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ou need to be agile not to run after a horse but to stay on a horse. What does that mean? In the tech world, to move your project and the industry as a whole, you need to keep on top of web technology trends. The Frontend Company team enjoys comparing front-end technologies and giving people the best choice of tools possible. Today we'll go head-to-head against AngularJS vs Backbone to pick a winner in the final.

We noticed that many of our blog readers like articles of the versus category. Previously we've written posts «Flutter vs React Native», «AngularJS vs Node.js» and «Angular alternative», which help you dive deeper into the exciting world of front-end development. Today we're going to talk to you about AngularJS vs Backbone, evaluate the pros and cons of each tool, and their chances of success in the current decade.

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Why are these technologies often compared to each other?

Since JavaScript front-end tools share the same core and are built on the same programming language, they have a lot in common. Between entirely different solutions, it is easy to make a choice in favor of one instrument. In the case of JS-based frameworks, however, the situation is more challenging. If 2, 3, or more instruments have analogous features, the choice of technology becomes difficult.

So, you should always look at the big picture and focus on the needs of your project. In the context of AngularJS vs Backbone, comparing advantages and disadvantages, special functions, and built-in directives will help you find the framework or library relevant to your industry.

What is essential to pay attention to when choosing front-end technology?

  1. Data loading and processing.
  2. Size of the application or website bundle.
  3. An ability to create a user-friendly UI.
  4. A project performance.
  5. Built-in functions and a variety of add-ons.
  6. What type of products the tool is suitable for.

One last point to add to your AngularJS vs Backbone evaluation is to focus on your competitors and industry leaders. Check out what front-end solutions projects in your field are using and analyze their designs. Do you like the UI/UX of the web product? Is the competitor's site or web application user-friendly? The list can go on and on.

AngularJS: a top JS framework

 Let's start our journey into the world of AngularJS vs Backbone with the basics, then move on. What is Angular.js? Google introduced AngularJS to the world over ten years ago. The philosophy behind this open-source JavaScript framework was that declarative programming was perfect for user interfaces. 

The creators of this tool repeatedly highlighted that the goal of developing the tool was to extend the capabilities of HTML and dynamic display of content. Therefore, the main achievement of AngularJS was separating the client- and service-side of the project. Thanks to this, programmers could develop web products in parallel. In addition, Google specialists were able to separate the application logic from DOM manipulations. Such a step had a positive impact on the speed and ease of testing the source code.

AngularJS is often named Angular, which is wrong. These technologies are built in two programming languages, have different architecture, ways of data binding, and some other crucial differences. The tools work on fundamentally opposite principles, and you can't put an equal sign between them.

Since AngularJS has been among the popular front-end technologies for 10+ years, much has been said about it. Despite the release of Angular 2+, this open-source JavaScript framework is still on the list of popular JS-based techs. According to German business data platform Statista, AngularJS is even in the 2020s, one of the most used solutions. Now this framework is in the 11th position.

Advantages of AngularJS

  1. Architecture: The first thing that needs to be mentioned in the context of AngularJS vs Backbone is the architecture. This technology builds the application considering MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern. It allows you to lighten the web project and significantly reduce the workload on the server side. This architecture affects the user experience.
  2. Data binding: A 2-way data binding is used here, which allows programmers to avoid writing a ton of unnecessary source code. This kind of binding avoids the need to redo templates every time a part of the information should be changed. All parts of the code connect in a loop.
  3. HTML modules and code: The developers have provided many directives in the framework, which increase the responsiveness of the web product. Synchronization of views and models is done automatically due to the integration of HTML modules and codes.
  4. Wide use: This tool can be used for many industries due to its structure and built-in HTML elements. Angular.js, thanks to its structure and architecture, is suitable for developing single-page applications where you want to update the content dynamically. At the same time, the instrument allows you to scale the finished project quickly, so you can effortlessly extend the product's capabilities.
  5. DOM structure: With the jqLite API implemented, specialists can delete, modify or add different HTML elements. Therefore, this methodology not only positively affects the efficiency of the project. The DOM structure also has a positive impact on the product testing process.
  6. Dependency injection: It is probably one of the most vital advantages in the AngularJS vs Backbone topic. With dependency injection, the developer is free to decide whether modules remain dependent on each other or not. With this programming technique, one object supplies other, child objects on which it depends.
  7. Cross-browser support: Unlike some alternatives, this tool works perfectly with different browsers. Your customers can easily run your product in any browser without losing performance or UX.
  8. Reactive programming: The creators have provided support for the RxJS library here. It allows specialists to close callbacks and interact with asynchronous I/O.
  9. Ready-made elements: You can use built-in features to create projects of any complexity and format. The list of ng and ui elements is still amazing and simplifies the development process a lot.
  10. Long-term Google support: Even though the last version of the framework came out in 2020, this tool is not abandoned. The corporation has moved it to an LTS (long-term support) state. Unfortunately, Backbone does not have such serious support. Therefore, the battle AngularJS vs Backbone on this criteria is up to Google's brainchild.
Companies that use Angular.js
AngularJS vs Backbone: Companies that use Angular.js

Disadvantages of AngularJS

  1. Unresolved issues: This instrument has many fans and a huge community. However, even after 10+ years, some problems are still unresolved. These issues are not as critical and significant as, for example, in React, but it still does not save the situation 100%.
  2. Using other libraries is necessary: The second disadvantage follows from the first one. Since some problems stay unsolved and the technology is slowly becoming outdated, devs have to use additional libraries. The main difficulty is that you need to check the sources of code and plugins carefully. They can be abandoned and do not work well.
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO) problems: Maintaining the AngularJS vs Backbone battle, it is essential to say that dynamic structure often does not play into the hands of business owners. Over the decade, search engines have not always responded well to websites built on AngularJS. By the 2020s, the situation has gotten better, but it has not disappeared completely.
  4. There is Angular: It is the point that stops many from using this front-end framework. Some business owners don't see the value in the first version of the tool when there is the second.

Backbone: a very promising JS library

At the beginning of this article, we categorized Backbone as a JavaScript framework. I did it solely for convenience. In reality, the technology is a JS library. In the context of Backbone js vs AngularJS, this is a crucial point of clarification. A library has no ready-made structures. In some cases, developers will have to program some code themselves.

Backbone is a JavaScript library and a representational state transfer (RESTful) JSON interface. As such, programmers can quickly get their data from the site and improve the web product.

For websites, the battle between AngularJS vs Backbone would likely be won by Google's technology. According to W3Techs, Backbone uses a relatively small number of websites. While AngularJS uses nearly 70,000 websites in the U.S. alone.

An interesting fact about Backbone is that it appeared almost at the same time as AngularJS. The author of the JavaScript library is Jeremy Ashkenas, who also had a hand in the CoffeeScript programming language.

Pros of JavaScript library Backbone

  1. Architecture: This JS technology is based on the MVP (Model-View-Presenter) pattern. Sometimes you may see that the JavaScript library follows the MVC pattern, but this is incorrect. MVP is a derivative of this pattern and is responsible for creating the user interface. 
  2. Suitable for web and mobile apps: The architecture chosen by Jeremy Ashkenas simplifies unit testing. Also, Backbone's MVP structure makes this tool ideal for creating web and mobile projects.
  3. Front-end and back-end frameworks synchronization: This feature should not be missed in a head-to-head comparison of Backbone JS vs AngularJS. Since the library is REST API compatible, programmers can seamlessly make the front-end and back-end parts of a project work together.
  4. Imperative programming paradigm: This is a key difference between Backbone and AngularJS, where declarative programming is supported. What does this item give to the JS library? This instrument includes the commands, which your built application must run.
  5. Easy to learn: The library has a lightweight structure; it is faster and simpler for coders to learn. Unlike Angular.js, programmers don't have to master many additional programming languages or tools. An experienced developer can understand Backbone quickly enough if needed.
  6. 100+ working custom extensions: Unlike some other unpopular JS-based frameworks or libraries, this one has a ton of helpful custom extensions. It will be easy enough for you to find the extension you need for various categories of web projects. So in this part, AngularJS vs Backbone, the priority stays with the JavaScript library. While there are plenty of extensions for AngularJS, too, you'll have to check them out more carefully.
  7. High flexibility: If you need to see the changes in the code immediately, you can do it right away. This technology is effortless to modify, and you can see the changes made right in your web or mobile application.
  8. Lightweight: Backbone itself doesn't take much space, which is handy for small and medium complexity projects. 
  9. Clear documentation: This round of AngularJS vs Backbone is also behind Jeremy Ashkenas' creation. Programmers have access to reasonably well-developed documentation, making it pretty simple to interact with the JS library.
Companies that use Backbone.js
AngularJS vs Backbone: Companies that use Backbone.js

Cons of JavaScript library Backbone

  1. No strict structure: Backbone is a library, not a framework; the developer builds the app layout themselves. For this reason, you will have to think much more carefully about the project structure and create the source code core thoughtfully. In Angular.js, the structure is stricter, so programmers are less likely to make mistakes in the early development stages.
  2. Not suitable for building complex apps: As for AngularJS vs Backbone, it's vital to understand what types of products both technologies are ideal for. In the first case, you can build SPAs and scale them as needed. In the second, you'll have to download additional extensions and plugins. Why? A few simple tools built into Backbone will not be enough. 
  3. No 2-way data binding: Another issue with choosing this tool will be no 2-way data binding. Your team of specialists will have to write a lot more source code, so large mobile and web applications with Backbone usually don't get built.
  4. Not widespread: The instrument doesn't have as large a community as Angular, Vue, or React, making it difficult to find a savvy developer. Beginners can quickly understand the features of this JS library; however, they will not have experience in developing a good architecture. There remain high risks that you will not find a skilled expert. It can be a fatal mistake in the AngularJS vs Backbone matter, turning the source code into a mess. 
  5. Lightweight: Yes, that's right. The lightweight of this tool is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You will need to download jQuery, Underscore.js, or their alternatives to work correctly with this JavaScript library.

In lieu of a conclusion

Since both front-end technologies are based on JS programming language, it was easier for us to determine the AngularJS vs Backbone battle winner. Based on pros, both tools scored a high number of points. However, by cons, Backbone is in the lead. It is not a good reason to be happy. The more disadvantages, the less appropriate the tool is for a business.

Note: If the disadvantages of Backbone are not critical for your web project, then this solution is OK for you. We should warn you that it is not very widespread, and it will not be easy to find a team of qualified employees. According to 2021 statistics, Backbone is not among the most used in the world.

We are happy that one of our preferred technologies won the AngularJS vs Backbone contest. However, you should know that Angular.js is still not the perfect solution for many products. After the release of Angular 2, the previous framework began to lose ground. Even Google themselves put it into support mode, not development one.

For this reason, it is even better to use Angular 2+. This technology is running quicker and has some advantages over AngularJS. Firstly, when comparing performance, the newer version of Angular on TypeScript is faster. Secondly, this CLI has many supported tools. So far, Google isn't saying Angular.js is dead rather than alive, but rumors have been floating around.

What should you do? If you've already created a project using an «old» JS-based framework, then it's worth thinking about migration. There are at least seven reasons for migrating AngularJS to Angular. If you haven't started working on the product yet, then it's worth thinking about building a new Angular-based product or hiring an Angular developer for your team. That way, you'll be on a horse and provide your customers with the most pleasing UI and UX possible.

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November 12, 2021
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