Workplace

Dracula: The dark mode color scheme with a cult following of coders

Light is the real productivity suck.

Screenshot of Dracula theme code editor

Dracula, founded by Zeno Rocha in 2013, aims to boost productivity by creating a unified color theme experience.

Halloween may be over, but a tight-knit community of coders is chatting in a Discord server with the name of a famous vampire: Dracula. Except they're not talking about Dracula, the vampire. They're talking about Dracula, the color scheme that has slowly taken the coding world by storm.

Dracula, a dark-mode color theme aimed initially at programmers, comes from the brain of Zeno Rocha. The VP of Developer Experience at WorkOS promotes and works on Dracula in his spare time, and has built a loyal following since Dracula's inception in 2013. Dracula's story began when Rocha landed in the hospital with pancreatitis after speaking at a conference in Germany. After his laptop was stolen from his room, Rocha's coworkers graciously brought him a new one, and the programmer began the annoying process of installing all his applications and choosing their color themes.

"I installed my code editor, I installed my terminal. I started installing everything. But I wanted a unified experience across all the apps that I use," Rocha said. "I was like, I'm gonna create a theme for me."

Rocha started with the basics: terminal, code editor and browser. He incorporated the same colors for all three, thinking about his personal preferences as a programmer. He liked dark mode, for sure, and preferred certain accent colors. Purple for numbers, orange for arguments and so on. He posted the open source code on Twitter, and let the internet do its thing. Over the years, the project took off, with coders sharing news of Dracula through word of mouth and contributing to its growth on GitHub.

Now the scheme is available on 218 apps. Its theme for Visual Studio Code has been downloaded by 2.9 million users. Though programmers and designers are the main audience, Dracula's on other kinds of apps too. You can use Dracula on chatting apps like Slack or Discord, or on a music editing app like Renoise.

Rocha noticed Dracula accumulating fans throughout the years, but he says its power didn't fully hit him until someone approached him in late 2019 about building a keyboard with Dracula colors. "I didn't charge anything; for me this was an open-source project. And then, it sold like crazy," Rocha said. The keyboard plus the popularity of dark mode on iOS led to the classic "hm, I guess I can make money with this" entrepreneurial moment.

Dracula PRO launched in February 2020, and is a one-off $79 purchase catered to developers. This time, Rocha dove deep into color theory research to ensure maximum aesthetic and productivity. He turned to the man, myth and legend Isaac Newton, an important figure in color theory. We have different ways of representing colors digitally, including RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and hexadecimal color codes. Rocha went with the HSL (hue, saturation and light) approach, building more color themes with names like "Buffy" and "Blade."

"It's just something I never imagined, you know? Why would people buy colors for their tools?" Rocha said. "I never thought someone could monetize colors, I'd never seen it before. But I realized it's much more thoughtful, it's about being more productive."

As for the spooky name and marketing — Rocha's a scary movie fan. The Dracula name also supplies him with a witty comeback whenever someone asks him to build a light mode version. "Dracula can't stand the light," he says. Imposing his own boundaries and limitations on Dracula is essential to Rocha; it's how he keeps the project special. And it's part of what draws people to Dracula in the first place, other than the color scheme looking cool and being easy on the eyes.

"I'm a big fan of Zeno; I like his aesthetic," said John William Davis, a software developer based in Seattle. "It's like any painter or filmmaker; sometimes you just connect with their aesthetic."

Raul Peña, an engineer based in Texas, said the Dracula community is very supportive. People are remarkably responsive in the Discord server, he said. Dracula's used across 121 countries, spanning quite a few time zones. Both Davis and Peña transitioned into coding careers relatively recently, so Dracula has been a godsend to them as they delve deeper into the programming world. "It makes productivity much nicer and easier when I'm seeing things the way I like them," Peña said.

With a following as devoted as Dracula's, there's bound to be conflict. Peña chuckled while recalling the heated debates about Dracula and light mode. "It can be messy because people want to create variations on top of it," Rocha said. "There's a lot of pressure. Imagine, you have your job and there's this huge community of developers and they're submitting things all the time."

Still, Dracula is a labor of love for Rocha. He's committed to keeping Dracula alive and building upon it for years to come. Along with developer Netto Farah, he's launched an early version of Dracula UI for building websites. It's still the beginning for Dracula, Rocha says. He won't stop until Dracula's taken over the whole internet.

Fintech

Data privacy and harassment could spoil Grindr’s Wall Street romance

As it pursues a long-held goal of going public, the gay dating app has to confront its demons.

Grindr may finally be a public company.

Illustration: woocat/iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol

Grindr's looking for more than just a hookup with Wall Street. Finding a stable relationship may be tough.

The location-based dating app favored by gay men was a pioneer, predating Tinder by three years. It’s bounced from owner to owner after founder Joel Simkhai sold it in 2018 for $245 million. A SPAC merger could be the answer, but businesses serving the LGBTQ+ community have had trouble courting investors. And Grindr has its own unique set of challenges.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Inside the Crypto Cannabis Club

As crypto crashes, an NFT weed club holds on to the high.

The Crypto Cannabis Club’s Discord has 23,000 subscribers, with 28 chapters globally.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

On a Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, a group of high strangers gathered in a smoky, colorful venue less than a mile from Crypto.com Arena. The vibe was relaxed but excited, and the partygoers, many of whom were meeting each other for the very first time, greeted each other like old friends, calling each other by their Discord names. The mood was celebratory: The Crypto Cannabis Club, an NFT community for stoners, was gathering to celebrate the launch of its metaverse dispensary.

The warmth and belonging of the weed-filled party was a contrast to the metaverse store, which was underwhelming by comparison. But the dispensary launch and the NFTs required to buy into the group are just an excuse: As with most Web3 projects, it’s really about the community. Even though crypto is crashing, taking NFTs with it, the Crypto Cannabis Club is unphased, CEO Ryan Hunter told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Climate

The minerals we need to save the planet are getting way too expensive

Supply chain problems and rising demand have sent prices spiraling upward for the minerals and metals essential for the clean energy transition.

Critical mineral prices have exploded over the past year.

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The newest source of the alarm bells echoing throughout the renewables industry? Spiking critical mineral and metal prices.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, a maelstrom of rising demand and tattered supply chains have caused prices for the materials needed for clean energy technologies to soar in the last year. And this increase has only accelerated since 2022 began.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Enterprise

The 911 system is outdated. Updating it to the cloud is risky.

Unlike tech companies, emergency services departments can’t afford to make mistakes when migrating to the cloud. Integrating new software in an industry where there’s no margin for error is risky, and sometimes deadly.

In an industry where seconds can mean the difference between life and death, many public safety departments are hesitant to take risks on new cloud-based technologies.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Dialing 911 could be the most important phone call you will ever make. But what happens when the software that’s supposed to deliver that call fails you? It may seem simple, but the technology behind a call for help is complicated, and when it fails, deadly.

The infrastructure supporting emergency contact centers is one of the most critical assets for any city, town or local government. But just as the pandemic exposed the creaky tech infrastructure that runs local governments, in many cases the technology in those call centers is outdated and hasn’t been touched for decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins