I don’t think something new that does come along is going to blow JS out of the water, either. It’s more likely that many smaller technologies will nibble away at the edges, and that will gradually wear away at JS’s dominance. It’s hard to say what 2030 will look like, but I think JS will still be around, near the top of the pile, though starting to fray around the edges a bit.
This is all very broad, so let’s dig into the specifics.
React was always popular, but I think the last few years are when React got good. Really good. It was always a decent framework, but the last few years of updates have really taken things to the next level; 16.4.0 added pointer events, and 16.8 finally added hooks as part of a stable release. I’m really happy with the React team’s recent work and I know I’m not alone there.
Whether or not this stays the case across the decade is going to depend on a lot of things outside the world of tech: there are rumblings in Washington about invoking the Sherman Act on Facebook and it’s unclear whether they are going to go anywhere. Facebook getting broken up could definitely knock React out of its top spot, though even then I think it would take a couple of years to really start to slump.
If Facebook is allowed to continue on as-is and no major changes happen in their ability to produce new software, I can’t see React going anywhere any time soon. It’s too big, it’s too good, and it’s better at adding new features than other big ticket releases like Angular.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something I’m not particularly happy about saying: I don’t think Vue has much of a future. I love Vue, but if it was going to have its moment it would’ve had it by now. It’s not the plucky newcomer any more, and hungrier frameworks like Svelte are nipping at its heels. There’s probably a reality where Vue is the dominant JS framework, but in our reality, React came along and steamrolled everybody. Unless something extreme happens that makes React less viable in the future, like Facebook shutting down or getting broken up, it’s not likely to ever overtake React in popularity.
It’s hard to say whether Svelte is going to become the next big thing. It’s certainly a wonderful little framework, but Vue is wonderful too, but it struggles to compete with React’s FAANG money; it’s going to take a lot of talent for anybody to unseat Facebook, and Facebook can almost certainly pay that talent better. It’s a sad fact that smaller open source projects—no matter how valuable—often struggle to get the industry penetration of releases from major companies. I want to see Svelte succeed, but I’m not at a point where I’d put money on it.
Angular, AngularJS, and jQuery
I’m lumping these together because they’re all pretty similar at the end of the day: they’re pretty unpopular these days, but they’ve achieved a level of penetration that makes them hard to avoid. jQuery and AngularJS were as ubiquitous in the past as React is now; our teams still do a lot of maintenance work on both, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’ve talked about momentum a lot today and that’s for good reason: technologies definitely get supplanted, but the big ones have a habit of sticking around for a very long time afterwards.
I don’t think AI and ML are quite there yet, but they’re definitely not far away, and I think their accessibility and use are going to explode over the next ten years. TensorFlow is open-source, it has a lot of talent and funding behind it, it’s got C++ and Python folks working on their own projects that you can take inspiration and get advice from.
Right now the main barrier is how complex neural networks are, but I can see that barrier coming down. We see that a lot in tech: something like containerization existed for a very long time but there was a high skill barrier, then Docker came along and made it accessible to more developers and suddenly containers are everywhere. What AI/ML needs is a Docker moment that puts it in the hands of everyday developers, and I could see TensorFlow.js being part of that.
Okay But What Does That Mean For Me?
That said, I’d bet heavily in AI/ML, and I think TensorFlow.js is likely to be very important in that change. I also think—if you hadn’t already—that learning React is a highly useful job skill that you’re going to be able to leverage for a long time. The 2010s were a decade of squabbling, where various frameworks fought each other for dominance, but React seems to have well and truly won that fight and I suspect the 2020s are going to be more of a monolithic decade, dominated by a smaller number of larger technologies.