Zeit, Now, and Satellite Product Marketing

Zeit is a company founded by @rauchg. They have a main product: a service called Now. And the way in which they extend and market that product is remarkable.

Kahlil Lechelt
Dec 2, 2016 · 4 min read
Their main service Now is surrounded by satellite products

Now is a service that provides a great developer experience for deploying and hosting Node.js apps. In the months after they released Now they started to release open source projects and other services that seamlessly compliment Now. I call them satellite products because they all revolve around the main product.

These additional projects go even further to improve the developer experience for Node.js and JavaScript developers in certain cases. They add massive value on top the value that their main product already delivers. But they also significantly lower the barrier of entry into using Now.

Let’s have a look at them:

Micro

From their blog post on micro:

A mere function can become an HTTP server. You can take any value-or-promise-returning functions from other contexts and turn them into endpoints with micro.

So Micro is an npm package that comes with the micro terminal command. This command allows you to host any JavaScript function as a microservice.

So first of all this is a great package for all JavaScript developers that want to host/play around with tiny services but of course this package works seamlessly with Now as well.

All you need to do is to use the micro command in the npm start script in your package.json:

"scripts": {
"start": "micro -p 3000"
}

You would do that anyway if you would write such a microservice with Micro. And, yes you guessed it, now you can deploy that service to Now with the now command. Boom. It is immediately a hosted microservice that anybody can use.

Creating and promoting this open source package provides great value to developers and lowers the barrier of entry into using Zeit’s main product Now significantly. Brilliant.

Now Static Hosting

Developers who write microservices often need to host static sites that take advantage of these services. The Zeit team went ahead and added the capability for static hosting to the Now service.

Now figures out automatically if you are deploying a static or a dynamic site, the developer deploys a static site just by typing now into the terminal. Just like when deploying a dynamic site. This removes cognitive load and makes Now an even more complete package for developers.

zeit.world

zeit.world is a DNS service by Zeit that makes aliasing a deployed project on Now a piece of cake. All you do is type now alias alias into the terminal after you pointed the URL to one of their nameservers. This service seems like a very intuitive addition to Now but yet again removes cognitive load and busy-work for the developer.

This is one of the many ways Now can creep into your workflow.

Next.js

This is one of the most interesting products of the bunch because it makes the Now service incredibly attractive to a whole new set of users: pure front-end JavaScript developers.

Next.js is a framework that allows you to easily build universal JavaScript apps. It uses React, Webpack, Babel and ServiceWorker.

You write React components and Next.js makes sure to render the necessary markup on the first request on the server so the startup is quick. Once the initial markup is loaded JavaScript automatically takes over client-side and intelligently loads data and scripts when needed.

This is not only a really intelligent, simple and complete software to write universal JavaScript apps, it — of course — works seamlessly with Now. So you not only have an incredible development experience when working on your universal app on your machine, you can also deploy it into production within seconds.

To me this was their most surprising release. In a time where there is a lot of talk about universal JavaScript apps, they release open source software that offers the easiest way to write a complete universal app and it complements perfectly with their main product because a universal JavaScript app does not work without a server component.

Front-end and back-end JavaScript developers alike are empowered by this set of tools all of them are now potential users of Now. Before Next.js, Now was really just interesting to back-end JavaScript developers.

Conclusion

It is a joy to watch Zeit building out their main product with complimenting services and open source products.

On the one hand those products serve to lower the barrier of entry to their main product but they also improve developer experience and reflect a generous culture of giving back to the community.

I am curious to see what they come up with next. If I had to guess I would say they might release a way to do dead simple user authentication with Next.js.

Kahlil Lechelt

Written by

JavaScript developer. http://kahlillechelt.com

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