Jekyll turns 15 but for what future ?

Jekyll turns 15 this month, that’s quite a lot, for an open-source project that was started by Github in 2008 to allow users to build a website for their git repository. What started as a small tool turns into one of the first (if not the first) major SSG released. I use it since 2012, it’s the tool that I use the longer for my site but it looks like Jekyll is not one of cool kids anymore…

Still really simple to use

The title says «really simple to use» but before you can use it, you’ll have to install ruby, no matter what OS you are using and it can be a bit intimidating for some users and I can understand it, but except for Hugo which is binary you’ll have to install some tool before installing an SSG tool. For me it’s not an issue anymore, my Mac is setup and with experience I know how to get ruby running in minutes if I need to. Once, it’s installed, you can get a blog with a default theme with a simple command and you can start writing directly, this is a great User Experience.

In my usage, I like that when I want to write a post, I just need to create an index.md file in the folder _posts, add 2 properties in the frontmatter of that file and I’m off to the races. There is nothing I need to remember to use it, OpenGraph image generation is working totally transparently. I tried during the years to keep my setup simple and that’s another important point, almost every update went smoothly, because I stay between the lanes.

Performance are still great

As said before, Jekyll is written in ruby and it’s known to not have the best performance compared to Go or Node.js. Nonetheless a 2020 article from CSSTricks comparing static site generator build times, demonstrated that Jekyll build time performance was surprisingly very good. Nobody could compete with Hugo build times but Jekyll had build times slightly better than Eleventy. Results must be taken with a little bit of salt because it’s 3 years old and Eleventy was still evolving and getting better, which is not the case anymore for Jekyll but I’ll come back to that point later.

For my case, Jekyll still have exceptionnal performances, this site is small with only 300 pages to generates and the design I use is really simple. It takes 2 seconds to startup and after only a few hundreds milliseconds to build locally when using incremental updates.

My Jekyll setup is simple and automatized with a my git repository. When I push modification on the main branch, a CI job is started to generate the site, build a docker image and deploy it. The whole process takes about one minute, and I have still room for some other optimizations : create my own docker image, use cache for dependencies.

What about the future of Jekyll

If you read until here, you should have understand that I love using Jekyll, but I’m a little worried about it’s future since Microsoft acquired Github in June 2018. It is still used by a lot of people but in the past months the repository is kind of dead and the community activity reduced a lot and it made me think that Jekyll is slowly dying.

Microsoft mimic as reaper enters into Github offices

Lately, the majority of commits are only documentation related, no new features, no fixes and that might have an impact on the releases. Since the acquisition, there have been only 23 releases on a total of 119, that means 23 releases in the last 5 years when there was 96 releases in the previous 10 years. And the latest release is 11 month old (it’ll be a year old in a few weeks). And finally, at the time of writing the newest message posted on the Discussion section in Github is 7 weeks old…

Don’t get me wrong, I can still use Jekyll even if it’s not updated but there are few things that I would have love to see coming to Jekyll, the most important one for me is being able to store markdown and assets in the same folder but I sincerely doubt that such new feature will land in Jekyll.

I might switch to another tool one day, but for now Jekyll works for me, I just wished Github take good care about it…

I almost forgot Happy Birthday Jekyll…