Massive Growth in React

January 8, 2018

npm has published the first in a series of State of JavaScript industry reports, providing a comprehensive review of both front- and back-end tooling among JavaScript software developers and featuring predictions for development trends in 2018.

Of the 13 million JavaScript developers worldwide, 75 percent use the npm registry to download more than 600,000 packages of code over 12 billion times per month. This growth has occurred as npm has evolved from a registry primarily for server-side JavaScript to one used mostly by front-end developers.

npm, Inc. Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Laurie Voss, who authored the report, confirms web tooling is becoming the fastest growing category of JavaScript, a trend he expects to continue across all categories of software development.

“The JavaScript community is growing at a rate unprecedented in the history of programming languages, and the npm registry is growing right along with it,” said Voss. “As the central hub where developers distribute and discover JavaScript code, we’re able to see trends in the applications developers write and the tools they use.

“If you want to understand what packages are being used to power the next-generation of applications—from Google to Netflix to NASA spacesuits—the npm registry is the most accurate and telling indicator of which tools are on the rise. By analyzing trends in software developer tooling today, we’re uniquely capable of predicting the composition and capabilities of tomorrow’s applications.”

Download counts of nearly all packages in the registry continue to grow, but package popularity is determined by calculating download counts as a percentage of all registry downloads. From November 2016 to November 2017, findings show:

• React has seen massive growth thanks to its modularity and ease of use. Usage of this JavaScript library for building user interfaces has grown over 500% relative to all npm registry downloads, and spawned an ecosystem of related packages to address other needs. Domains such as mobile and desktop application development are using it in addition to web development.

• Preact is on the rise. Overall usage is still relatively low but this drop-in replacement for React that emphasizes performance improvements and smaller storage and bandwidth requirements has experienced relative growth of 145%, and is likely to become a major force in coming years.

• Ember is making a comeback despite its having no primary corporate backer. This “full” framework is used in production by a number of big companies including Microsoft, Inc., Netflix, Inc., and, Inc.’s Heroku. After losing ground in 2016, downloads increased 45% in 2017, indicating a resurgence in its popularity.

• Angular is sustaining, but not increasing, its popularity. Downloads of this full framework built and maintained primarily by Google comprised approximately 0.008% of all downloads from the npm Registry, but its growth trailed other JavaScript packages.

• Vue will overtake Ember and Angular. Roughly level with Ember and Angular in terms of absolute popularity, this progressive JavaScript framework is growing much faster and is expected to overtake them both in popularity in 2018.

• Webpack has become the dominant way to build web applications. The tool, which converts JavaScript so it can be used by web browsers, has always been used to prepare React code, but in 2017 its usage grew more quickly than React’s, indicating developers now use Webpack to build other web applications as well.

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