Open-Source Software I'm Thankful For In 2021

These are the open-source technologies that I'm most thankful for in 2021.

Varnish

Chances are that you've used Varnish without even realizing it. Varnish is an extremely fast and surprisingly easy to configure HTTP cache despite its age. It is fairly ubiquitous in web applications that serve content that doesn't change too frequently. Varnish is so fast you can set it up in front of something like WordPress (which would otherwise be fatally slow with typical response times being many seconds) and it should appear just as blazingly fast to visitors as if your site was built on state of the art technologies. In fact, this is exactly what Pantheon does. Next time you set up a marketing website or blog, consider giving Varnish a try before other caching solutions.

Turnkey JavaScript Bundlers

The 2010s ushered in a new era of JavaScript development with the arrival of paradigm-shifting frameworks like AngularJS, React, and Vue.js. These technologies streamlined building increasingly interactive and complex web applications. There was a problem though: bundling the new JavaScript syntaxes introduced by these frameworks was painful to configure and terribly slow to run. Current generation bundlers are far less annoying to set up–oftentimes requiring no additional configuration files–and have reduced build times for small projects to milliseconds.

A non-exhaustive list of capable JavaScript bundlers include:

Next.js

The ever increasing popularity of JavaScript frameworks in recent years has made their tradeoffs and weak points more visible. Libraries have evolved to address needs like state management, page transitions, and server-side rendering. Next.js is fantastic because it basically bundles together an opinionated collection of solutions for these challenges in React into a neat package. It's not perfect for many use cases, but it's a great place to start if you're getting into building React single page applications.

Terraform

The development of tools to manage deployments of web applications has historically lagged far behind other software related to web development in my opinion. I discovered Terraform in late 2020 and found it immediately useful for spinning up servers on popular hosting providers. Its interface appears designed towards being used by a human in a terminal so it can be a little awkward to use in automations, but I would still recommend trying it out before resorting to more complex solutions.

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