Trulia taking on its technical debt

January 7, 2019
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A common problem that software developers are aware of, is a cluttered code base as a result of aging code and work arounds stacked on work arounds to keep the code up to par. This technical debt is becoming increasingly more difficult to get around to still use this kind of code, and this is almost impossible to avoid. Acknowledging this is Trulia, who has dealt with this very issue back in 2017, and has thus began the process of paying down that debt and modernizing the technology.

Trulia  is a real estate site founded way back in 2005, an eternity ago in terms of technology. The company went public in 2012 and was acquired by Zillow in 2014 for $3.5 billion, but has continued to operate as an independent brand under the Zillow umbrella. It understood that a lot had changed technologically in the 12 years since its inception when engineering began thinking about this. The team knew it had a humongous, monolithic code base that was inhibiting the ability to update the site.

While they tried to pull out some of the newer functions as services, it didn’t really make the site any more nimble because these services always had to tie back into that monolithic central code base. The development team knew if it was to escape this coding trap, it would take a complete overhaul.

Brainstorming broad change

As you would expect, a process like this doesn’t happen overnight, taking months to plan and implement. It all started back in 2017 when the company held what they called an “Innovation Week” with the entire engineering team. Groups of engineers came up with ideas about how to solve this problem, but the one that got the most attention was one called Project Islands, which involved breaking out the different pieces of the site as individual coding islands that could operate independently of one another.

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