You invested in Gatsby’s framework to build a modern and scalable website some time ago, believing it would help you scale your business and future-proof your company’s growth. The value it brought to business was undaunted, especially in transitioning away from WordPress setup. However, things are changing rapidly, and it’s time to decide whether you want to go down with this ship and drown or rescue yourself and your online presence.
What made Gatsby so successful in the first place?
Let's get back to the days when we all were enchanted by the framework and inspired to use it. The goal is always the same - we want to help our clients connect with their audiences, and improve their online presence, visibility, and the overall Customer Experience of their website.
The first 5 benefits that come to my mind, when I think about the good-old Gatsby are:
Gatsby has been designed with performance in mind. It guarantees faster load times, improved user experience, and better search engine optimization (SEO). It has been specifically optimized for static websites, meaning it only delivers the necessary components for each webpage. This makes it a great choice for marketing websites where keeping loading times down is crucial. Any lag in a webpage's loading speed can negatively affect user experience and lead generation, often causing visitors to leave the site. Research shows that a delay in page load times from one to three seconds can increase bounce rates by up to 32%. Thankfully, Gatsby's Jamstack architecture and focus on static site generation (SSG) ensure faster load times, better user experiences, and improved search engine optimization.
Gatsby's static site generation inherently produces SEO-friendly websites. With pre-rendered pages and optimized metadata, search engines can easily index and rank the content, resulting in better search engine visibility that drives more and more traffic into your websites.
Gatsby is scalable and suitable for projects of varying sizes. Whether you're building a small personal blog or a large-scale enterprise website, Gatsby provides the flexibility to scale and meet your project's requirements. The technology promised it could grow along your business.
Rich plug-in ecosystem
Gatsby has a robust ecosystem of plugins that can be easily integrated into projects. These plugins covered a wide range of functionalities, from SEO optimization and image processing to content management system (CMS) integration. This extensibility allows developers to enhance their sites with various features without reinventing the wheel.
Headless CMS Support
Gatsby supports various headless CMS options, allowing content creators and developers to work independently. This decoupling of the front end and back end enables teams to use their preferred tools for content creation and easy content management.
On top of it, it was a perfect open-source framework, loved by developers for its ease of use and smooth developer experience, topped by a super vibrant and active community and extensive documentation. This is how Gatsby became the go-to framework for large, high-performance, content-rich websites. But the situation has changed dramatically in the past several months…. And the direction it goes can also be dramatic in consequences for your website's future.
Going from hero to zero, the story of Gatsby’s fall
So what has really happened that Gatsby is no longer the first framework to pick when building a modern website?
First of all, for the past couple of years, we have observed a massive decline in traffic on GitHub, where the developers' community started slowly moving away from the framework. There were fewer and fewer commits and even fewer discussions. Initially, developers were getting annoyed by the change of focus of the company. Instead of working on new features to bring more value to the developers and businesses, the Gatsby team started to invest in pushing and promoting their own infrastructure (Gatsby Cloud). The Gatsby Cloud started to become almost a requirement if deploying a Gatsby Website (without it, you would need to rebuild the entire website after a small CMS change and wait at least 30 minutes, and in the worst case scenario, your build process would time out). Developers felt disappointed, which led them to the point where they started to look around for better solutions and frameworks, to be able to leave Gatsby and move on.
In February 2023, it was announced that Gatsby had been acquired by Netlify. The company claims that “Gatsby as a framework will continue to evolve and grow. We’ve always shared with Netlify a mutual commitment to open-source and have never been more excited about Gatsby’s future. Many of Gatsby’s core contributors will join Netlify and continue to maintain the Gatsby framework”. Sounds promising, but not necessarily true. Totally different information can be found on Twitter (X) where you can read about the massive lay-offs to start with. Apparently, at the moment, there is only one original Gatsby employee left within the company after the merger, and that is not enough to maintain and continue to build new features. Even the core contributors have moved away, and gradually started to use different frameworks.
The company also claims that many “Gatsby Cloud features will be incorporated into Netlify. Many performance innovations specifically for large, content-heavy websites, preview, and collaboration workflows, will be incorporated into the Netlify platform and where relevant made available across frameworks.”
Well, it feels like the last couple of years of Gatsby’s roadmap were leading to this point. The obvious goal was to get the company ready to sell its technology, so they have been developing and delivering cloud features to make the potential buyers happy, and to close a solid deal.
Thom Krupa, our CTO and co-founder, claims that Netlify will only maintain the Gatsby framework and halt any improvements and new feature development.
Every single piece of software gets updates. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot tech or not. WordPress, Drupal, and even Joomla have had more updates recently than Gatsby. So let's make it clear: Gatsby is dead! If you start a new project, you should not plan to build it on Gatsby. If you have a running project on Gatsby, you can keep it as long as you don't plan to work on it, as it does not have a future.
And this is the saddest part. It’s our goodbye to the framework we praised and used in tens of projects. So long!
So what’s next? How to pick a technology that will stay and allow you to continually work on your website?
How to pick a technology that will continue to support your website and allow you to grow your business? It’s time to think hard and compare the available frameworks. We did extensive research and evaluation, while we were asked to help Alpro to exchange Gatsby for a new framework and to future-proof their website and the online presence.
If you are looking for an extensive technological comparison of Gatsby vs Next.js, you can find it here. I don’t want to get into tech details that much. What matters to me is the business perspective and a technology that is here to stay and support you in scaling your business.
We have picked Next.js because of several pros and fewer cons. Just like Gatsby, it's built on React, so it's familiar and easy to work with. A standout feature is its Integrated Server Rendering (ISR) and Static Site Rendering (SSR). These mean faster load times, which is crucial for keeping customers engaged. Plus, Next.js promises faster builds, so we can get updates out the door quicker. The current community around it is much bigger and more promising than Gatsby’s, and it has fewer plugins, so handling updates is much easier.
Next.js is also different from Gatsby in various ways. The chances that it will become obsolete like Gatsby are minimal, since the paradigm of Next.js is quite traditional, while Gatsby used many "innovative" yet anti-pattern solutions. Most importantly, Next.js is backed by Vercel (formerly Zeit), which is a large cloud hosting trusted by many enterprises. Another big point for Next.js is that React officially supports Next.js, a framework for producing apps.
Next.js offers better support for dynamic runtimes, so it’s easier to implement the dynamic pages, ISR, and personalization.
Nevertheless, keeping in mind the story of Gatsby’s rise and fall, believing and following a single framework is not the best approach. Therefore we are looking wider, and we are trying to use and implement frameworks based on our clients’ needs and vision of their future development. Apart from Next.js, we are also working with Astro. The first deployment was Dodonuts website.
Each business case is different, which is why if you want to start looking around and checking your options, Bejamas is here to help you. Our expertise and years of experience, especially with emerging web tech, can help you make the right decision. Don’t hesitate to hit me up on LinkedIn or to schedule a quick intro call, if you wish to learn more, or discuss it further.
Hope it helps! So let’s get back to work!