AngularJS: One Framework to Rule Them All?

AngularJS: One Framework to Rule Them All?

Last week, Brad Green, Director of Engineering and manager of AngularJS at Google published a blog post about the upcoming AngularJS 2.0 design and changes. The dispatch was nicely timed, following the publicity at O’Reilly’s Fluent conference, which was held March 11-13th in San Francisco. The conference covered the full scope of Web Platform and its associated technologies. In terms of popularity, AngularJS could be considered Fluent’s Best In Show.

“We got far more proposals on Angular, not just mentioning it but focused on it, than on any other front-end framework. The Angular community clearly came looking to talk,” said Simon St. Laurent, Senior Editor at O’Reilly Media and Fluent co-chair. St. Laurent chaired the event with Peter Cooper, the editor of JavaScript Weekly and co-host of the JavaScript show.

AngularJS is an open source JavaScript MVC framework maintained by Google. The framework is unique in that it allows developers to extend HTML syntax to express applications’ components clearly and succinctly. Data binding and dependency injection eliminate the need to write the bulk of the code that developers are currently writing. Plus, its templating system works well with any backend technology as all of the programming happens within the browser.

“In my daily work I try to avoid ‘frameworks.’ When people use the term framework they usually mean ‘a collection of things tightly coupled’ and I prefer to work with loosely coupled small modules that can be combined together for simple and efficient large applications,” said Mikeal Rogers, CTO of Getable. Rogers has been actively involved in the JavaScript community since 2006 and has run half a dozen conferences for node.js and JavaScript.“I find that the best ideas of any framework get adopted, perpetuated, and eventually taken for granted by a larger ecosystem of small modules, sometimes continuing long after the framework is considered ‘hot.’”

In what seems like a Cambrian Explosion of Javascript frameworks, web-developers must discern between hype and true advantage when deciding what to learn. The choice of framework is subjective and their application is largely dependent on the task at hand, but there is no denying Angular’s growing influence.

“It just seemed to just catch fire,” said Burke Holland, Developer Evangelist for Kendo UI at Telerik. Holland gave a presentation titled “AngularJS And The Computer Science Of JavaScript” during Fluent. “We have things like the ng-newsletter that’s come out, the docs have gotten so much better, the amount of third party libraries for integrating with Angular have just exploded. It is absolutely, right now, the most prolific Javascript framework that we’ve seen, possibly ever. I’ve been really impressed with how much people have been able to do with it given that it’s, on some levels, a complex framework. The community has been able to provide the necessary materials for people to be successful, enough so that the enterprises are making big bets on Angular being their application platform of choice for browser apps.”

Burke has been working on a set of Angular extensions for Kendo UI, which is a web, mobile and data visualization JavaScript framework. He made the decision to pursue the extension when requests for Backbone and Knockout extensions subsided and the demand for Angular became overwhelming. This exemplifies the level of community involvement that AngularJS has received. Prior Google projects like Dart, Google Closure and Go have not experienced this level of contribution.

“Most long-time open source contributors would consider it a negative that Google is involved if they are looking to contribute and build an ecosystem. Angular has done a good job of countering that by building Angular in its own GitHub organization outside of either Google Code or Google's minimal GitHub [organization]. Angular also has a number of fantastic people out promoting it that are more closely associated with it than Google is, Brian Ford being the most notable, and he's fantastic,” said Rogers.

“In terms of usage and adoption, having a ‘Google stamp of approval’ certainly helps with a certain group of people while being community supported helps with another. Angular has somehow captured the ‘best of both worlds.’”

AngularJS certainly has the support necessary to survive and thrive. A large community has embraced the framework and Google has a dedicated team contributing to its development. Although other frameworks and languages may have garnered similar followings before dissolving, AngularJS 2.0's upcoming launch and the promise of Web Components seem to indicate that the best is yet to come.

“Angular is paving the way for Web Components because it really does force developers to re-think. By the time Web Components become a standard, people will be very used to the concept of creating their own HTML tags,” said Holland. “Right now it feels kind of dirty, but when it’s an actual browser standard, people will feel much, much better about it. That’s why I think Angular is so important to the future of the web, I really do.”

Curious if AngularJS is the right framework for you? Take the quiz:

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