The Frontend Bundling Cycle

Jan 30, 2023

In NextJS v13, the framework's compiler got 17x faster. Why? An extensible Rust-based platform for JavaScript compilation and bundling called swc. The compiler went v1 in 2019, and Vercel hired the lead developer in 2021.

For a minute, Svelte/SvelteKit was emerging as a viable alternative to NextJS/Vercel. Now, Rich Harris, the author of Svelte/SvelteKit, is employed at Vercel. The platform now supports SveleKit deployments. Users don't have to choose.

On the one hand, this highlights Guillermo Rauch's skill at one of the most challenging parts of being a startup's CEO – hiring and attracting the best talent. But on the other hand, it emphasizes the bundling phase that the frontend toolchain is converging on – the winners consume the best ideas and technology in the ecosystem.

This is the frontend bundling cycle.

Jarred Sumner announced that Bun will support WASI executables in the next release. The enabler? Bundling Wasmer-JS.

Shopify acquired the company around the Remix framework.

This trend goes beyond the open-source cross-pollination of ideas between these frameworks over the year. Instead, it hints at the emergence of frontend platforms – bundled end-to-end and opinionated toolchains. Single-page applications? Vercel. Multi-page applications? Vercel. Edge API routes? Vercel.

The biggest question in my mind is how durable these platforms can be. The half-life of frontend frameworks is much shorter than the rest of the infrastructure. It's not only tied to particular developer preferences but the UI/UX demands of applications and their platforms.

Can these rigid platforms keep up with a fast-moving ecosystem? Will the bundling phase go beyond the immediate toolchain and encompass other PaaS-like features like databases (e.g., Convex) or more?