Future of Jekyll project (engine behind GitHub Pages) in doubt?

Some development continues (or maybe it's just feature complete)


Updated The open-source Jekyll project, used by GitHub for its Pages feature, was declared frozen and "in permanent hiatus" earlier this year by one of its core maintainers.

Jekyll is a Static Site Generator (SSG), which compiles source files into a static website. Dynamic content is possible by calling services from JavaScript, the approach sometimes called Jamstack (JavaScript, APIs and Markup). Alternatively, an SSG can simply update the static content.

Jekyll was created in 2008 by San Francisco developer and former GitHub boss Tom Preston-Werner who said at the time: "I was tired of complicated blogging engines like WordPress."

He wanted to store all the content of his site in a Git repository and to publish it with a script. This was the first release of Jekyll.

Developer Jared White, who has created his own fork of Jekyll called Bridgetown, has posted evidence from a Slack conversation in May this year with a former core maintainer of Jekyll, French developer Frank Taillandier, that the Jekyll project "is in frozen mode and permanent hiatus."

According to Taillandier's note at the time: "Jekyll is the default engine for GitHub Pages, it powers millions of simple websites, it's the primary use case, and no other feature is needed for the majority of users." He said that GitHub does not want to introduce any breaking changes and is therefore still using version 3.x, despite the release of 4.0 in August 2019.

"RIP Jekyll 2009-2018," Taillandier commented. "If current Jekyll suits your needs, that's great, if [not] my advice would be to bet on Eleventy who is one of the SSG that provides the easiest path to migrate from Jekyll."

Taillandier sadly died "peacefully in his sleep" earlier this month - there's a tribute from one of his pals here.

The Jekyll project on GitHub remains active, though, and the last release was on 8 April – a backport of a fix for version 3.9.1, as used by GitHub. The last 4.x release was in December. Changes are still being committed to the code, most recently at the end of last month.

White argued: "There is no clear path forward for Jekyll as a viable and reliable open-source technology. In recent years, the only other active core team member besides Frank – Ashwin Maroli – was inexplicably absent for most of 2021," though he also noted that Maroli is again actively committing code changes.

White also said that Jekyll has no community around it, such as a Discord chat room or public roadmap. There is a Jekyll website, but the community engagement seems reserved for the GitHub repository where users can post issues or raise questions for discussion.

"RIP" does seem an exaggeration. In a discussion on Hacker News, a user noted that it is not necessarily a bad thing if a project is considered feature-complete and not updated other than with fixes and security patches. "Have been using Jekyll for years for all manner of sites and the most beautiful feature is that I've barely changed anything," they said.

Another added: "It would be extremely souring to me if Jekyll decided to add webpack and other JavaScript dependencies with a newer version. One of the things I like about Jekyll is that it's a STATIC site generator that doesn't try to do everything."

Talliandier's remarks are notable for those concerned about the future of Jekyll, but it is also obvious that White may have his own reasons for diverting attention from Jekyll to projects like his own. From the evidence we can see, the Jekyll project can rightly be described as quiet, but with GitHub's support it is unlikely to disappear any time soon. We have asked both GitHub and another of the existing contributors for comment. ®

Updated to add:

A Jekyll user contacted to us to say that in addition to GitHub, there is a community forum at https://talk.jekyllrb.com/.

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