Framework

JavaScript Frameworks: The Foundation of Web Applications

Web development

Published: 05.09.2023

After the rise of the web 2.0 era, the need for frameworks emerged. This was because the demand for larger and more interactive web applications was growing rapidly. From this need, there was an explosion of JavaScript frameworks. The three biggest and most well-known open-source JavaScript frameworks are React, AngularJS, and Vue. As you can imagine, these frameworks vary significantly, each having its strengths and weaknesses.

As I explained in a previous article, the need for frameworks arose after the rise of web 2.0. This was due to the increasing demand for larger and more interactive web applications. This led to an explosion of JavaScript frameworks. As you can imagine, the frameworks differ quite a bit. Some gain popularity for a year and then fade into obscurity, while others continue to grow larger and more influential.

JavaScript frameworks should not be confused with JavaScript libraries. The main difference is that a library consists of a collection of functions that an application can call to perform specific tasks (see the example below). A framework defines how a developer builds an application. In other words, a framework invokes the application code, while in libraries, the application code calls a function from the library.

The three biggest and most well-known open-source JavaScript frameworks are React, AngularJS, and Vue.

AngularJS

AngularJS is an open-source front-end web framework primarily maintained by Google and a community of dedicated developers. It was developed to make creating and testing single-page applications easier. It achieves this by establishing a framework for a client-side Model View Controller.

Fun Fact Angular, also referred to as Angular 2+ or v2, is a TypeScript open-source web application framework led by Google's Angular team. Angular is a complete rewrite by the team that created AngularJS.

AngularJS is the frontend component of the so-called MEAN stack, which stands for M(ongoDB)E(xpress.js)A(ngularJS)N(ode.js). MongoDB is a document-oriented database. Express.js is a web application Node.js framework. And Node.js is used as a server runtime environment that executes JavaScript code outside the web browser.

Vue.js

Vue.js is an open-source model-view-viewmodel JavaScript framework that allows you to build user interfaces and single-page applications. It was created by Evan You and is maintained by him along with a group of active core members from various companies. Vue is the only one of the three frameworks I'm mentioning today that doesn't have a major company backing it.

Vue is also the youngest of the three but has surged in popularity over the past few years. It's easy to learn and very lightweight, around 30kb. Many front-end developers find that Vue has the easiest learning curve of the three, which is one of the reasons it's so popular among them.

React

We've already discussed React in a previous article. As mentioned there, React is excellent for building interactive user interfaces, and creating widgets is also straightforward with React. You can use React to render simple views for every state in your application. By creating React components, you can reuse them throughout your application.

React has now become the largest of the JavaScript frameworks, and this reputation is well-deserved. React introduced the concept of the virtual DOM, an abstract copy of the Document Object Model (DOM) where developers can use React features without reloading the entire DOM.

React might not have the lowest learning curve, but developers can relatively easily start a new project using the comprehensive guides. React has several excellent extensions that allow you to create complete web applications easily (e.g., React Bootstrap and React Native), and it works well with various supporting tools like Redux.

The Ultimate Question

Now you might be wondering, which of these frameworks is actually the best? There's no straightforward answer to that question; they all have their pros and cons. If I were forced to choose an answer, I would go with React, purely due to its versatility. It's well-suited for both small applications and widgets. If you need a larger, scalable application, you can build a solid framework using additional libraries. Another advantage of React is that it's agnostic to the underlying technology stack you use to manage your data; React simply displays the data on your screen. Plus, its use of the Virtual DOM makes your application lightning-fast. That's why React is at the top for me.

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