Top 20 Best Free JavaScript Frameworks for Web Developers 2016

Estimated read time 15 min read


JavaScript is growing fast, it’s becoming more native, but most importantly — it’s becoming more stable. The number of web development frameworks that have come into the JavaScript sphere in the last years has really boomed, and many of the frameworks have already established huge communities around them, Angular, Meteor and React to name a few. In today’s post we will be taking a closer look at the currently most popular JavaScript frameworks and we strongly believe that these frameworks will be seeing a lot of growth, engagement, and exposure in 2016. Please share with us your personal experiences with the frameworks that you have used from our list as we would love to hear more input about the use cases for each individual framework.

Reactive JavaScript Frameworks

Reactive web development is all about responsiveness, resilience, scalability and accuracy. We want to build applications and software that is responsive to the real-time demands that are being imposed on it, we also want our systems to be resilient against peak performance, or the kind of demands that come from unknown sources, and we want our projects to be scalable so that when the time comes, we can easily upgrade or downgrade our software for optimal performance. The following JavaScript frameworks have been built with reactive web development in mind, and we look forward to hearing about more such frameworks that we perhaps left out of this particular list.


Why Mobservable Introduction

With Mobservable You will be able to begin observing your data structure, while also having the capability of making your functions reactive, which means that they will reassess themselves whenever data is changed in real-time. Take any piece of data from your structure and turn it into a separate row, then turn your functions into auto-updating formulas. Mobservable’s mission is to help developers simple and effective views that are always fully rendered, without needing the extra fat that other full-render frameworks might bring to the table.




Omniscient provides developers with features and tools to build functional UIs based on clear components; enabling a more static model of development. Very similar to static web development we would do in HTML, but Omniscient enables the features of programming. You can still manipulate your Views to be eloquent, just without the need to work with things like templating engines, or domain specific languages. Omniscient encourages small, composable components, and shared functionality through mixins.



Ractive.js The diamond age of web development

Ractive has been around for a while, many of the leading worlds websites have embraced it’s native functionality for building template oriented User Interface components that support JavaScript features and flexibility. Creating interactive application like experiences within the browser is not an easy task, it never was, but Ractive is one of those rare frameworks that help to bridge this gap and helps to build for a more seamless experience. Eugene Mirotin from Toptal goes deeper into the capabilities of Ractive and explores the process of building a simple, reactive and interactive application.




Mercury is lightweight, simple and potent modular front-end framework that provides a number of pre-built web modules and components that you can start implementing in your apps straight away. The demo page showcases things like reactive change of functions, for example taking the example of a simple Canvas image which has the set color of ‘blue’, within the same browser window you can in real-time change the color to ‘red’ as the response is fully responsive and reactive, giving you more room and space to develop truly multi-dimensional web apps.



WebRx The Browser based MVVM Framework for ReactiveX powered Single Page Applications

WebRx, a Model–view–viewmodel (MVVM) framework that’s built on top of RX.js for combining together functional and reactive programming patterns that support observable and declarative data binding, client side routing, and templating features. Whether it’s a simple and reactive Hello World you’re looking to build, or a fully functional one-page ToDo app, WebRx has been built to help accelerate the process of modern web app development, and delivers on its promise without hesitation. It’s also very lightweight, coming in at only 30kb when minified and optimized.



Readme Deku

Deku is a manifestation of a more lightweight alternative to React by the team at Segment. Deku’s main function is to help render UIs using pure JavaScript functions and the virtual Document Object Model (DOM). With Deku you don’t need to rely on classes, and instead you can use direct functions to transfer tasks to third party software like Redux, and because Segment wants to keep things uncomplicated, Deku will mostly work only within modern and new browsers. Works great alongside the existing React development network.



Riot.js — A React like user interface micro library

React has definitely been a huge influencer for most of the reactive JavaScript frameworks we see in today’s development World, and Riot.js is no exception. In their own words, Riot.js is React-based UI library that focuses on micro functions. Streamdata has explored this approach in huge detail on their blog. (Once you’re done with that article, scroll to the bottom to learn about more Riot.js content they’ve published!) Riot.js is being maintained by the developers at Muut — one of the most prominent discussion platforms we have seen to date, which is also super-reactive and interactive, so expect the same kind of performance in your own apps once you begin using Riot’s functionality in your projects.




Mithril stands out with its flexible library size (7kb) as well as a prescient documentation that’s constantly updated with new contexts and approaches as the library itself progresses in development process. The benchmarks in comparison to some other famous JavaScript frameworks are staggering, and will leave you intrigued to try it out.




Vue.js is very modest when it comes to describing itself as a framework, it prefers to use the term ‘library’ which then combined with other tools can be turned into a fully functional framework. Vue is for developing and creating modern and sleek web interfaces. Up until very recently, it was still a beta project, but October 2015 marked the released of the V1 which means that Vue is ready for real-world development, and so many are already sharing their insights and experiences with the framework. If you love to create code that makes sense from the moment you look at it, then it’s definitely worth giving Vue a try.


MVC JavaScript Frameworks

MVC is a software approach that separates application logic from presentation. In practice, it permits your web pages to contain minimal scripting since the presentation is separate from the PHP scripting. MVC frameworks that we will be taking a look at in a moment have progressed extensively over the years, and majority provide features that enable seamless mobile application development as well.

Web frameworks like Angular (which is soon coming into V2) and React have changed the web development landscape for the better, and so much excitement is hidden within the anticipation of what is yet to come.


AngularJS — Superheroic JavaScript MVW Framework

Google’s ever-popular web development framework Angular has exploded with popularity in recent years, and continues to provide a solid base foundation for developers who are working strictly with the latest industry standards and abilities. Angular.js in itself provides a set of modern development and design features for rapid application development, and Google has gone as far as creating a separate part of the site that offers the Material Design specification to help you build apps that stay in touch with the most modern approaches there are.

Angular 2 is approaching the first BETA release, which you can learn more about in the latest post from Angular’s developer team. And because of the extensive framework nature of Angular, it fully supports extendable libraries and plugins — here’s a compilation of some of the most popular libraries for the year of 2015.




With the kind of lifespan that this project holds already, even those living under a rock will have heard of jQuery before. Whenever someone wants to extend their website (or mobile page) and make it more interactive; they rely on the functionality of jQuery. This tiny library transforms the whole web into a fully interactive and entertaining experience, with a reported whopping 70%+ of the World’s leading websites having something to do with jQuery. jQuery plugins and widgets are amongst the most searched components within the front-end developer orbit.

Companies like WordPress, Google, IBM and many others rely on jQuery to provide a one of a kind web browsing experience to its own staff and of course the vast ocean of internet users. jQuery is also fully compilant with mobile devices, and has a separate jQuery Mobilelibrary to take care of all things mobile.



A JavaScript library for building user interfaces React

React is the web programming orbit’s latest crown jewel, even religious Angular.js users have made the switch to React as it allows for more smooth front-end development without the need of immersing in the complexity of a front-end framework. React is a JavaScript library that’s being maintained by Facebook, and the main area of expertise behind React is to help developers implement a Virtual DOM; instead output a value called the Virtual DOM. The Virtual DOM is then diffed with the current state of the DOM, which generates a list of DOM operations that would make the current DOM look like the new one. Those operations are applied quickly in a batch.

In terms of popularity, a developer recently published an interesting finding between the traffic stats of the sub-reddit r/React and r/Angularon Reddit — and both seem to be getting the same traffic volume each day now, which means that React has actually caught up with Angular in more ways than one.




Socket’s gained a lots of momentum in the real-time developer community. With Socket you can enjoy a fully functional real-time communication between the client and the server. Socket is divided into two different parts — the first part is a client-library that runs from the browser, whereas the server-library is built on top of Node.js. Both libraries share a very similar API, and Socket is also event driven; much like Node.js is. With Socket you can implement real-time streaming of binary, instant messaging platforms, interactive document collaboration, real-time stats for your apps and projects (analytics), and so much more.

Microsoft Office relies on Socket to provide much of its real-time functionality, as does Yammer. Socket works heavily with the WebSocket protocol to provide a transparent experience.



Welcome Polymer 1.0

Google’s Polymer project doesn’t just spice things up with the use of Material Design, this stupefying JavaScript framework is all about fast and modern web design through the ability to create and reuse web components. The project spent a long time in a BETA release, but last year we saw the first release of a V1 and the project has snowballed ever since.

While many are still wondering what is the true difference between Polymer and Angular (since both share many similar traits like code syntax and design features), we know for a fact that Polymer brings about a new kind of development experience that will propel the rest of the industry into a modern web component based development approach.




Node.js is very likely to be the most powerful framework that we have seen since the inception of JavaScript, and the project has grown incredibly big in the recent couple of years. While many were predicting the downfall of Node.js and the rise of other server-side frameworks, Node.js has been able to maintain its leadership glory to this very day. Node.js has become extremely scalable and versatile with its capabilities, and many developers rank it above technical programming languages such as Java and .NET! (at least for the web)

Node.js is built on top of Google’s V8 JavaScript engine and the main purpose of the framework is to help build interaction vigorous web apps like community sites, content streaming websites, feature heavy one-page apps, and other apps that rely on heavy data interaction. This open-source project can be learned by beginners just as it can be easily be picked up by developers who come from other languages. The learning curve is the same for everyone.

Last year, Node made a full merge with IO.js — bringing about an extended list of features and potential.




Meteor has grown from a simple inspirational idea into a fully functional and funded project that is home to thousands of enthusiastic developers. Meteor has in many ways revolutionized the developed of real-time mobile and web applications that can be built from within a singular development interface. Any web application built with Meteor is also automatically compatible with mobile devices — to the point where you can convert your existing web apps into mobile apps and published them on the most popular mobile app stores!

With the recent release of Galaxy (cloud hosting platform), Meteor is making front-end and back-end development a unified, complexity-less experience. Meteor’s a stable full-stack framework that supports native JavaScript language for helping you build modern and scalable web and mobile applications. The public package repository Atmosphere has thousands of published packages that will let you build multiplex applications on the fly.



D3.js Data Driven Documents

Visuals, animation and graphics are an essential part of the web. Without the implementation of good graphics within our designs, we risk of portraying our designs as bleak and shallow, depending on the given circumstances. D3 is a data-driven visual component library that helps developers and designers to use JavaScript to build truly astonishing visual data reports, artworks, interactive bullet charts, sunburst diagrams, a variety of data matrixes, word clouds, and countless other types of data visualizations that will leave your customers inspired and pleased with the overall presentation. It takes time to learn the correct syntax usage of D3.js, but it is so worth it as you will see in the examples on this page.

The creator of D3 — Mike Bostock — did an interesting Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit last year, and it’s packed with insightful questions and answers that will help you better understand the intention, the vision and the drive behind this project. Be prepared to spend some time digesting all the answers.



Ember.js A framework for creating ambitious web applications.

Ember is a modern web development framework for the ambitiously-oriented developers. Known for its ability to help developers build complex large-client-side applications — Ember stands out with its simplicity and flow of functionality to make web app development a smooth experience. Getting started with Ember is quick and painless, and many developers have gone out of their way to create tutorials and guides on how to get started with this adaptable framework.

Ember has managed to stay away from gleaming terms and modules that make modern frameworks stand out from the crowd, instead Ember maintains traditional functionality while bringing forth power and centerdness that’s necessary for building great applications, such as the Discourse discussion forum.



Home Aurelia

Aurelia is a self-proclaimed next generation web development framework that primarily focuses on making programming (web development) a creative process. Perhaps what makes Aurelia next-generation is the fact that it has been built purely with ES6 (the latest JS standard) and also incorporates some of the available ES7 (the next JS standard) features already, whilst retaining the ability to function on all modern browsers. The framework is built upon a module-like framework, meaning that it consists of several small and big libraries that can be used either together, or separately depending on the requirements of the kind of application that you are building.

However these are just a few of the more visionary features that Aurelia packs, and it’s highly recommended that you read Rob Eisenberg’s writeup about Aurelia to fully understand the frameworks purpose.



KeystoneJS · Node.js cms and web application platform built on Express and MongoDB

We should probably be mentioning this framework in a separate Node.js framework list (which we will), but Keystone’s capabilities really stand out in modern front-end web development, and it’s not often that we see a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS)framework available. Built with the support of Express.js and MongoDB, Keystone enables functionality like — dynamic routes, database field management, an interactive and dynamic Admin UI that’s available even while you’re building your apps/content systems, a simple to work with code base, form processing, email sending and management, as well as plenty of other features that make great CMS what they are — great!


Choosing the Best JavaScript Development Framework

Choosing a framework should never be about the number of features that the particular framework can provide, it’s clear that terms like ‘next generation’ can sound very appealing, but what it comes down to is the actual functionality of the framework and how that functionality can be used within your own project, app, software that you are building. Some frameworks provide more experience in a sense where the framework is built by sensational developers with decades of experience behind their backs, whereas smaller web frameworks will focus on community oriented features that can be incorporated within different framework modules.

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