Epic Web Conf '24 Speakers

Sunil Pai

Founder, PartyKit

Talks

  • Thursday, 11:55 AM12:00 PM
    The realtime web is epic
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Bio

Sunil Pai is Founder and CEO of PartyKit, a London based startup for building realtime, collaborative applications. He plays a blue Les Paul.

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Interview

Hello, everybody. I'm so excited to be joined by one of my closest friends, Sunil Pai. Say hi, Sunil. Hi, Sunil. That's perfect. That's perfect. It's so good to see you. So, I just want everybody to get

to know Sunil because he's just a fabulous person. So, why don't you give us an introduction to yourself? What are you into? What are you doing? Hi, my name is Sunil Pai. I'm the creator of something called PartyKit, which is a platform

and libraries for building real-time applications. So, WebSockets, local first apps, things that push bytes at you instead of you having to pull stuff. People build games with it. They build real-time UIs. They build AI agent apps. They build a bunch of fun stuff. And that's

what I've been focusing on for the last year. Awesome. Now, why don't you tell us a little bit about your history too? Where were you before? What are the things that gave you the experience so that you could launch something so cool as PartyKit? We'll talk more about PartyKit too.

Sure. Before PartyKit, I spent a year building developer tooling and the CLI at CloudFlare, which is a very cool company which has very cool tech. And I helped build their CLI for them, which is how I learned how cool the tech is and that I wanted to build a company

on top of it. Previous to that, I spent a year in the React.js core team. I'm the one person nobody ever talks about because, well, they just don't because I didn't do much during my time. They talk about one of the things that you did, mostly cursing it.

That's right. There's a testing API that pisses people off. That's right. I spent some time in Oculus building massively multiplayer, real-time React apps. That was easily the most sci-fi job of my life. I've done a bunch of other things. I've worked in e-commerce.

I've worked in government. I built a CSS and JS library. A bunch of people liked it. A bunch of people hated me for it. So that was also a fun time. And that's all led me to building what I think is part of the next phase of interesting applications on the web. That's why I'm focused on PartyKit now.

Yeah. Fantastic. So I use PartyKit and I love it. So anybody who has gone through Epic Web workshops, you'll see the little face pile in the corner when you've got the navigation

open. And that is all powered by PartyKit. Couldn't be easier, honestly. So, so good. PartyKit is more than just real-time as well. We can server render that face pile because we can make just a regular old request to the PartyKit server. So it's a very powerful,

flexible system that you've put together. And lots of exciting things too. One thing that I'm excited to get my hands into is the AI-related stuff that Cloudflare has offered and PartyKit kind of exposes as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Yeah. It turns out that when you put these magical big matrices of numbers on the edge and you run questions through them, you can start talking to robots on the edge, which is very cool. In general, you can build like very cool chat, GPT-type experiences.

But the moment you connect it to something like PartyKit, you can build a lot more interesting stuff because the AI can talk to you without you talking to it first. You can build AI games, things that proactively react to things that you do. You can have it just listening to the

things that you're doing while writing a document and occasionally pop up and maybe do a fact check or a tone check for you. Maybe it can rewrite some stuff while you're writing it. Very interesting to see AI in a real-time use case. So I'm quite excited with that.

And then you add stuff like audio and video in real-time with PartyKit, and you can build truly novel experiences. And what I really like about PartyKit is not that it hides complexity, but it's actually truly a novel primitive for building things. We have junior developers who

build crazy real-time games, and they're like, wow, that didn't take a lot of time after all. In fact, I remember the first version of the face file for Epic Web, we did over a weekend or a couple of phone calls, which is like, hey, we should just build this. Here's the thing. Here's the thing. And then you took it and ran with it despite never having written any PartyKit code

before. I think that's really special. There's something special about PartyKit, which is, well, I'm biased, of course. But yeah, it becomes interesting once you start adding streaming services like LLMs and databases and other human beings and you see what happens in

the middle. So I'm quite excited to explore that. Yeah, yeah. I've heard it a lot that it's best to treat an AI as just another client that is connecting to your application. And so real-time

being a very obvious way to think about that. And you're just doing multiplayer. It just so happens that one of the players is a robot. And you can do some pretty interesting things with

that. Going way beyond just the chatbot stuff, what I'm really looking forward to is people applying AI to more than just like, oh, here's a chat for our docs. But I don't know. I feel like

there's just more that we can do. ChatGPT has got chat. Let's just let them do the chat thing. That's fine. I feel like we can do more with stuff. And so eventually, I do expect that I will dabble more in AI. And PartyKit is one of the top things on my list for ways to explore that

in a practical setting. I would love that. We are going to be spending a lot of time now figuring out what the experience around doing exactly what you say is. And I'm looking forward to seeing what people build with it. Yeah, that's awesome. And doing that from the edge, we could go on. It's really cool stuff.

This would be a whole podcast if we tried, yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So Sunil, what are you planning on talking about at the Epic Web Conf? It will be in the same area. Of course, I'll talk a little bit about PartyKit,

but really, I want to impress building real-time apps over the last 15 years have been the purview of only multi-billion dollar companies because the infrastructure has otherwise been super expensive.

You needed distributed systems experts and people to maintain it. The physics of it have changed. And the requirements of how people, what people want from applications have changed. Whether you use PartyKit or another provider, I think what I want to impress on people is

how simple it is to get started. The wild new world of new types of applications that you can really build and really how you can make the web a little more epic if you try. So I'm excited to find out. Yeah, awesome. I'm looking forward to that as well. It's going to be a lightning talk,

so punchy, very fast. Keep your eyes open. Don't blink. Honestly, it's good. So I don't have to spend 10 minutes talking about my life story. I'll just say, okay, fine. Here we go. Perfect. Yeah, yeah. Feel free to take pictures, but post them later because if you try to post them while he's talking, it'll be over. So it is going to be very

good. I'm looking forward to that. I always enjoy your talks and your demos and the mad scientist stuff that you're doing just to inspire us to do cool things. So I'm excited to have you on stage there. Another thing I'm looking forward to is I love Salt Lake City. I've

been there twice, but this time I want to find someone to feed me funeral potatoes, which I hear are great. Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah. We'll get you. I'll have to think about that. We can maybe do that for dinner. We'll do funeral potatoes. Just the regular Utah cuisine. Yeah. All right. I'll keep that in mind.

That's what I want. Okay. Very good. Cool. So while we're at the conference, we're going to have a bunch of people. It's a single track, and so everybody's in all the talks and everything, and then we take extended breaks.

That's a big part of this conference is just to give people opportunities to rub shoulders with each other and get to know each other and stuff. What are the sorts of things that you're excited to talk with people about in that hallway track?

What I really like about something like the Epic Stack and the Epic Web Community coming together is that it's a mixture of people from across the industry, across industries and domains, as well as different levels of experience from junior to very senior. I mean, we all learn from

that. I've learned that you get extremely high quality conversations by actually doing that. You'd think that it would be the opposite, but really you learn from a breadth of people and seeing how it applies to a common context. So really, I think I just want to see what everyone

is learning, what they've learned, what kind of things they're building. That's always my favorite part of conversations at these conferences. And mostly, I'm looking forward to meeting my friends again. It's been a while. That's what I'm looking forward to. Yeah. Well, life is better with friends, right? So that's-

Everything is better with friends. Yes, everything is. Well, awesome. I'm excited to see you in Park City, Utah, April 11th for Epic Web Conf. And I hope that the folks who are watching now are excited to meet you as well. So yeah, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today,

Sunil. And we'll see you in April. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks, Kent. Okay. Bye, everybody.

See you at the Epic Web Conf!

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