are currently doing something similar and integrate React.js components (or mini apps) inside the existing Magento frontend, so it was nice to see how others are approaching this.
- Bartek Igielski presented not only his Alpaca components, but also Storybook, a tool for interactive component documentation.
The day after the conference, a hackathon allowed all participants to get their hands on all these technologies, together with their creators. Unfortunately I could not attend myself, so I’ll let others speak:
— Piotr Ryszewski (@Piorys) 5. Oktober 2018
— Pierre Martin (@pierremartin) 6. Oktober 2018
Building upon each other instead of working against each other. Isn’t that great?
Summary and Outlook
– M2 themes => M2 Venia, @GravityDept Acumen
— Enno Stuurman (@frontenno_nl) 6. Oktober 2018
As far as I see it, 2019 will be the year of matured PWA solutions for ecommerce, and now is a good time to start getting familiar with them. FrontCommerce is already the most mature solution, it’s at the front, so to say. Deity, Vue Storefront and Magento PWA Studio make great progress, reinvented themselves after early experiments and come out more stable and mature.
It’s interesting to see that Vue Storefront with version 2.0 as well as PWA studio with UPWARD follow the footsteps of the closed source pionieers FrontCommerce and Deity (with their first product “Deity Core”) in terms of decoupled middleware architecture. This seems to be the way to go and to me it makes perfect sense.
Author: Fabian Schmengler
Fabian Schmengler is Magento developer and trainer at integer_net. His focus lies in backend development, conceptual design and test automation.
Fabian was selected repeatedly as a Magento Master in 2018 based on speaking engagements, active participation on StackExchange and contributions to the Magento 2 core.