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jQuery can now very much be consigned to history as a legacy JS framework. It is no longer used for new commercial applications and legacy projects are nearing extinction.
Svelte is a new framework gaining notable traction but is still seen as a risky choice by those holding the purse strings, who retain a strategic preference for the ‘Big 3’.
Preact is also gaining traction as an alternative library to React thanks to its impressive technical performance. However, it has a long way to go to overcome the convenience of React’s rich resource of reusable components.
Other newer frameworks including SolidJS, Lit and Alpine.js have gained a toehold in the JS ecosystem and have their technical merits and developer advocates. However, they have yet to gain enough traction to register much more than an honourable mention.
But could they become commercially popular alternatives to the established triumvirate of React, Angular and Vue?
Here we’ll look at some of the data points that indicate trends in the ecosystem of front end JS frameworks and libraries, including how often they are used in contemporary software development projects, developer satisfaction levels and job vacancies.
This year, that section has been spun out into its own separate page to keep things focused and avoid a post so long it scrolls forever and a day. You can find the technical overview of these frameworks and libraries here –
A framework is, on the other hand, a full toolbox that can be used to create an application in a chosen programming language. The most commonly used JS frameworks in 2023 are Angular, followed by Vue.js.
Ember was a widely used framework until several years ago. But while it still features as one of the more used JS frameworks, it is now viewed as a legacy technology with very few new projects using it.
jQuery is a once-popular JS framework covered in previous iterations of this post but that we’ve since dropped coverage of. The library is still used for some legacy applications that need to support old browsers. But with the need for the abstraction layer to deal with interoperability issues between browsers now practically redundant, so is jQuery. RIP old friend! Your legacy will be remembered!
A framework provides the skeleton that an entire web development project is built around. It provides page templates that leave space for the details to be inserted in the form of custom code. That differs from using a library, where the developer decides where to add code snippets.
A good analogy is to think of libraries like the fixtures, fittings and furnishings of a house. And a framework is more like the template and pieces used to build a pre-fabricated building.
For a deeper dive with more technical details on the difference between a web development framework and library, you can refer to our dedicated blog on the topic – Framework vs library in software development: what’s the difference?
Alternatively, you can also watch this video:
There are a number of different considerations that can influence the final decision. Of course, technical pros and cons in the context of the combinations of required functionalities and performance priorities are a big factor in any choice between React, Angular, Vue and the other options available. But it would be simplistic to presume the choice of JS framework for every front-end project comes down to an analysis of technical qualities and characteristics.
The additional factors that can often prove decisive in the decision-making process between frameworks include:
Eg “We currently have Angular specialists available in-house” or “our IT outsourcing provider has a Vue.js team available to start work at short notice”.
It’s comparatively easier to update React-built apps to the most recent iteration of the framework than it is with Angular or Vue.js. How stable do the framework’s active support and open source community engagement look on a medium to long-term basis?
It’s easier to recruit and retain developers to work with the most popular JS frameworks. A deeper pool of developers with experience in a particular framework can also contribute to keeping costs down.
And as already highlighted, the decision of which JS framework to run with on a new project or migration of legacy apps is often as much down to strategic business case factors as technical pros and cons.
But what we will do is look at the trends in popularity between the main choices of React, Angular, Vue.js, Svelte and Preact and what is shaping those trends. That will offer insight into the strategic considerations that might influence your decision.
If you want greater control and flexibility and are willing to spend some more time putting your app together in the way you want, then a library may be the way to go.
Anyone approaching a commercial web development project in the months ahead will almost certainly make a choice between React, Angular and Vue.js as a front end technology. As mentioned, some legacy projects sometimes still make use of Ember but very few new initiatives.
Over the next few years Svelte may well start to be considered alongside React, Angular and Vue as a viable commercial choice for new software projects.
Despite appreciation for their technical qualities by developers who have used or started to explore them, it is an exception to see Solid, Alpine.js, Lit or Stencil or Qwikin in commercial development.
The lack of developers with expertise in niche frameworks and libraries means that it is unusual for organisations to use them commercially. As already mentioned, it is even a rarity for commercial projects to deviate from the ‘Big 3’ of React, Angular and Vue.js.
It becomes apparent how Ember has fallen in popularity over the past few years, with Vue.js usurping its place at the top table. We can also see how Svelte and Preact have, like Vue.js a few years earlier, quickly burst onto the scene and made a genuine impact on the JS landscape.
Solid, Alpine and Lit have all been around for a few years now, just a year or two less than Svelte and Preact. They have their followings and advocates in the development community and have established themselves to an extent. But they also aren’t gaining the kind of traction that has propelled Svelte to the verge of commercial viability.
The next chart gives an insight into potential future usage trends in the JS ecosystem. It shows the level of satisfaction developers have with the frameworks and libraries they have worked with, measured by if they say they would or would not use a given framework or library they have worked with again.
It should be noted that there is a clear correlation between how much a JS framework is used in commercial development projects and satisfaction levels. Satisfaction levels tend to dip with widespread professional usage in commercial projects.
Year on year, shiny new frameworks and libraries rank highest on developer satisfaction – a phenomenon that can probably be attributed to “familiarity breeds contempt” and the fact that commercial projects tend to involve more friction.
However, we can see that React is not only very widely used, 82% of JS developers have coded with it in the last 12 months, but that satisfaction levels are high with 83% saying they would happily use it again.
Next in terms of usage comes Angular, with 49% of JS developers saying they have used the framework in the past 12 months. However, that’s a drop from 58% in 2019, 56% in 2020 and 54% in 2021. The relatively steep drop to 49% last year may indicate Angular is beginning to fall out of favour.
And despite Angular’s relative popularity with those paying for and managing development projects, developers themselves show relatively high levels of angst in their attitude to the framework. Only 43% say they would use it again, down from 55% a year ago. That’s a level of negative sentiment surpassed only by legacy Ember.
Vue.js also appears to have lost some ground recently to React and the newer Svelte and Preact. Between 2016 and 2021, usage steadily increased from 10% to 51% before dropping back to 46% in the 2022 report. Satisfaction with Vue has also steadily dropped from a 2018 high of 91% to 77% last year.
Of the newer JS frameworks and libraries gaining traction, satisfaction levels with Svelte and Solid are particularly high at 90% and 91% respectively. Svelte’s popularity with developers is reflected in how often it is used commercially. 21% of JS developers have now worked with it compared to just 8% in 2019 and 15% in 2020.
An interesting picture emerges based on the number of roles that list the various JS frameworks and libraries advertised on LinkedIn. The methodology used set the location to the USA, as the single biggest market for IT specialists and therefore the best proxy for global demand. The platform’s filter does not allow for searches that do not specify a location, capturing all vacancies advertised internationally.
When it comes to commercial demand for developers with competency in the JS frameworks and libraries discussed here, React is way out in front with 62,285 vacancies listing experience with React as a requirement.
Angular comes in next with 25,789 vacancies advertised and there is also solid demand for Vue.js developers, with 6741 jobs in the USA requiring expertise in the framework.
Somewhat surprisingly, there is still some commercial demand for developers with knowledge of Ember. Over 2000 jobs request competency with the framework, presumably for legacy applications not yet migrated to a more contemporary alternative.
Beyond that, commercial demand is limited despite the enthusiasm of JS developers for some of the newer frameworks and libraries. In fact, there is still more demand for Ember developers than there is for any of the new rivals, including Svelte.
Even fewer vacancies list Preact, just 37. Jobs that specifically request other new arrivals like Solid.js, Lit and Alpine.js are negligible, in the single or low double figures.
Ultimately, it’s a brave project sponsor or decision maker that moves away from the ‘Big 3’ of React, Angular and Vue.
Despite sometimes strong technical arguments why one of the newer pretenders might be a better fit for a new project or legacy app migration, there is a lot of strategic risk involved in the choice to break away from the established incumbents. Decision-makers have to future-proof the significant investment made in software development.
A major factor in that is being confident it will be relatively easy to recruit developers with the relevant tech stack in 5 or 10 years. And that there will still be a large, active open source community supporting a given framework or library. That’s a risky call outside of the ‘Big 3’.
React and Angular are both open source technologies but were originally created and released by Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and Google (now Alphabet) respectively. Although now open source, the continue to be supported by two of the world’s biggest companies. That early and ongoing financial and technical support gave both front end technologies a huge head they’ve made the most of.
Created by Evan You, who helped develop Angular for Google, Vue.js’s mission to take the best of Angular and improve on its weaknesses has seen it establish itself alongside its older brother as a genuine alternative for commercial app development projects.
Svelte is pushing hard in terms of its popularity with developers and growing open source community. But even if over a fifth of front end and full stack JS developers used it in 2022, the lack of jobs requesting Svelte experience shows it still has a long way to go.
The same can be said of Preact and the other new frameworks and libraries like Solid, Alpine, Lit and Stencil are relative infants in their development as open source front end technologies.
For an overview of the comparative technical strengths, weaknesses and ideal use cases of React, Angular, Vue.js, Svelte, Preact, Ember and Solid.js, continue to our analysis Comparing the technical strengths, weaknesses and use cases of the most popular JS frameworks and libraries
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