If you've ever spent enough time on Facebook - and I'm sure that's a bunch of you - you'll notice the scrolling feed that shows what your friends are doing. Note that there's never any need to refresh your page. A relatively new type of software development allows pages to update in real time, creating a richer, seamless experience.
The way software is being built is undergoing a dramatic shift. For the more sophisticated and up-to-date websites, refreshing is old school. Today's users increasingly expect non-static interfaces. They're a lot like my kids: they think everything is responsive, automatic, swipable and maleable.
Capitalizing on this change is Meteor, a platform for developers to build software applications in this new way. The San Francisco-based startup announced Tuesday that it's raised $11.2 million in a Series A round of financing, led by Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners.
"The way we’re writing software is changing," said Matt DeBergalis, co-founder and CEO, of Meteor, in an interview. "There’s a growing shift in the way software is being developed. What’s driving this shift is a move from running applications from Web servers (large servers distant from the user) to having the applications right in front of the user, either inside the browser on your desktop, or a mobile application.
"We [the entire industry] are replacing the foundation of how modern software works... It’s the 15-year cycle of software [playing out]."
The advantage of this type of development is that updates can happen in real time. Facebook, Google and Twitter use this software technique, but for many developers, building this type of system takes months for a team of developers, DeBergalis said.
"Building this technology that underlies the interface is challenging," he said. Take for instance one million people interacting with an app. When someone "likes" a photo, the technology has to find all the other screens that are looking at that same photo for that "like" to appear. "The text to do this type of action requires more advanced computer science when you’re talking about a million people using this app," said DeBergalis.
"Developers can spend months just writing this code," he said. “It’s tough to build from scratch. At best it takes a long time and at worse, you don’t build it and your app doesn’t have that smooth buttery feel.”
The Meteor platform, which is a software development kit that developers download, is open source, allowing any developer to interact with it. At the moment, developers are already working with an early alpha. Meteor was also one of the most watched open sourced project on GitHub, said DeBergalis.
As larger enterprises adopt this way of building applications, they will also need additional tools, such as disaster recovery or audits, which Meteor can provide and charge for, DeBergalis explained.