Commentary: Jamstack’s modern approach to web development used to come with a caveat. With Gatsby 4, that caveat is gone.
So much of what we consider enterprise software today was once derided as hobbyist toys. Though it’s not exclusively an open source phenomenon, it’s perhaps most obvious in open source projects like Linux or MySQL, which seem so inappropriate for serious enterprise use at first, then grow to become defaults for enterprise use. Something similar is happening in web development.
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Not so long ago, static site generator (SSG) frameworks like open source Gatsby were considered limited to simple applications like blogs or documentation sites. The problem was performance. SSGs were lightning fast because they rendered websites as files, but that speed broke down once a website moved beyond 10 to 1,000 pages and scaled to 10,000 or 100,000 pages. Suddenly the compilation process got really slow.
Well, that was then, and this is now.
Projects like Gatsby increasingly challenge the notion that enterprises would need, much less want, a heavy-duty, all-in-one-but-master-of-none CMS like WordPress or Sitecore. Not when they can get best-of-breed: a headless CMS like Contentful as a back-end, API-driven content store; Stripe for payments, Gatsby for front-end presentation, etc. Indeed, this relatively new Jamstack approach may be setting a new standard for web development. Perhaps most importantly for developers, with Gatsby 4, there’s no longer a need to bet on SSG over server-side rendering (SSR). With Gatsby 4, you can have both.
Start small, go big
But that’s not where developers start. The world has lived in traditional CMSes for so long that developers will usually turn to something like WordPress for their work projects. WordPress, for example, is the CMS behind 39.6% of websites. When developers build for fun, however, they look to something like Gatsby, an open source framework for building websites with React. Gatsby is also the name of the company that does most of the development on the project, while also offering a cloud service to make it easier to get started with Gatsby, and also to keep going.
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As Gatsby project and company co-founders Kyle Mathews and Sam Bhagwat explained in an interview, the company keeps pushing to make Gatsby easier and more powerful to use.
On the “easier” side, for years the company has offered Starters, which are open source, pre-built Gatsby sites with dummy content to enable a developer to start using Gatsby with minimal learning curve. How useful are Starters for a would-be Gatsby user? “That’s where everyone starts,” Mathews noted. “They’re like, ‘What’s this Gatsby thing? I’ll rebuild my portfolio.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, that was fun. I’ll suggest it at work.’ That’s a story we hear over and over again, and it’s not going to stop.”
To ensure developers don’t choose Gatsby for its ease of use