Yearnings for a Production-Quality JavaScript Framework

2020-05-07

At work we use node+Webpack+Vue+Vuetify. In any isolated in-my-text-editor programming moment, this is more often than not a fantastic, almost magical experience. It's so easy to find and compose different powerful components and libraries. I truly feel like a wizard. But more and more, it seems that it's the in-between moments that are starting to define my relationship with these tools.

Our GitHub repos are constantly barraged with Dependabot warnings and pull requests concerning security vulnerabilities deep in our dependency tree. One of our apps is stuck on node 10 because the Webpack/Vue build process is failing for some reason we haven't had time to diagnose. Running npm outdated on any of our projects never makes you feel good. And when the framework abstractions themselves start to leak, it can be down-right disheartening0.

We try to keep things updated, but our subconscious minds have learned that this is almost always a painful process, so we avoid it even when we know we shouldn't.

Here's my take. I think reactive UI is the big idea. Any reasonably well-designed framework with a virtual DOM or equivalent (ie Svelte, Flutter), which enables an immediate-mode mental model for building UIs, gets you 80% of the way there. But I get the feeling that React and Vue are competing for that last 20%, and the result is a lot of breaking changes with diminishing returns in value to developers.

Even my personal favorite vdom framework for side projects, Mithril, bumped to version 2 a while back which caused breaking changes for my code. I remember what the breaking change was, but I can't remember any of the features added. I consider Mithril 1 to be a fantastic, 90% UI solution, in a nice small package.

Don't get me wrong, I still think Webpack, React, Vue, and Mithril are great and getting better, and I appreciate all the hard work that is going into them. This is important work. That's not my point.

Here's what I'm looking for. Somewhere out there, someone has built a very boring UI framework. A framework designed for stability. A framework with 5-10 year long-term support for each breaking change. This framework was probably developed internally at a large company. This framework is probably rather opinionated. This framework probably has a low number of high quality, stable external dependencies.

I'm going to find this framework, and I'm going to admire it from a distance, because my team is all-in on Vue at this point and I don't think there's any going back.

Footnotes

0 For any of you who may not have had the experiences that teach you when it's necessary to use Object.freeze on portions of your Vue state, if you do at some point, know that you're not alone and feel free to reach out to me for emotional support.

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