Top 8 Most Popular JavaScript Frameworks

Building complex interfaces on the web surely wouldn’t be the same thing if it wasn’t for the many JavaScript frameworks and libraries available these days.

Besides making websites and applications more useful and fast, these tools can really come in handy for developers as they have more time to create interactive elements without worrying about the code structure and maintenance.

However, even with so many good options on the market, you should choose carefully which frameworks to use. Having the right tool to work on your project can have a huge impact on how your web application will perform and on your ability to maintain and update your code over time.

To help you out with this decision we are going to take a look on the top 8 most popular JavaScript frameworks today:

Angular.js

Launched by Google in 2009 and available as open source under MIT license, Angular is one of the favorites JavaScript framework for developing single page web applications.

Among all the useful resources Angular can present, one of the most innovative features is the two-way binding, which allows to automatically update the variables as they change when a user interacts with the interface. The same thing happens when the model receives changes: the view is re-rendered.

Another great advantage of Angular is that it is surrounded by a huge collaborative community. It’s really easy to find online content about it and their team is always growing and launching new tools to improve developers’ productivity, like Protractor and Zone.js. On the other hand, a little caution is needed for long term projects. Like its competitors, the feature falls in the same problem: while it makes so simple for you to start, you can have some difficulties to maintain and extend your code in the future.

Babylon.js

Also known and called as a game engine, Babylon.js is an open source framework that’s been on the market since 2013. With this tool developers can build 3D games with HTML5, WebGL and Web Audio.

Although it supports animations and 3D graphics, this framework is focused on code, so you can’t expect to see a game editor. What you can do is install some plugins that work with Blender, Max, Unity and other software for integration. If you’re looking for a tool with level editor, for example, you will need another kind of tool.

Backbone.js

Backbone.js offers great components for improving your web applications structure, like Models, Collections and Views. It also presents native support for integration with RESTful and JSON backends.

It’s no wonder why it’s used on services like Airbnb and Pinterest: this is one of the most lightweight, fastest and easiest frameworks to learn and use, and it has a complete documentation full of tutorials and application samples.

But, so much simplicity comes with a price: Backbone.js doesn’t provide any structure itself, it’s up to the developer to structure his project. Another downside of this framework is that, unlike Angular.js, it doesn’t support two-way data binding, meaning you’ll have an extra work updating your model as the view changes.

Ember.js

Released in 2011, Ember is as powerful as Angular.js when it comes to building interactive front-end user interfaces.

Besides supporting two-way data binding, it comes with a data module which offers nice integration with Ruby on Rails back-end and even certain RESTful JSON APIs.

Although this is one of the most promising JavaScript frameworks, Ember presented a lot of changes before it stabilized. This means that sometimes you will find some outdated content and examples that will no longer work, so newly adopters of the framework could be confused. Looking on the bright side, the framework has a nice active community of developers, so you won’t be that lost in the process of adapting your project.

Mercury.js

Mercury.js was released just a couple of years ago but it has already attracted a lot of fans.

Licensed under MIT, this modern framework is fully modular and has some features inspired by React.js, such as virtual DOM, state management and render methods.

It works well with other libraries and has a streamlined markup API, so the tags won’t mix with JavaScript.

Meteor.js

If you’re looking for a complete tool to build a mobile or web application, Meteor.js could be the right choice. Released as an open source framework in 2012 under MIT license, this full stack platform comes with everything you need: from back-end development to front-end rendering, business logic and database management.

Besides having a helpful community full of resources, Meteor.js is pure JavaScript and you don’t need to have experience in any other language to develop applications.

Although this is a great tool to start creating and running projects easily and faster, many developers end up having some complaints about Meteor when it comes to building more complex applications, such as its deployment service, the package system, the lagging when the project gets heavy, and the lack of standard on the code.

Polymer.js

Polymer was also released by Google and it’s been on the market since 2013. The open source project is led by the team of developers from the Chrome organization.

This framework offers structure so you can build custom HTML elements using browser-based technologies like Web Components, so the developer could use different name schemes. Polymer also brings a set of ready-made UI and non-UI elements for you to extend your project.

It may be worth for you to give a try on the framework, but with some caution so every component works on different browsers.

React.js

You can have an idea of how powerful React.js can be when you look at Facebook and Instagram’s user interfaces. And although it doesn’t call itself a framework, it is as powerful as AngularJS when it comes to front-end web development.

The most well-known feature of this library is the virtual DOM: instead of writing code to manipulate the DOM, you describe how it is supposed to look like and then React automatically does the hard work itself and makes the changes to match with that description. This approach not only makes your test cases easier, but also gives you much more flexibility and impacts on the performance of the project.

Despite all this, it’s important that you keep in mind that React.js is a view layer. Although it is supposed to work well with other frameworks, it requires some configuration when you need to integrate it with a traditional MVC framework.

Other promising JavaScript frameworks

We’re talking about a very dynamic programming language, so of course there will always be new resources joining the world of JavaScript development and some of them could be really promising. So, in case you don’t know which ones are worth a try, here are a few names you should keep an eye on:

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Originally published at blog.jscrambler.com on July 5, 2016.

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