Why dependencies are useful?

  • Quick prototyping
  • Bugs are someone else’s concern
  • Reverse engineering is someone else’s concern
  • Complicated algorithms and cryptography are someone else’s concern
  • Security-critical code testing is someone else’s concern

Why dependencies are problematic?

  • Balooning build times
  • Balooning build graph (hence tools slow down)
  • Someone else’s ideas of interfaces
  • Someone else’s ideas how to structure programs
  • Someone else’s ideas about build and code generation
  • Someone else’s bugs, and the authors of dependencies have their own priorities for bugfixing
  • Someone else’s release and deprecation schedules
  • Conflicts due to transitive dependencies

Useful dependencies

  • Algorithmics, such as cryptography and compression
  • Stable interfaces for unstable external systems (scraping, unstable APIs etc)
  • Parsing, including basic network protocols: JSON, HTTP, XML et al.

By and large, less often a dependency changes (without accumulating known bugs) the more potentially useful it is.

Harmful dependencies

  • Trivial wrappers around REST APIs
  • Opinionated clients, libraries, helpers
  • Abstractions over stable interfaces, especially unstable abstractions

An experience of dependectomy in a medium-scale Go project (~300 kLOC)

  • Removing dependency does not make the code longer. Majority of removals made the code shorter.
  • Build (especially link stage) becomes significantly faster.
  • Linting becomes significantly faster.
  • Non-REST protocols are painful but doable (small subset of Mongo protocol and Protobuf can be written in several hours, though it’s definitely not production-grade. The project tries to avoid these protocols in production).