Oct 04, 2019

Static sites are fracturing monoliths in the name of a better developer experience, but fast growth is risky

Gatsby, a static site generator for web development, recently raised a $15M Series A to continue development of its open source web framework. Launched in 2015, Gatsby now powers some 1% of the top 10,000 websites in the world.

Gatsby sits at the forefront of a powerful shift toward developer-first tooling. Gatsby replaces monolithic and cumbersome CMS systems, such as WordPress and Drupal, with simple static pages and APIs, helping developers eliminate and minimize infrastructure maintenance.

To fracture monolithic architecture, Gatsby turned to what developers love most.

Gatsby adopted a universal language—JavaScript, with its hundreds of thousands of modules—and integrated fast-growing technologies—GraphQL and React. Moreover, Gatsby eliminated servers—a tedious responsibility—and avoided PHP—a language slowly falling out of favor. The result is a developer-friendly architecture with fast time to value.

Can Gatsby continue its meteoric rise?

Like other open source technologies that improve developer experience, Gatsby’s fast-growing ecosystem may swallow them faster than they are able to monetize effectively.

Docker offers a cautionary tale. Docker, the open source backbone of modern containerization, is struggling to find a viable business model. AWS, Azure, and GCP help developers rapidly spin up and deploy Docker containers, generating no revenue for Docker.

Gatsby faces a similar battle. Netlify, an automated website deployment platform, quickly dominated the workflow space, swallowing and extending the positive developer experience that is core to Gatsby’s value proposition. While Gatsby popularized a new developer-friendly web architecture, other platforms may stand to gain the most.

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