Now first off, I'm only asking this question because I want to get started with coding.
With 1.9 just across the horizon, why does everyone still make mods for 1.7.x? Is it because it's harder to do it for 1.8?
1.8 changed a lot with how rendering is handled, so some authors are hesitant to update their mods to 1.8. For new developers, either the "lack of tutorials" (there's enough available) or the changes scare them off from updating. Other authors are waiting for sorta-promised features from Forge that is meant to make 1.8 rendering less impactful to updating.
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Author of the Clarity, Serenity, Sapphire & Halcyon shader packs for Minecraft: Java Edition.