Netlify is on a mission to bring static web technology into the mainstream. Until now, static sites haven’t been used widely as they couldn’t deliver the features same as those of dynamic sites. But with the emergence of HTML5, and the browser and hosting services maturing, things have changed. More than 95% of sites can drastically reduce costs, and improve safety and speed tremendously by going static. The dynamic needs that a site might have that can’t be rendered by the browser can easily be fulfilled by externally hosted widgets such as as Disqus (comments), Olark (webchat), Snipcart (e-commerce) and so forth. Only those websites that need updating every minute or so need to stay dynamic today. Netlify wants to serve as a default entry-point to the world of static websites and apps. Reaping all the potential benefits of a static website has until now been a very cumbersome process. But with its tools, Netlify has reduced dozens of steps and hours of setup, even for hardcore web developers, to a single-click operation.
How it works
While you can easily host a static site on a place like Amazon S3, you will miss out on one of the things that make static sites great, which is – really fast load speed. A simple page speedtest comparison shows that netlify is around 9 times faster. (Visit http://t.co/9KGKZgPzFZ and http://t.co/eMrrQe9zrV). The huge difference in speed is due to the fact that with netlify, the whole site is hosted on global CDN (Content Delivery Network)- a global network of super fast caches that only serve ‘flat’ ‘static’ files. Also, when a site is uploaded, netlify hosts it on multiple layered CDNs. Netlify is created solely to host static sites and apps, and you get “global lightning fast CDN with instant cache invalidation and a ton of other features like atomic deploys and contact form support – and all without the user having to do anything at all.”
A lot of developers do not make static sites because of many manual steps that are involved. That’s why netlify is now launching the first automation software for static sites. To make a site all you have to do is logon to Netlify, and upload your site folder for instant hosting, or simply choose a static site generator and with a single click, let netlify build and host your site, while simultaneously setting up continuous deployment so that every time you push to GitHub or Bitbucket, your site is automatically deployed. Contact forms, instant cache invalidation, atomic deploys, complete version history are all included right out of the box.
Content Management System (CMS)
The one last thing standing in the way of static sites dominating a large part of tomorrow’s internet is the lack of an open-source CMS where the non-technical guy in marketing can update the site without knowing how to code whatsoever. The founders of netlify found that it has to be open-source and should incorporate the existing open-source static site generators (the tool you use to build your static site). This is what is being developed now and the first version is in “closed beta with incredible feedback.”When it’s live, it means anyone can “build an ultra optimized website, with hyper fast global hosting, all maintainable by clients, in seconds.”
Meet the founders!
Mathias Biilmann Christensen (Mat) – A full stack developer, Mat left Denmark for Spain 10 years ago. He became CTO of a technology company called Domestika, where he built his first commercial CMS serving more than 10.000 paying customers. He later came to San Francisco to start Webpop, a fully hosted CMS for web professionals. Eyeing the chance to disrupt the way websites are built and hosted, he then co-founded netlify with Christian.
Christian Bach (Chris) – With 14 years of agency experience as a digital producer, Chris is the Chief Digital Officer and CEO. He founded CAPSIZE, the first hybrid production company in Denmark, and won 18 awards (including New York Festivals, EuroBest GranPrix, & Cannes Lions). End-client list included more than 80% of the 20 largest companies in DK (and international ones as IKEA & Coca-Cola). CAPSIZE then got acquired by a full service agency, where Chris then served as a partner / Chief Digital Officer. He left for the Valley to co-found netlify. He fell in love with the concept, seeing how netlify’s products would solve many of the daily issues they had while making websites.
Mat and Chris have also got Wade Warren on as an advisor. He ran operations at Netflix and Verisign, headed the team that created Apache web-server and is the VP of technical operations at Wikia.
Mat and Chris were making the fully hosted dynamic CMS ‘Webpop’ and were dealing with the “same ever-present issues as everyone else working with traditional dynamic sites like Malware, expensive scaling, slow loads, etc.” In the back of their minds, they always knew that static sites “worked around these issues”. They also knew that “there was a reason that the ‘dynamic’ WordPress won over the ‘static’ movable type at that time – traditional dynamic sites offered a lot more features that required server-side renders., something static sites don’t do”.On a late Wednesday afternoon, they realized that with HTML5, the modern browser and mature hosting services, that gap could be closed. And then the potential of static web-tech really “dawned upon them.” In the meantime, they also learnt that static sites really “can take over as that hip-holstered primary weapon of choice and dominate the vast majority of tomorrows sites but a lot of tools and tweaking were needed for it to go from a tool for a select few, to mainstream web-tech.”
Chris and Mat then turned to the actual build process. They say, “Until now, building and deploying static sites have been a rather manual process, using a number of different tools. Our clients were crying out for a way to speed things up and simplify the process. So we developed Netlify. It has the same hosting as BitBalloon but on top of that it automates the entire build process. At a single click you can now choose your static site generator, build your site, host it, and every time thereafter when you make a push to git, your site is automatically updated.” They add, “The feedback for Netlify in beta has been off the chart, so we are really excited to bring it live next week.”
The founders say, “We thought that making your product, and define your brand would be the hardest, but those you can mostly control yourself.” They add, “However, everything from getting work visas, to most importantly, making people care about your product, is something you can hope, plan and work for but never control.”
The competitors within the category of static websites are mainly “other startups”, though as of now only netlify offers features like integration of the build process and instant cache invalidation (so you can see changes to your site as soon as you push them live). “But things are definitely moving along rapidly and we are really seeing a lot of action from many new players.” the founders tell us.
Mat and Chris aim to overtake WordPress. They say, “Netlify was born from a desire to bring static web-tech mainstream and in order to do that 3 steps need to be fulfilled – Hosting, Build Automation and CMS. We have the most full featured hosting available and we have taken the manual steps of the build process and version control and integrated it all into one simple solution where we pull from git, build, deploy and keep site history, all in one click.” All of this are prerequisites for netlify’s next step – To build the first open-source CMS for static sites. With a full-fledged CMS on top of netlify’s existing tools, “static sites suddenly become a relevant alternative to most websites out there today.”
Netlify’s primary audience is the front-end community, that understands the virtues of static web technology and are looking for ways to tap into that potential. Its target audience are the developers and agencies that make websites for other people. “70 % of all websites are made by developers for other people, and website services overall are a 30 billion dollar market in the US alone.” the founders tell us.
Netlify is a SaaS company and is making revenue from automation software and specialized CDN hosting. The open-source CMS will “hopefully provide defensibility.”
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Please visit https://www.netlify.com/ to know more.