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JavaScript development and competing libraries

04/04/18

JavaScript has been a huge part of web development since the days of Netscape, but as it increased in popularity, the code created in JavaScript to perform certain functions was organised into libraries. Libraries make sense: many websites feature similar ideas – a slide show, for example – so why not use existing code, rather than writing new code for every single web page?

JavaScript remains one of the most common (and fastest-growing) programming languages in the world, and is still sought-after by employers. All major web browsers support it and as internet users demand more interactive web pages, JavaScript is incredibly useful. As 2018 unfolds, JavaScript is being used to underpin web developments such as progressive web apps (mobile-optimised sites that can work offline) and single page apps (scrollable without having to revisit menus) and material design (Google-developed interfaces to enhance user experience).

JavaScript libraries exist alongside frameworks; they’re not quite the same thing although sometimes their definitions overlap – they’re both code written by developers. Basically, in the library you’ll find functions that an application can call on to perform a task. A framework, however, also provides specific structures showing how to present and order code.

It will come as no surprise that different frameworks are competing for users. Angular is one of the most widely-used frameworks, developed by Google and now up to its fifth version. Nevertheless, React (developed and maintained by Facebook) still has a strong user base, including global organisations such as Twitter, Netflix, Uber, Paypal and Pinterest, and consistently innovates – notably the addition of its “Fiber” release last year. Also popular, the jQuery framework is designed to make document navigation easier.

In 2017, there was a lot of interest in Vue, an easy-to-learn framework with powerful tooling – these aspects have made it recognisable among developers. Although Vue doesn’t have a big-company backer, it has created headlines and is used by Expedia and Nintendo among others. 

React as well as Vue can act as both framework and library, which is why some users consider them to be flexible. While these big frameworks continue to fight for dominance in 2018, keep an eye out for newbies – particularly GraphQL, Aurelia and Lona.

As the year goes on, it will be very interesting to see the new trends that pop up and what companies, as well as developers, prefer as their ‘go-to’ libraries within JavaScript. 

Read our related blog: Understanding the languages driving development: Java, SQL and Python

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