In modern front-end development, many frameworks are competing with each other to be faster, more efficient, and provide a rich set of features that will benefit both developers producing the front-end and end users consuming the front-end. The recent release of Next.js 12 from Vercel at last week's Next.js Conf should appeal to both sets of user groups, thanks to a selection of new features and build optimisations.
For any front-end framework which offers static site generation capabilities, such as Gatsby, Eleventy, Nuxt.js, or indeed Next.js, performance is essential. These frameworks need to be able to build content fast, especially when integrated with a data source such as a content management system (CMS) which may contain thousands of records. Next.js already uses Incremental Static Regeneration to only update the content which has changed, but the latest release goes a step further by introducing a more performant compiler, making builds up to 5 times faster than Next.js 11. This compiler is enabled by default, giving Next.js excellent build performance straight out of the box. Developers benefit from these changes too, as any edits to a Next.js page will be reflected in the local browser much quicker, thanks to the fast refresh feature.
Closer integration between Next.js and design platforms has been introduced through the new feature of URL imports. This allows components to be designed by a designer in a design tool, and then, assuming the design tool supports it, instantly imported by a developer as a React component in a Next.js page through a URL. No longer does the designer need to explicitly export the component from the design tool and then the developer need to import into the front-end. This minimises any friction between design tools and developer tools when collaborating on a given task. Note that this feature is currently experimental.
The ethos of providing performance in production together with a seamless developer experience takes Next.js 12 to the top level of front-end development. There will inevitably be comparisons between these features in Next.js and similar frameworks, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, Vercel has cost implications. Although free for non-commercial sites, hosting in Vercel is not free for commercial sites, starting at $20 per month per "team member".
For full details of Next.js 12, the keynote is available on YouTube.