AngularJS vs Knockout.js vs Vue.js vs Backbone.js: Which Framework Suits Your Project Best?

Last year, IBM named JavaScript one of the best programming languages to learn in 2017. Indeed, used by 90.5 percent of developers for both front- and back-end, it’s officially the most popular technology for web development.

Due to the large, ever-growing community in the JavaScript ecosystem, dozens of new frameworks and libraries are emerging every year. While the website has cataloged 73 pages of existing tools, it’s hard to keep track of the new ones.

Frameworks are used as a foundation for a broad range of applications, depending on the problem for which the certain framework was created. Some frameworks have similar functions, but each comes with a different implementation, so you’ll have to make a choice.

“When choosing which technology to base a project on, technical considerations are a big part of it but not all,” opined Jason Swett, a software developer and author of Angular for Rails Developers. “Other questions should include: How popular and widely supported is this technology now, and how popular is it likely to be in the future? How easy will it be to find developers who use this technology?”

But deciding on the most popular one is not always the best solution. You also need to define what kind of an application you’re going to build; how capable your team is; and–if they lack expertise–how long it will take them to learn a new technology.

Even if you don’t find a framework that applies to all your criteria, there are always some tools that are just more versatile. Today we’re comparing four frameworks and each of them has, besides pros and cons, something unique to offer. Besides, each of the reviewed frameworks can be used as a front-end element in full stack JavaScript development services, an approach that allows you to build applications from A to Z using just one technology stack.

Let’s take a closer look.

AngularJS: Model-View-Whatever framework for Single-Page Applications (SPAs)

AngularJS became the reigning monarch of techdom right after its first release. Back in 2009, the team of developers had been struggling to finish the Google Feedback app. A team member, Misko Hevery, offered to reimplement the entire project in just two weeks using a framework he’d created as a hobby. After three weeks, he was back with code that shrunk from 17,000 lines to 1,500. Short, more precise, faster written code made the technology stand out. And thanks to Google’s support, it became the framework we know today.

AngularJS is often called a Model-View-Whatever framework in which you can use whatever architecture pattern you prefer–either Model-View-Controller (MVC) or Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM). These patterns, along with Model-View-Presenter (MVP), are used to handle an application’s logic in a structured way. Model-View-Whatever architecture also solves the problem of developing Single-Page Applications by extending the functionality of HTML with directives.

The update to Angular 2 introduced a completely rewritten framework, which is mobile oriented and component based. Due to the major differences, it was met with both excitement and dismissal: Updating the technology meant investing time in learning a new one. That’s why today we’re not discussing Angular 2 or Angular 4, released this March, since they don’t yet obtain the same amount of community recognition and adoption rates, thus making the comparison to other frameworks unfair.

What are the main advantages of AngularJS?

Despite the reasons why AngularJS has such a loyal fan base, it’s important to be aware of complications that come with the framework.

Here are Angular’s drawbacks to consider:

When should you use AngularJS?

Chris Bitting, Marketing Technology Manager & Developer at Cozen O’Connor, had this to say on using the framework: “I’ve come to rely on AngularJS to be fast and easy to implement and easy to manage moving forward. Projects, that it’s worked great for, have been–taking existing solutions that use an older technology (like server side) and enabling them to be more responsive using client side (JS). “

With such features as data binding and dependency injection that make building dynamic pages easier, the main purpose of the framework is certainly Single-Page Applications. By allowing developers to decompose UI into components, AngularJS simplifies navigation and creates an enjoyable web experience.

Knockout.js: a minimalist library for dynamic UI

Knockout.js works under the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) design paradigm which makes it a little different from AngularJS. On the other hand, its Two-Way Data binding mechanism is common to Angular’s one. Let’s see what other features make Knockout.js similar to and different from other frameworks.

The reasons to use Knockout.js:

Still, there’s one significant drawback that makes developers look for better options: It lacks updates. Knockout.js is growing at a much slower pace than competitors and it desperately needs to be acquired by a caring team who will make sure the library stays up to date.

When should you use Knockout.js?

Knockout.js was used to build such popular websites as, Vogue, and Microsoft Azure portal. Thanks to its MVVM model, it’s perfect for creating rich and responsive user interfaces with a clean, underlying data model. If you have an application with a complicated UI that requires support for a broad range of browsers, Knockout.js is the way to go.

Vue.js: a modern front-runner that powers both new and existing applications

Vue.js is a new library that automatically creates interactive user interfaces. It supports data binding, modular components, and composition. Many say that it has taken the best from ReactJS, AngularJS, and Backbone.js and wrapped it all in a simple, user-friendly package that doesn’t require any plug-ins or extensions. In the fairly short period of its existence, Vue.js has gathered a very active community and now the library is establishing itself as a convenient tool for building web interfaces.

You will not find a large number of big companies adopting Vue.js in the US, but its popularity in China is imposing. Such Chinese giants as Alibaba, Baidu, and Xiaomi have been successfully using Vue.js.

What features induce developers to have a hand in Vue.js?

Vue.js only falls short in its maturity. Despite a growing community, there’s just not enough components for a new version of the framework and beginners may find it hard to differentiate one from the other. Fortunately, since Vue.js doesn’t require any additional libraries, this issue doesn’t negate its advantages.

How to know that you need Vue.js?

GitLab has recently announced that they’ve been using Vue.js for their open-source software. Simplicity, straightforwardness, and self-sufficiency–it doesn’t need external libraries–were among the reasons that motivated GitLab to make this choice.

Vue.js is one of the most flexible frameworks that can be both integrated with other libraries and used for large, existing projects.

Backbone.js: a flexible framework for a structured code

Backbone.js comes in at just 7.6KB when minified and compressed for production. It has only one dependency–Underscore.js. Its highly versatile and minimalistic MVC pattern powers a lot of sites you may be familiar with: Twitter, Hulu, Pinterest, Foursquare, and Pandora Radio.

“Developers pick BackBone due to their ability to use anything as the controller, as BackBoneJS’ controller is optional,” says Shawn Moore, CTO at Solodev, a web experience platform. “Known for its comprehensive technical documentation and clean code organization broken down into meaningful JavaScripts, BackBone makes collaborative development easier. It also negates the need to save data in the DOM by storing it in the model instead.”

What are the main benefits of Backbone.js?

However, depending on the experience level, Backbone.js can be a developer’s blessing or challenge. “Tools like Backbone can also be problematic when your team skews junior because Backbone doesn’t provide much structure. Angular makes it a little harder–although certainly not impossible!–to pile on a bunch of spaghetti code,” says Jason Swett. When building a Backbone.js application, you will certainly need a lot of libraries and add-ons, and while many enjoy extensibility, novices may find working with the framework exhausting.

What are the Backbone.js use cases?

Get your hands on Backbone.js if: 1) you’re an experienced developer and 2) you’re building Single-Page Applications and widgets. If you’re interested in using it beyond that scope, be sure to investigate options for server-side rendering and do research on additional libraries and plugins you may need to build your application.

Choosing the Best Framework for the Job

Each framework is created for a purpose: either to bring in something new that the community needs or to solve a problem that hasn’t been addressed before. Still, for many software product development projects, it’s not the tools you choose that do the job, but the people who work with those tools. They use their knowledge and the ability to make decisions to use these technologies to their full potential.

This is why the framework you decide to invest in will probably come down to your or your team’s personal experience and preference. Just remember that by ignoring emerging technologies that get rid of mundane tasks, you risk losing out to the competition and being outdone.

Developers and business leaders always have to compromise. Just make sure that the benefits of your choice outpower the drawbacks. This simple diagram is a good way to understand our research.

Being a Technology & Solution Consulting company, AltexSoft co-builds technology products to help companies accelerate growth.