Oliver Williams Frontend developer at Suntory.

Making the business case for React in 2019

2 min read 825

React is the world’s most popular JavaScript framework.

Of course, the only way to gauge actual usage of an open source JavaScript project is to look at npm data — and npm’s This year in JavaScript: 2018 in review and npm’s predictions for 2019 concludes that “React will be the dominant framework in 2019.”

React has reached 60 percent market share, which, as the article states, is historically unprecedented for a web framework.

Major company backing and open source contributions

Both Angular and React are backed by major companies — Google and Facebook, respectively. React, however, has far more contributors.

While Facebook itself is heavily invested in React, there are many others with a stake in the project. A total of 1,285 developers have contributed to the React codebase. Angular clocks in at 869 contributors.

Ultimately, both numbers are high enough to indicate these projects will remain supported for the foreseeable future. Vue, by contrast, has only 269 contributors and no major company backing.

Explaining the rise of Vue

While npm data shows actual usage, another useful metric for gauging popularity among developers is GitHub stars.

In June of 2018, the Vue framework surpassed React on this count. What could explain this usurpation? Had something newer and better than React arrived?

We can attribute Vue’s popularity to the fact that it is less intimidating for people who are less JavaScript-focused. Vue tends to be popular with those who want a development experience closer to traditional front-end development. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly doesn’t make Vue an objectively better framework.

In terms of delivering a performant app with a good experience to the end user, Vue has no clear advantage. Vue lacks the backing of a major company and still has far less adoption among enterprises. React, therefore, remains a safer option with less long-term risk.

The long haul

As we’ve seen, React is popular right now. It isn’t, however, a flash in the pan. React is a battle-tested, known quantity. React was released to the world in 2013, after having been used internally at Facebook. React has staying power.

Who is using React?

React is used for everything from content-based websites like The New York Times to apps like Twitter. React is even used by the web developer’s bible: MDN.

Vue’s adoption among large companies is much smaller — except in China, where Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent have adopted it.

Why popularity matters

Popularity is often a result of quality. It can, however, be the result of good marketing, branding, and large-company backing. Objective technical superiority isn’t the only salient factor when assessing technology; popularity, in itself, matters.

High usage comes with many advantages — ease of recruitment, for one. It leads to more resources and tutorials for developers to draw from, increased likelihood of bug fixes, and easier solicitation of advice.

It also means a wider array of open source projects catering to the React community. React has developed its own ecosystem of open source libraries, components, and tools. These include projects like React Native, Framer X, and Gatsby.

React has clout with browser vendors

React is now so popular that browsers are optimizing for the performance of sites built with it. When React announced Hooks, Chrome instantly optimized the V8 engine to improve the performance of array destructuring.

While it’s possible to write a slow app using any framework, React offers good performance by default. No other framework has reached such a critical mass as to have browser engineers cater to it this way. Mozilla even uses React themselves to build the Firefox DevTools UI and debugger.

Dan Abramov of the React core team recently stated:

We’re thrilled to collaborate with vendors on specifications that advance the future of the web. That includes ongoing work on user interface responsiveness, display locking, main thread scheduling, and other initiatives like virtual scrolling APIs. Some of these collaborations are currently driven by Chrome, but we’ve worked with Mozilla, Apple, and Microsoft too on the topics where they were interested in our input.

Developer satisfaction

The State of Javascript 2018 survey collected data from more than 20,000 developers. The gap in satisfaction levels between Angular and React is stark: 32 percent of developers have no interest in learning Angular. A striking 33.8 percent would not use it again. Only 23.9 percent of respondents reported being happy working with the framework, compared to a massive 64.8 percent for react.

Developer satisfaction leads to happier, better-motivated, and more productive employees.

Future roadmap

React has been around for a while, but it is far from stagnating. Few announcements have generated as much developer excitement as React’s recent addition of Hooks.

React’s roadmap includes concurrent mode, the modernization of React DOM, and Suspense for data fetching and server rendering. Ultimately, what this means from a business perspective is that React is likely to push things forward and stay relevant in terms of delivering fast websites and a good user experience.

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Oliver Williams Frontend developer at Suntory.

One Reply to “Making the business case for React in 2019”

  1. You can’t compare market share and # of download of a library. React is used by high traffic websites with a large dev groups that work on the project all the time. That drives downloads on NPM. But it has nothing to do with market share. The actual data shows market share is 0.3% (April 2020) https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/js-react

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