What will be the dominant front-end technology in 5 years time?

In short, you might as well play roulette and bet on black, because nobody can answer this question with fact. We can only present hypotheses.

The world of web development, especially front-end development, evolves about as quickly as the physical tech industry does, and there is no way we can predict what Samsung, Apple, Nokia, and the other’s will churn out in even the next two years. Much less five.

Let’s look at a bit of JavaScript history.

Build Tools (2014 – 2018)

  • Three years ago, Grunt was the dominant build tool.
  • Two years ago, Gulp rose up and stole the throne.
  • One year ago, was Webpack’s claim to fame.
  • Somewhere in there, Browserify fought a good fight.
  • At one point, plain npm scripts became a fad.
  • When I wasn’t looking, Rollup rolled out.
  • Along the way, I built Owlister. (It is junk. Don’t look.)
  • Now, Webpack dominates, but tomorrow is unpredictable.

Transpilers (2009 – 2018)

  • Eight years ago, Coffeescript became Earth’s favorite abstraction.
  • Six years ago, Dart arrived like a drunken monkey on weed.
  • Five years ago, TypeScript was born, bringing type safety to JavaScript.
  • Three years ago, Babel arrived to let us use future JavaScript today.
  • Two years ago, Elm became a buzzword. (Nearly irrelevant, but not quite.)
  • Now, TypeScript and Babel rule. Seemingly invincible? Time will tell…

Frameworks (2010 – 2018)

  • Seven years agojQuery was the most suggested JS “framework”.
  • Six years ago, Backbone and Knockout were widely adopted.
  • Five years ago, Angular and Ember took the stage.
  • Four year ago Meteor stormed the gates and built a following.
  • Three years ago, React took its first breath. The prophecy…
  • Two years ago, Polymer and Vue made names for themselves.
  • One year ago, [Angular 2 and Vue 2] released, [bombing and succeeding].
  • Six months agopeople quit caring that “React is not a framework.” Don’t.
  • Now, Angular 4 has arrived, React dominates, and Vue is a super-power.

*These numbers are not exact, but even the absolute correct time-frames would reveal an identical pattern of “king of the hill”. Don’t grill me.

But wait, there’s more!

In the midst of the frameworks timeline, there have also been countless other contenders take a shot at stardom. Aurelia, Riot, Spine, Dojo, Deku, Inferno, Mithrill, Stapes, Svelte, etc. Any one of these lovely ladies could become the new hotness in a matter of weeks. We just can’t tell.

If I were to revisit this answer in five years, I’d most definitely be adding weird framework titles to my timelines above, as even the power-houses of today will not last forever. These tools will probably be such that I have never even heard of at this point in time.

Behold, WebAssembly.

WASM is… difficult to explain. Simply put, WASM allows developers to compile most any language into performant, browser agnostic byte code. What this means is that the front-end community has the opportunity to detonate yet again with a landslide of developers from all walks of life developing for the browser.

JavaScript has done its job well, but as the world progresses it will be replaced. That time could very well be within the next five years. The murderer could be WASM or it could be a new browser that takes a majority of the market share that allows developers to write their applications in Haskel. Improbable, yes. Impossible, no.

The Safe Bet.

As it stands, our best guess is that JavaScript will still dominate the browser in five years. That said, your best bet would be to acquire a slew of developers who are tool/framework agnostic by means of deep JavaScript understanding. Don’t allow yourself to be contracted to a specific tool. I guarantee you that Angular, React, Vue, Backbone, Aurelia… none of these guys will reign in five years.

Those who become proficient with languages and have a firm understanding of design patterns and architecture will have no problem adapting to future tools and are, in essence, future-proof.

Author: Richard Soares

I’m a freelance software developer with more than 20 years’ professional experience in web development. I specialise in creating tailor-made, web-based systems that can help your business run like clockwork.