9.05.2019

ReactJS vs Angular – Which One Is Better For Your Front-End?

Article by
Miłosz Kaczorowski
In
7 min read

Like many other “battles” in the IT, the one we will talk about this time is also fuelled up by the industry’s giants. ReactJS, a JavaScript library created and maintained by Facebook is often compared to Angular, a Google-driven programming framework. But is there a clear winner in this fight? Which of these two solutions is better for your company?

We prepared this short guide on ReactJS vs Angular to help you find answers to those questions. As a group of experts who do both React web development as well as Angular-based projects on a daily basis, we know exactly the main pros and cons one might need to consider when choosing the perfect front-end solution.

The Basic Differences

(if you have some knowledge about libraries and frameworks you can skip this paragraph)

Let us start with the basics. As previously mentioned, ReactJS is a library, while Angular is a framework.

What is the difference?

A real-life library is a place where books are collected. What is a JavaScript library then? A collection of small pieces of code that allow you to quickly add some new functions to your app or website.

How about the framework? Think of the frame itself first. What is it in real life? It can be, for example, something of a case in which you can put your family photos or a nice painting to hang on a wall. If you have a specific frame and your photo is too big for it, the only thing you can really do quickly is cutting the image – making it small enough to fit the frame.

Framework in the software development world, then, is providing you with a specific standard for your website or application. In other words, it sets up the architecture of your project that you cannot simply change. Just like you cut the photo to fit the frame, you need to make sure you are coding in a way that your framework dictates.

So what all of it means to you? That ReactJS gives you more freedom. You can add a function from a ReactJS library to your already existing app or website. On the other hand, if you want to use Angular, your product should basically be created with this framework in mind from the beginning.

Getting Deeper

Nevertheless, one of the most important things for both ReactJS and Angular are the components. What are those? Sets of pre-written code that allow developers to add new functions to the project much faster than if they would try to write all the code by themselves.

What can a component do? For example, it can provide you with an ABC survey system for your blog or a buying system for your new shopping platform.

There are, however, some clear differences we should consider in the ReactJS vs Angular battle.

One of them is the fact that ReactJS – unlike Angular – uses virtual DOM, instead of the regular one. What is the DOM (Document Object Model) itself? An abstract API (application programming interface) presenting parts of the HTML document in the form of a tree. Each of these parts of a document (e.g. a website’s header) has its dedicated node and object. It’s incredibly important because it allows programs to quickly access all the information they need from a document in order to run the app.

Virtual DOM makes the whole process even faster. Unlike the regular DOM, it only updates the parts of the document’s tree where the changes have happened recently. The regular DOM, on the other hand, every time updates the whole tree. This difference makes ReactJS in some cases faster than Angular.

To sum up the few basic details on the ReactJS vs Angular, we have prepared the following table.

 ReactAngular
First release20132016
Introduced byFacebookGoogle
Type of solutionlibraryframework
Programming language usedJavaScript, typescript, reasonTypeScript
Architecturecomponent-basedcomponent-based

What you can deduce of it, is the fact that Angular is a younger solution than React.

But is it really?

We should consider the fact that the current Angular is also sometimes referred to as Angular 2. This is because Google has been previously working on a different framework, AngularJS, formerly created in 2009.

However, although Angular (or Angular 2, if you prefer) is clearly a continuation of the previous project, it SHOULD NOT be mistaken with AngularJS. There is a number of important differences between these two frameworks, and there is no easy way to simply migrate your project from AngularJS to Angular 2. This is why AngularJS is these days used less and less by developers and Google itself announced that the company will stop supporting the framework on exactly the 30th of June 2021. Because of this, AngularJS is no longer perceived as a viable solution for new projects. Instead, all interest is focused on the Angular 2.

The Easier, The Better?

JavaScript is these days known even by people who have never had any history with coding. Most of the basic courses on web development focus on the first three basic steps: learning HTML, learning CSS, and learning JavaScript. This popularity means that finding a JavaScript developer is relatively easy.

Unlike React, Angular is based on a superset of JavaScript, called TypeScript. It is a much newer technology, presented to the world for the first time in 2012 by Microsoft. Compared to this, JavaScript seems to be an ancient technology launched all the way back in 1995.

TypeScript is less known than JavaScript and it is also commonly called out as a more difficult programming language to learn. This means it may be harder for you to find a TypeScript developer, but if you will find one, they will probably already have some important and useful experience in coding.

Moreover, TypeScript demands from the developer writing clearer code than JavaScript. This may help you when a transition happens and you need to pass a project to other programmers in the team.

For some time TypeScript has also been praised for its real-life code check, helping to identify common mistakes while in the process of writing the code. However, in 2014 Facebook started to work on a similar solution for JavaScript and React, called Flow. Instead of being a separate programming language one would need to learn to make use of the real-life bug check, Flow is just a static type checker for JavaScript, as Facebook officials call it.

The Cornerstones

No framework and no library will be successful without the support of a steadily growing community. On first glance, the battle of React vs Angular seems to be relatively close-fought in this case. But is it really?

Let’s look at some numbers.

Firstly, Google Trends data.

The blue one is for React, the red is for Angular. As you can see, for some time the Google’s framework was doing better than Facebook’s library. However, in early 2018 this happened to change and now React is being searched more in Google.

Let’s also look at some even more important data – the list of the most popular repositories on GitHub. There, React ranks on the 5th place, overshadowing Angular. The latter has also fewer contributors. Finally, the commits seem to be happening more often in the case of React.

For a broader and more insightful look at the situation on GitHub, check the table below (data regarding AngularJS for additional reference).

 ReactAngularAngularJS
First release201320162009
GitHub’s repository ranking5th place
47th place24th place
No. of stars126,65846,89059,472
Contributors1,2898971,596
Commits10,81713,7258,961
Branches266416
Releases116331204

(React vs Angular GitHub data as of 7th of April 2019)

Finally, it may be also useful to have a look at the yearly Stack Overflow survey. According to its 2018 edition, Angular is currently more often used by developers than React (36,9% vs 27,8%). However, React is more loved (69,4% vs 54,6%) as well as more wanted (21,3% vs 14,3%) technology among the developers. Finally, what may be interesting especially for Google, is the fact that Angular is one of the most dreaded technologies on the market (45,4% vs 30,6%). This can be an effect of a few things, including the fact that Angular is more complicated than React (especially for newcomers) due to its use of TypeScript.

Besides the Giants

Obviously, Facebook and Google have not developed React and Angular only to kindly support the developers around the world. They have also done it to run their own apps and websites on those two systems. Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook itself are powered by React, while tons of Google services are handled using Angular.

But how about everything outside of the world of IT giants? What are some other companies that have signed themselves up for the ReactJS vs Angular battle?

There are really tons of them. For example, among ReactJS companies one can find Netflix or the New York Times. Interestingly, codeacademy.com, a popular website dedicated to teaching others to code, is also using React to power their web app.

Angular, on the other hand, is used by Microsoft (which should not be that surprising as TypeScript itself has been developed by Windows creators). Microsoft uses Angular to power its Office’s and Xbox’s websites. Among other Angular companies, one can find Delta Airlines, Santander Bank, and Forbes.

What’s In It For You?

We have covered a lot of information on the ReactJS vs Angular, but one question still happened not to be answered: which of these solutions better answers your needs? What is a better choice for your project and your company altogether? Should you join the ReactJS companies or the Angular ones?

The answer may not be that easy, but we will try to put it as simply as possible.

If you are part of a big company with tons of experienced developers and a project to happen that will probably last years, Angular may be a good choice for you. If you can start anything from scratch, letting your app have architecture forced by Google’s solution, Angular may provide you with great effects in the long run.

However, for many other projects, ReactJS may be clearly better. If you are just setting up your start-up or your already existing team is quite small, React may be the correct choice due to a few reasons:

  1. React, being a library, not a framework, does not force on your specific architecture. This may make the life of your developers much easier, especially in the early phases of the app’s creation.
  2. It’s easier to finish the first versions of your app with React, making meeting deadlines smoother.
  3. As the aforementioned StackOverflow survey proves, React is a technology devs love and WANT to work with.

Finally, what you should also consider is making your new project mobile. Both Facebook and Google have their own more mobile-specific solutions: React Native and Ionic. You can read more about it in our article dedicated to this particular React vs Angular battle.

Making the Choice

If you are still unsure about the ReactJS vs Angular choice, feel free to get in touch with us and discuss your project. We do work mostly as a React company but we also managed to run more than a few successful projects with Angular.

We also encourage you to review our other pieces on React web development and Angular. If you are planning to run a mobile app, particularly useful may be our guide to React Native development.


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