The decline of CSS Tricks

It is sad to see that CSS Tricks is in a steady decline.

Recently, Geoff Graham lost his job. Geoff was the editor of CSS Tricks for as long as I have been a reader - according to Geoff his tenure was 8 years. It was an abrupt end. In Geoff’s own words:

I woke up yesterday to the news that DigitalOcean has cut a bunch of jobs from the payroll. It sounds like a pretty big wave, and yes, my job was lopped off with it.

Thankfully, Geoff was not left in a tough spot as he has other jobs on the go:

This is my first rodeo with sweeping layoffs… or even losing a job. I always expected I’d feel devastated if something like this were to ever happen, but I’ve gotta admit it’s all good. Anyone who knows me well knows that I never have one job, but many eggs in a number of baskets. That might be influencing my feelings a wee smidge. I realize not everyone is in the same boat.

Why is Digital Ocean laying people off?

It is endemic to business now that if there is economic slowdown, heads can roll to cut costs and keep profits up. You can set your watch by it in some regions.

Digital Ocean acquired CSS Tricks in March of last year, presumably as a marketing move to increase its visibility to frontend developers. Digital Ocean announced on Feb 15th that they were laying off about 11 percent of employees, even though revenue is growing.

DigitalOcean, in its fiscal 2022 Q4 financial filing, said it recorded $163 million in sales, up 36 percent year-on-year, during those final three months. The quarter ended with a $10 million loss, though, but better than the $12 million a year-ago.

They are amongst other tech companies implementing layoffs this month including Wix, Twilio, and Udemy.

In a comment on Hacker News, DigitalOcean co-founder Moisey Uretsky said the following on layoffs:

As unfortunate as the layoffs are, they were really due to two CEO changes in the past 18 months and leadership changes that created competing directions in the business, which Yancey [Spruill] our new CEO, is now addressing.

We are not running out of money, nor do we have an immediate need to raise capital, and the layoffs aren’t related to any sort of ‘cost-cutting’

It is not cost-cutting - it is a change in direction? 😵‍💫

They actually are not a profitable business. Back to Moisey to field that one:

We are running at a modest loss now, which is OK because we are growing and also because whenever you launch a new product or feature the up-front costs are much higher to get the initial product built and there is no revenue contribution from it until it’s launched and has ramped up.

But even so we did manage a completely net profitable year in our history in 2017, which I’m very proud of, and have been at a slight loss in other years. We still have plenty of our Series B raise in our bank account.

Hey, we had a profitable year once, in 2017! 😡

And the good news is that they have plenty of cash in the bank and the stock price (DOCN) rose since the layoffs on Feb 15th! 😶‍🌫️

stock price of digital ocean from december 2022 to march 2023

The Register goes on to say this about the Digital Oceans plans:

In a presentation to staff, led by CEO Yancey Spruill, DigitalOcean management said about half the company’s staff are based outside the US and about 70 percent of revenue comes from abroad. Consequently, the IT rental biz intends to prioritize global hiring in places like Pakistan and Mexico where relevant talent is available, and works for low wages compared to folks in some other nations.

Ouch! 🤕 How long before they hire again?

Geoff alluded to this in his article by sharing a picture of an auto-reply email from a Digital Ocean colleague, which had a “We’re hiring” link in the signature. Business can be brutal. 💔

The decline of CSS Tricks

When DigitalOcean acquired CSS Tricks last year, there was a small transition period where Chris Coyier helped to hand-over the reins, and then he stepped away. From the content side, CSS Tricks was a 3-person team of: Chris, Geoff, and Robin Rendle. Robin also left shortly after the acquisition.

Geoff was the final link to the old establishment. If you have read any of Geoff’s articles, or had him edit one of yours, it is hard not to be infused with his enthusiasm and curiosity for all things web development. He had a significant imprint on a lot of what CSS Tricks produced.

Throughout the years, CSS Tricks has had lots of articles contributed by guest writers. If people continue to contribute, then maybe CSS Tricks can weather the storm and remain a source of education and inspiration for the frontend community.

I have written a couple of articles for CSS Tricks, a couple being two! At the beginning of January, I was conscious that it has been a while since I contributed something. I thought “Maybe, I should get into the habit of offering some articles to CSS Tricks again”. So, I submitted a proposal for an article on January 6th, I still have not heard back nearly 2 months later. In the past, I have heard back quicker than that.

In September of last year, Digital Ocean announced that they would be migrating the content of the website to their homespun CMS, and shared a proposed redesign of the website. This has not been completed yet, but is meant to be done in the first half of this year.

The frequency of publication has slowed down, Geoff mentioned that 390 articles were published in 2022, down from 890 in 2021. This downward trend is continuing into 2023, just 19 articles have been published so far this year.

Final thoughts

I hope that CSS Tricks can carry on and can retain the same spirit. The signs do not look promising.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Geoff for the positive contributions he has made to web development. 🙏