Back in the mid-90s, Netscape and Microsoft were duking it out for dominance in the emerging browser market. Netscape took another path, eventually becoming Mozilla. But the company did make an enormous contribution to the future of the internet.
This widespread adoption has spawned more than 20 major frameworks and 80 popular libraries to support various use cases. The total number of JS libraries and frameworks is in the tens of thousands! Anyone can create them to facilitate different aspects of web development.
Let’s take a look at some of their pros and cons, starting with the most common.
The big 3 (plus jQuery)
The three biggest players on the JS landscape are Angular, React and Vue. These are built on the model–view–viewmodel (or MVVM) architecture, and changes synchronize and appear instantly in the view. Alongside the big three, we also need to mention jQuery, which is very common and used in specific cases.
- Released September 14, 2016
- Current version: 11.1.0 (January 20, 2021)
Developed by Google, the Angular framework has been around long enough that there is reliable employment for the Angular developer. Many developers also appreciate the ability to customize directives and inject dependencies.
Developers aren’t a fan of Angular’s steep learning curve, which can be made more challenging by numerous version changes.
- Released May 29, 2013
- Current version: 17.0.1 (October 22, 2020)
React is maintained by Facebook, and developers who have mastered the React library also enjoy a robust job market. They’re able to crank out code quicker, thanks to React’s no-nonsense document object model (or DOM) interface. They also appreciate the unidirectional data flow, making it easier to isolate and work on child elements.
Out of the box, React provides many advanced dependencies that might be hard to find in another UI library community. React-router, Redux, you name it. Developers love those helpful modules that make their lives easier. And you are welcome to choose whatever additional libraries you need. With tons of boilerplates available online already, there must be one that fits your needs.
—Jen Wang, Software Engineer
Learning React can be a tough proposition, deterring many would-be JS initiates. It's only a library, not a framework, so if you want to make a full fledged app with it, there are tons of options. But this also means there is no "clear" path. You need to figure out everything yourself. It might leave early users struggling to find a clear development path for their projects.
- Released February 2014
- Current version: 2.6.11 (Dec 13, 2019)
Developers love the Vue framework’s reactivity. It features a two-way data stream enabling better communication between HTML blocks. Another plus is Vue’s easy integration with other applications and frameworks.
With great reactivity comes a tendency to overuse that feature and bog down what should be an easy project.
- Released August 26, 2006
- Current version: 3.5.1 (May 4, 2020)
jQuery is used in over 70% of websites - but it’s a large library to include. Part of this is because it has extensive polyfills to support older browsers. Many new websites are abandoning jQuery and some devs argue it’s becoming obsolete.
It’s also considerably slower than CSS when it comes to animations. CSS animations are great and can do a lot these days.
Notable libraries & frameworks
- Released December 8, 2011
- Current version: 3.24.0 (December 28, 2020)
Ember is a framework beloved for its flexibility and an inspector that simplifies debugging. Yet its uber-steep learning curve leads many developers to avoid it altogether.
- Released October 13, 2010
- Current version: 1.4.0 (February 19, 2019)
A vast, well-organized library, Backbone is easy to learn, customize and integrate with other applications. But that can be a drawback. Backbone might make it difficult to define models, and determine what code is needed and where to add it.
- Released June 24, 2019
- Current version: 3.4.1 (Apr 30, 2020)
Developers give the Polymer library a thumbs-up for its ease of use, flexibility with code and data flow, and overall high performance. However, with those perks come limitations on tools for calculated attributes.
It is the absolute leading-edge technology of web components, and while it might not be natively well supported, this will lay the foundation for the next generation of websites
- Released January 20, 2012
- Current version: 2.0 (January 20, 2021)
The Meteor framework is a solid choice for the inexperienced developer, due to its ease of use, vast packages and libraries, and super-smooth communication.
On the flipside, server-side rendering isn’t possible without a third-party package (for now). And support and native libraries are limited.
- Released May 3, 2018
- Current version: 2.0.4 (August 18, 2019)
A fast and lightweight framework, Mithrill gets high marks for its broad feature set and easy learning curve. But its small API and limited functions have drawn complaints.
- Released November 16, 2010
- Current version: 4.17.1 (May 25, 2019)
However, the learning curve can get steep once you start sorting through its single-threaded framework, middleware and code organization.
- Released October 25, 2016
- Current version: 10.0.2 (November 18, 2020)
Which one will you learn?
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