A tale of community: How the quest for better performance led to Fastify and grew into Platformatic

A tale of community: How the quest for better performance led to Fastify and grew into Platformatic

Back in 2015, while working at software development consultancy NearForm, I was working on delivering a high-performance project. My team and I ended up optimizing this project so much that we could make Node.js saturate the network cards of our EC2 VMs. However, because all the available frameworks added too much overhead, we had to implement all the HTTP APIs using only Node.js core, making the code difficult to maintain.

It seemed that the Node.js web framework landscape was starting to stagnate and there wasn’t a solution that would meet my requirements. It was at this moment that I realized I had to create a new framework for Node.js in order to squeeze out the best possible performance. Moreover, I wanted this hypothetical framework to add as little overhead as possible, while also providing a good developer experience to users.

Haunted by ghosts of the past

Around 2013, I built a MQTT broker. This project, called Mosca, failed quickly due to multiple reasons, including having an unmaintainable architecture and unstable CI. But most importantly, the final– and largest– nail in the coffin was that Mosca lacked a community: the number of issues to be triaged and fixed overwhelmed me, and there was no one else contributing

In the time after Mosca, I came to the realization that my niche lay in improving the performance of Node.js, work which pushed me to connect with other people who were also passionate about improving Node.js performance.

Fast forward to 2015, and I knew from both my experience with Mosca and my time spent connecting with the Open Source community that community would be critical to what I wanted to build, and that it would be a gargantuan effort. I quickly decided that this new web framework would adopt an open governance model, and that I would start developing it once I convinced another developer to join me in this effort.

A few months later, in June 2016, while delivering a Node.js training course at Avanscoperta in Bologna, an attendee asked me how to get started working in Open Source. His name was Tomas Della Vedova, and by the end of the course, I asked him if he wanted to build this Node.js framework with me. By September, we landed the first commit of what would later become Fastify. In the following years, NearForm supported me in this journey and sponsored my time for developing the framework, while Tomas was sponsored by LetzDoIt - a startup founded by Luca Maraschi.

Fastify and its community

The collaborative nature and the commitment to our community that we reinforced at Fastify have been vital in creating a vibrant community around Fastify and building it into a widely adopted web framework for Node.js.

Today, Fastify is flourishing. It is now a part of the OpenJS Foundation as an at-large project, and has over 4 million downloads per month with users including Capital One, Walmart, and American Express.

The Fastify project adheres to the principles of Open Governance and Open Source and is a truly community-built project. Fastify’s team of 17 collaborators and encouragement of active participation is a testament to the importance of community for successful OSS projects.

The next step– Platformatic

The power, interconnectedness, and camaraderie of the Open Source community brought me back together with my friend and former colleague, Luca Maraschi– united by our common desire to make backend development simple.

Since entering the professional world of development, Luca and I have always been shocked at what backend developers have to endure to get their job done, regularly facing repetitive onerous tasks.

Fast forward to 2022, and Luca and I were ready to launch our startup, Platformatic, building upon the technical foundations of Fastify, creating a “batteries-included” developer experience for building APIs (REST/OpenAPI or GraphQL). Platformatic includes all the expertise in developing and scaling Node.js applications that we have accumulated over the past 10 years from the Open Source Community.

In just a few weeks, we will be revealing Platformatic’s biggest launch to date, and we hope to see the Open Source community that we are so privileged to be a part of– and which has given us so much over the years– benefiting from it.