Netlify releases open-standard tool for content creation on the edge

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There’s no question that edge computing is growing and will continue to do so.

Global spending in the area is expected to reach $176 billion in 2022, an increase of nearly 15% over 2021, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Enterprise and service provider spending on hardware, software and services for edge solutions will sustain this pace of growth through 2025, when spending will reach nearly $275 billion, as forecasted by IDC.

“There’s stronger and stronger interest in this layer, a lot more experimentation,” said Matt Biilmann, cofounder and CEO of Netlify. “During the last year we’ve hit a tipping point, with people asking, ‘What more can we do at that edge layer now that we have it there?’”

A platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that builds, deploys and hosts websites and apps, Netlify aims to help answer that question by accelerating development of modern web applications on the edge.

Open web and open standards

The San Francisco company today released Netlify Edge Functions to public beta on its Netlify platform. The tool enables developers to create content or full apps on the network edge without compromising performance. It is built on Deno, an open-source, standards-based runtime that works out-of-the-box with popular web frameworks including Next.js, Nuxt, Astro, Eleventy and SvelteKit, as well as newer edge-first frameworks including Hydrogen and Remix.

Netlify has always been behind the idea of open web and open standards, according to Biilmann. “We didn’t want to release another proprietary runtime,” he said. “We really wanted to make sure that what we are building on that layer is open-standard and built across providers.”

While the macrotrend of edge computing has led to an explosion of innovation, organizations have often been forced to invest heavily themselves or use tools that are proprietary, don’t use popular programming languages or don’t offer integrations with multiple web frameworks, he said. But this adds complexity to software development at the edge.

Netlify has focused its new tool on removing friction for developers, making the edge layer fully programmable, and offering a full-fledged runtime that can be used for edge rendering closer to users. Developers can run serverless JavaScript/TypeScript functions in a full runtime environment and maintain complete control in running entire applications, streaming server rendered content, transforming request and responses, performing A/B testing or OAuth authentication and supporting geolocation, localization and globalization, among other capabilities.

In short-term use cases, the tool has been applied to personalization of web content, localization and geolocation, Biilmann said. He also called it the first platform outside of Shopify to support Shopify Hydrogen, a React-based framework for building dynamic storefronts.

“We’re excited about opening up the ability to experiment with that and build with that,” he said.  

Funding and future of Netlify

Since its founding in 2014 by Biilmann and Christian Bach, Netlify has experienced significant growth across the board. It raised $105 million in a series D in November, bringing its total money raised to $212 million, and its post-money valuation to $2 billion. It recently acquired OneGraph, a tool for building integrations with third-party services. In February the company released Netlify Graph, which allows developers to integrate third-party APIs and services into web applications without writing API-specific code.

The company hopes to experience similar success at the edge, Biilmann said. “Frontend and web frameworks are starting to take advantage of a programmable, streaming edge layer, and it’s an enormous opportunity,” he said. “As this starts to open new possibilities within the Jamstack architecture, it’s essential that we follow a similar transparent, standards-based approach with our serverless runtime at Netlify’s Edge network. This way, developers can use these newer edge-first capabilities in today’s frameworks without even having to think about the underlying infrastructure.” 

Ultimately, he emphasized the importance of an agnostic platform and the unique open-source nature that Netlify Edge Functions offers in this regard.

As he put it, “The web doesn’t have any single owner. It is a broad set of standards that we all agree on and work together on, and different players can come in and innovate in the space. The edge is part of really furthering that core of the web being based on open standards.”

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