The Top 10 Open Source Web Development Frameworks for 2020

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A new year has begun, bringing in new challenges. For a newbie Web developer, with such a wide array of choices available today, it can be daunting to decide which Web development framework would be the best one for career advancement. This article lists the top 10 Web development frameworks that hold promise for 2020.

When it comes to using an open source Web development framework, there are a wide array of choices available today. In this article, I hope to provide some clarity on which ones to use/learn in 2020. In order for readers to objectively analyse what would be the best option for them, I have come up with a list of the top ten that really stand out. I have listed them in the order of their relevance — No.1 being the most relevant and No.10 the least.
Each framework has been analysed on the basis of five criteria, namely:

  • Companies that use the framework
  • Key features
  • Community engagement
  • Availability of learning resources
  • Frequency of releasing new versions

10. CakePHP
CakePHP is an open source Web development framework. It is built using PHP and follows the MVC (model-view-controller) model. It is good for building prototypes rapidly, and provides a wide array of built-in resources that are ready to use, such as translations, database access, caching, authentication, etc. It is used by Deloitte, Fusic and Adsia, as well as other companies in various capacities for Web development.

Key features:

  • Uses PHP7
  • Can be deployed fast to rapidly build prototypes
  • Uses the MVC model
  • Has many built-in modules that are ready to use
  • Uses MIT licence

CakePHP has a fairly active online community, although immediate resolutions to issues may not always occur. The official repository of CakePHP on GitHub is used by 9.2K developers. Additionally, it has 3.4K forks. However, there is an observable lack of quality tutorials available for CakePHP and there is a steep learning curve involved as you require a fair bit of familiarity with PHP. Typically, there is at least one release every month, with the latest version being v4.0.0.

CakePHP certainly brings a few unique qualities of its own to the table. However, it faces tough competition from the far more mature Laravel, which has a bigger following in the open source dev community with more activity and better tutorials being available. Learn CakePHP if you are already good with all the other frameworks discussed in this article.

9. Rails
Ruby on Rails (popularly known as Rails) is by far the most mature Web development framework in this list. It is a server-side Web application framework that follows the MVC model and provides default structures for databases and Web pages. Rails is used by many top companies such as Airbnb, Bloomberg and GitHub.

Key features:

  • Uses Ruby, which has a great open source community and resources
  • Contains a wide array of ready-made plugins
  • Uses the MVC model of development
  • Uses the MIT licence
  • Highly cost- and time-effective for development

Rails has a very active open source community. The official repository on GitHub is used by 1.3 million developers and has over 18.1K forks. There is an abundance of online tutorials and books available to learn Rails. There are new releases every month, with the current release being v6.0.2.1.

Trends indicate that Rails developers get paid higher because, first, the use of Ruby is at an all-time low, with more developers shifting to JavaScript for Web development. Second, Ruby is a comparatively hard language to learn and has a steeper learning curve. This has led to fewer developers joining the Ruby community, making good programmers for Rails a priceless asset for many companies who depend on the framework. Rails is certainly not going away in 2020 or the foreseeable future. Therefore, if you are a newbie open source Web developer, keep Rails on your wishlist.

8. Spring
Spring is an open source Java based application development framework. It uses the MVC model and has many projects attached to its name that increase the versatility and use cases of the framework. While Spring can be counted upon as a Web development framework, it is used for a lot more than just that. MIT, Intuit, Fitbit and Accenture are among the big names that make use of Spring.

Key features:

  • Has a wide array of sister projects that can be used in the framework including a cloud based service
  • Makes use of concepts like inversion of control and dependency injection that make the framework unique
  • Uses the MVC model of development

Thanks to the huge number of Java developers, Spring has an active open source community with the official repository on GitHub being used by 135K developers and with 22.8K forks. Spring does have a fair bit of online tutorials available, but the learning curve is a bit steep as you are required to have a deep understanding of Java before you dive in. There are new releases every month, with the latest being v5.2.2.

There is a lot that you can do with Spring. It enables you to extend your Web application into many different domains, including the cloud. If you are comfortable with Java, then definitely go for it.

7. ASP.NET
ASP.NET is an open source server-side Web development framework, brought to you by Microsoft. It is based on the .NET framework. Web applications can be written using VBScript (Visual Basic Script) or C#. Launched in 2002, ASP.NET has grown in prominence. Microsoft, GoDaddy, Dell and Taco Bell are amongst the big names that use the ASP.NET framework for their websites.

Key features:

  • Uses the MVC model of development
  • .NET has been one of the most trusted frameworks in the industry
  • Is ideal for developers who are already familiar with C#
  • Fast compilation and execution of code (thanks to the .NET framework).

The open source community engagement is lower with ASP.NET. The official repository on GitHub is used by 2.2K developers while the forks are at 4K. Having said that, you will find plenty of great resources online to learn the framework, as well as VBScript and C#. There are new releases every month for the .NET Core, the latest being v3.1.0.

While PHP beats ASP.NET in speed and performance, ASP.NET beats PHP in compilation and execution speed. You can build some pretty sturdy Web applications using ASP.NET. There is certainly a steep learning curve with C# or VBScript, but that is compensated for by some really good tutorials. If you are a moderately experienced Web developer, I would recommend giving ASP.NET a try.

6. Laravel
Anyone who uses PHP for Web development has at some point either used or heard of the Laravel framework. It is the most used PHP based open source Web development framework, and provides a huge ecosystem of different platforms that support different development needs. 9GAG, Swat.io and Pedidas are among the companies that use Laravel for Web development.

Key features:

  • Uses PHP
  • Follows the MVC model
  • Has a huge ecosystem of different tools such as Vapor, Forge, Envoyer, etc
  • Very secure in comparison to other PHP frameworks

Laravel has a pretty active open source community with the official repository on GitHub having 17.6K forks. Additionally, there is no lack of great quality free tutorials on Laravel. There is at least one release every month with the latest being v6.5.2.

Laravel can be an extremely handy framework to use. However, keep in mind that a good grasp of PHP is a necessary prerequisite. While there is nothing lacking in Lavarel, per se, Django certainly seems to be a more sought after Web development framework, especially among the ever growing number of Python enthusiasts. Having said that, a huge chunk of the Internet still runs on PHP, so learning Laravel certainly has its perks.

5. Django
Django is the most famous Python based Web development framework out there. It is open source and free. The official Django website aptly defines its framework as ridiculously fast, reassuringly secure and exceedingly scalable. Instagram, Pinterest, Coursera, Udemy and many other big companies use Django for their Web applications.

Key features:

  • Uses the MVC model
  • Python is easy to learn and skills based on it are highly sought after
  • Is highly secure
  • Django applications are scalable

Django has an active and vibrant open source community. The official repository on GitHub is used by 339K developers and has 19.9K forks. Additionally, there are a huge number of quality tutorials available to learn Django online, for free. There are new releases almost every 10-15 days with the latest one at the time of writing this article being v3.0.1.

Even with JavaScript based frameworks becoming all the rage in the market, Django still remains very relevant in 2020 and will continue to be so in the future. It uses the power of Python and draws on its simplicity. Creating Django applications can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially if you are a Python enthusiast.

4. Vue
Vue is an open source JavaScript based library for building single-page Web applications. Though it is technically not a framework on its own, combined with a few other back-end tools, it can act as a framework for your Web application. Since its initial launch in 2014, Vue has quickly risen to prominence in the Web development community. Grammarly, Nintendo, Adobe and GitLab are among the big companies that use Vue for building a reactive user interface.

Key features:

  • The biggest advantage with Vue is that it is progressive, i.e., you can plug it into any Web app that is running on any framework without having to make changes to the latter
  • You can isolate the use of Vue on your website to a single module if you want to
  • Follows the MVV model
  • Is reactive, i.e., fast and responsive to user input, regardless of network speed or latency

Vue has a great open source community with over 1.2 million developers using the official repository on GitHub and over 23.3K forks. You will find a multitude of great free tutorials online. Releases are slow, with one coming out every eight months or so. The latest release is v2.6.11.
The major selling point of Vue is its simplicity compared to React, which requires installation, whereas Vue is a plug-and-play library. The progressive nature of Vue, along with the convenience of JavaScript, makes the former a great choice to sharpen up your front-end skills. I highly recommend learning and using Vue in 2020 and beyond.

3. Express
Express is the most popular and, by all means, standard server framework for Node.js. It is open source and makes life super easy for Web developers by taking care of a lot of the jargon associated with setting up and deploying a Web application with Node.js. Intuit, OpenGov, Myntra, Accenture and BlaBlaCar are among some of the big companies that use Express for building and maintaining their Web applications.

Key features:

  • Makes using Node.js easier and less error-prone
  • Good for creating robust APIs
  • Makes routing and handling requests and views easier.

There is a massive community of open source developers and enthusiasts working with Express. Its official repository on GitHub is used by 5.5 million developers and has 7.8K forks. There are some pretty great tutorials available online to learn both Node.js and Express. A new version of Express is released every eight months or so, with the latest being v4.17.1.

The community of Node.js lovers is growing, thanks to the value that it brings as a server-side JavaScript based framework. So Express deserves to be in the Top 3 of your list. Although there is a sharp learning curve with Express, as the JavaScript that you use with Node.js is pretty different from what you may be used to deploying on the front-end, the effort will certainly be worth it. If you haven’t tried it, now is the time to start.

2. Angular
Angular is the next, more sophisticated version of the previously famous AngularJS. It is a TypeScript based open source Web application framework built and maintained by Google. It is great for creating single-page Web applications and is extremely popular in the open source community. Google, Microsoft, Autodesk, McDonalds, UPS, Upwork, Freelancer and many other big companies use Angular for their Web applications.

Key features:

  • Uses TypeScript, which is a superset of JavaScript and enables developing large-scale Web applications
  • Development of Web components is much easier with Angular
  • Comes with a built-in powerful command-line interface (CLI)
  • Uses one-way data binding
  • Uses the MVVM (model-view-view-model)

There are over 15.4K forks on the official repository of Angular on GitHub and 28.8K forks on the official repository of its predecessor AngularJS. The community and support for Angular is vast and pretty stable — something that will most likely continue, thanks to Google. There are some really good tutorials and lessons on getting started with Angular, available for free. Google is highly active with releasing versions of Angular. There is a new updated version out almost every week and at the time of writing this article, the latest version is v9.0.0-rc.7.

Angular is certainly an in-demand Web application framework with a lot of potential. It’s got some big companies backing it, and you are expected to be good at Angular if you are a professional Web developer. The only drawback is that there is a slightly steep learning curve with TypeScript, which can make Angular look a little intimidating to start with. My recommendation is to get over that little hiccup and learn Angular now!

1. React
The No.1 on my list is React. Built by Facebook, it is a JavaScript library for writing highly reactive single-page Web applications. Unlike Angular, which is a full-fledged framework, React cannot be directly defined as a framework. While it acts more or less like a library, the underlying concepts of React, such as components, the use of JSX and inversion of control, bring it pretty close to being loosely defined as a framework. Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Yahoo and Khan Academy are among some of the big names that use React.

Key features:

  • Uses JSX, which is a syntax extension for JavaScript that provides support for pseudo HTML coding
  • Has a simpler design compared to Angular
  • DOM rendering is made easier with the help of components
  • Is easier to learn and deploy as compared to Angular

React has a massive open source community, with 2.9 million developers using the official repository on GitHub that has over 27.1K forks. There are hundreds of great resources available to learn React. There is at least one release every month, the latest being v16.12.0.

React is certainly the most promising single-page Web application development library in the market, as of now. As a professional Web developer, it is essential for you to learn React. With projects like React Native gathering momentum, it is pretty clear that React will extend its boundaries and become an even more robust and extensive platform in the near future. It should definitely be on the top of your list.

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