9 Popular JavaScript Frameworks Used in 2018

Choosing from amongst even the most popular JavaScript frameworks for a new project can be a challenging process. There seems to be a new handful gaining popularity every year or so, and the previous ones don’t seem to lose steam either!

Nonetheless, it is essential to find the correct platform for your app to be built around. Popularity may not be an indicator of what is best for your project, but taking a look at the most popular selections may give you some ideas for something that fits your project requirements. So, without further ado, we will go ahead and take a look at the most popular JavaScript frameworks of 2018!

React.js

React.js JavaScript frameworks

React is a framework that was originally created, and is maintained, by Facebook. This provides a huge weight on the scales when choosing it for a project. It gives React a sense of stability that many new frameworks lack.

Points to consider:

  • Facebook maintains the project
  • The high volume of adoption and continued growth mean it will be easier to find competent React developers as well as help and outside components
  • The adoption of JSX allows for the structuring of components that will then compile into JS React, when running on the server, can make for more SEO friendly web pages than other JS frameworks, as the only thing seen by the client at that point is the generated HTML page(s)
  • React Native can provide a nearly seamless mobile experience to pair alongside your React application for the web

My thoughts on React.js

React is a great framework and a great tool. For any large, comprehensive project, it’s almost a shoe-in for usage. The biggest worry I would have as a developer adopting React is the exact same thing that makes it such a smashing success - Facebook. There have been worries about the terms of use for React, as well as Facebook’s ability to stop updates or change the licensing. This may seem too paranoid to be a show-stopper for some, but for others, it may be the reason why their project does not adopt React as their frontend framework.

Angular.js 2

Popular JavaScript frameworks: Angular 2

Angular is the powerhouse that sits next to React at the top of the charts for JavaScript frameworks. Angular 2+ has had literally years of development behind it, and Angular.js was representative of a lot of lessons that aided the development of Angular 2 and future versions.

Points to consider:

  • Angular uses TypeScript, which is a superset of JavaScript that can compile down to vanilla JS. Many find this to be one of its biggest selling points.
  • Pre-rendering of content on the server can allow for better SEO as well as faster browsing
  • The Angular project is built on years of experience, from Angular to Angular 2 and well beyond.
  • Angular 2 is full of useful features such as dependency injection, templates, forms, and more.
  • Because Angular is maintained by Google, users can feel confident that it will be around and used for a long while.

My thoughts on Angular.js 2

My thoughts on Angular 2 are very similar to my thoughts on React. If a user needs a large, feature-filled platform, it’d be hard to go wrong with Angular 2. There’s a ton of useful content here. Conversely, you have to accept the heavier weight of this platform and the fact that it’s mostly maintained by a powerhouse company like Google, who could, in theory, stop supporting it any time, although that seems very unlikely.

Vue.js

Popular JavaScript framework: Vue.js

Vue is growing into maturity, being now several years old, but is still looked at as a new player in the JavaScript framework scene. The growth of the Vue community is stellar.

Points to consider:

  • Vue has an incredibly small file size, making it easy to include in projects without creating a slowdown.
  • Vue has a relatively easier learning curve than some of the bigger frameworks, and fantastic documentation to assist those new to JS frameworks and veterans alike.
  • It is easy to integrate into other applications and languages. For example, Vue.js bundles with Laravel and couples nicely with it to create frontends for Laravel applications.
  • Vue uses an HTML-based templating syntax, allowing developers to write components quickly and easily.

My thoughts on Vue.js

I have always liked Vue. It’s my go-to recommendation for people just getting started with JavaScript frameworks, or who need something lightweight for a project. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of some of the more prominent contenders, but you don’t always need them. It’s less fully featured, but that also makes it less restrictive.

Meteor.js

Popular JavaScript framework: Meteor

Meteor.js is a “full stack framework”. The fact that it is full stack means that you can control everything from the database to the UI with the same language and the same framework, and it is one of Meteor’s primary advantages.

Points to consider:

  • Meteor is a full-stack framework, which allows developers to learn one tool, and use it for almost everything in their application. It also makes it an exciting proposition for new developers who are aiming at full-stack positions or projects, as they can get productive faster with Meteor.
  • Meteor ships with a variety of useful “smart packages” readily available for all manner of uses, and allows the inclusion of custom packages as well for those who wish to create their own.
  • The Meteor community is very active and engaged, providing community support on the forums, building and maintaining packages for public use, etc.

My thoughts on Meteor.js

Meteor almost doesn’t belong on this list. It can be used to build your app’s UI, but it can also be used in conjunction with a UI-specific framework (with Meteor just for the backend). However, it can stand on its own as needed, and if you want to have a single, all-inclusive framework that will handle everything in one box, Meteor is the way to go.

Ember.js

Popular JavaScript framework: Ember

Ember.js is focused on getting things done, and getting them done quickly. Ember is a more opinionated framework, funneling developers into best practices for the platform. This makes it much easier for projects to get started, but some may chafe at limitations. It also provides several external tools to help developers along.

Points to consider:

  • Opinionated best practices make Ember very easy to build with – as long as you’re willing to follow Ember’s structure. If you will be unable to do so, Ember may not be the right tool for your project.
  • The command line tools package “ember-cli” opens up a whole new world of useful tools to add to an Ember app developer’s toolkit.
  • The Ember Inspector allows for easy inspection of Ember objects in your browser’s developer tools. This can be used both while developing and while debugging issues.

My thoughts on Ember.js

Ember.js is a great tool for rapidly getting your application into production, and for dealing with problems and troubleshooting issues. It isn’t the only framework with an inspector plugin or a CLI, but their inclusion along with its rigid best practices allow for a great quick start experience.

Backbone.js

Popular JavaScript framework: Backbone

Backbone has been around for a long time (a very long time, as JavaScript frameworks go), but it is still incredibly prevalent, both in legacy applications and in newer projects that need a less prescriptive framework or library to build on top of.

Points to consider:

  • The maturity of the platform means that many issues have already been discovered and solved, and its community resources and support are solid.
  • Backbone’s approach to application structure is minimalist. It is incredibly lightweight, at a smaller file size than most frameworks on this list. It also is providing the bare bones of a framework, allowing the developer to build what they need off of it.
  • It forces no templating engine, leaving that up to the individual developer. However, it does have Underscore as a dependency, allowing that to be the easiest default choice for templating.

My thoughts on Backbone.js

Backbone is declining in popularity, perhaps due to its age and minimalism, but it is still a relevant and powerful tool for the right needs. It is reasonably easy to get a handle on, and if you need a framework that will allow you to build your application the way you see fit and provide you with a core to build off of, as the name implies, Backbone is a solid choice.

Aurelia.js

Popular JavaScript framework: Aurelia

Aurelia is a framework composed of smaller modules, allowing developers to pick and choose the pieces that work for them, or to use the framework in its entirety.

Points to consider:

  • Aurelia has a modern take on app development, with its modular infrastructure giving developers many useful options without being overwhelming.
  • Aurelia has a relatively low learning curve, giving developers the chance to accelerate their time to writing productive code.
  • A simple MV* architecture is employed, with conventions to prevent unnecessary configuration. This may feel restrictive to some developers, while others will welcome the streamlining.
  • Support for ES5, ES 2015, ES 2016 and TypeScript gives Aurelia the agility to be used in multiple kinds of JavaScript development situations.

My thoughts on Aurelia.js

Aurelia is focused on being compatible with whatever JavaScript your application uses. The ability to take modules piecemeal ensures that it may be useful even if you do not need the whole framework. Aurelia does everything it can to be practical, quick, and of service in a variety of situations.

Polymer

Popular JavaScript framework: Polymer

Polymer is a lighter weight Google-backed framework, with a hard focus on standards compliance.

Points to consider:

  • As with the other frameworks which are projects of large companies, the fact that Google maintains polymer is mostly a good thing. It means lots of support and ongoing development, but it also may feel as though it comes with strings or reliance on a giant, to some developers.
  • The standards-compliant focus helps to ensure longevity for your application, as well as compatibility across other apps or platforms.
  • Polymer works well with Progressive Web Apps, which is an increasingly significant focus for developers as they hone in on connecting the mobile experience with that of the desktop user.
  • Polymer also has a lightweight footprint, which makes its load times much better than the larger frameworks.

My thoughts on Polymer.js

Polymer provides an excellent alternative for those that want a lighter, more easily integrated framework while still relying on a platform that the big players back. With Google behind it, Aurelia can gain much more of the market share than it currently has, while still maintaining a lighter touch than its older competitors.

Mithril.js

Mithril is another small-footprint JavaScript framework that bills itself as the pragmatic choice. With a tiny file size and documentation that gets straight to the point, Mithril intends to get you started and then get out of your way.

Points to consider

  • With a file size of 8kb (compressed), Mithril’s footprint is one of the lightest out there, allowing for lightning-fast loading.
  • Mithril has a great set of guides and docs to get started, and they estimate that a developer can get through the quickstart in a mere ten minutes.
  • Mithril has cut out the cruft in order to get to that size. They show you how to do authentication, file uploads, to use ES6 or JSX – features that a large portion of their users will actually want.

My thoughts on Mithril.js

Of all of the trimmed-down frameworks on this list, Mithril might in fact be the leanest. It’s certainly worth a look if you haven’t seen it before. It seems to handle most of the main jobs you would want a JavaScript framework to handle, without the extra garbage that often comes along with the package.

Conclusion

So at the end of the day, the question is: Which JavaScript framework should I use for my project? The answer, of course, is as complicated as ever.

My personal favorite is Vue.js, out of those selected here. The real answer, though, is entirely project-specific. Do you need the most popular JavaScript framework? Probably not. How about the largest and most expansive, or the smallest and lightest? These factors may or may not matter.

In any case, this set of frameworks should give any developer at least a recommendation or two that meet their needs, and get to building their frontend application!

Further reading