Why developers opt to migrate from AngularJS to React?

One might think that creating a web application and getting it online is the be-all and end-all of application development. Sure, there is still the need for maintaining the code, fixing bugs, making patches and rolling out upgrades, but that’s it, right?

Well, no. In fact, one of the biggest upheavals in the life of any developer comes when a technology they use becomes “legacy”. That’s outdated and no longer supported in fancy developer terms. This happened when Google declared it was only going to provide support for AngularJS or Angular 1 until 2022, meaning no more updates, bug fixes or security patches for systems running on AngularJS. This signaled the inevitable: migration.

The question thus arose: Were developers going to ask their AngularJS web development company to migrate to Angular, the newer versions (2 and up) of Angular 1, or to React, which was rapidly rising in popularity? Turns out, most AngularJS development service providers chose React. And here’s why.

Why Make the Jump from AngularJS to React?

The reasons are aplenty. There are two ways of seeing this – the developer’s technical way and the AngularJS web development company boss’ resource-optimizing perspective. We will arrive at the latter as a consequence of the former.

  • Angular is basically a framework while React is a library. A good analogy of this would be Lego. Angular acts as the Lego base plate onto which you can design and add all necessary functionalities to create your application. On the other hand, React, being a library, has all the Lego pieces, i.e., the functional components, that you can use and reuse as many times as you want. All you need to do is design the foundation. As a result, React provides far more flexibility and customization than Angular at the cost of simplicity and ease, which is hardly a sacrifice if you value creative liberty more.
  • React introduced one-way data binding to the mainstream. Basically, changes are rendered to the View of the Model View Controller or MVC framework, but not updated to the Model at every instance. Facebook uses Flux architecture to bring this about. Also worth mentioning here is the Virtual DOM of React that helps push one-way data binding. React maintains a replica of the DOM where all changes from the View are updated initially. Once done, it compares the Virtual DOM with the actual DOM and updates only the final changes. Compare this to AngularJS application development where the two-way binding is dominantly used. This means changes, whether made in the View or the Model, are immediately updated in the other. Angular utilizes Dirty Checking, in which the digest cycle is implemented on each and every change to make the updates. This makes it extremely slow, compared to React – in fact, over five times slower. Longer load times will automatically hamper SEO.
  • This heavy dependence of Angular on the DOM makes it harder to debug and implement patches. Even otherwise, Angular JS is code-heavy and uses a lot of complex logic and concepts, which adds to the above issue. React is cleaner and more compact and the one-way data binding and declarative nature make it easier to debug.
  • There is another reason why React applications are more SEO-friendly. AngularJS does client-side rendering, meaning bots will find it harder to crawl and index. On the contrary, React allows both client-side and server-side rendering, so if you go with the latter, it will allow better SEO performance, combined with the faster loading advantage.
  • As we already mentioned, the one-way data binding of React creates an air-gapping of sorts between the Model and the View of the MVC. This makes it easy to restructure the back end architecture of an application without affecting the front end and thus, maintaining continuity of service in a seamless way not easy in AngularJS application development.
  • React conventionally uses JSX, which is as close to native JavaScript as it can get while being very easy to learn and use. In fact, if a developer has sufficient JS knowledge, they can create an application in React within weeks that could take months in AngularJS. Add to this, the fact that Angular has a steep learning curve and since Angular was a complete rewrite of AngularJS anyway, developers flocked to React.
  • This leads us to the fact that Angular is not only a complete rewrite, it is also backward-incompatible, meaning there was no way to just upgrade AngularJS applications to Angular. There was nothing to say that one day, a new version will also appear with no migration support from older versions, and developers would face this dilemma all over again. Facebook, on the other hand, was not so cruel with React so you could upgrade from older versions easily.
  • The community support for React was also stronger in terms of the number of developers involved as well as the level of details provided. The former can be attributed to the popularity of React, the latter to the fact that React requires detailed programming knowledge since it is a library and not a framework.

What is the Best Way to Migrate?

Depending on the programming expertise of the developers in your AngularJS web development company, the budget you can spare, the time and effort you are willing to put in, your needs and a number of other factors, there are two main approaches you can take when deciding your migration strategy. These are:            

  • Step-wise Replacement – In this, the developers replace the components, features, and functionalities one by one, wrapping each React component in an AngularJS component to allow co-existence. This allows a seamless switch as long as every part and migration path is made robust, compatible, and error-free. Users do not have to deal with downtime. This is cheaper and can be done over a longer period, making it a viable option for most.
  • Replica Replacement – If a company has money and developers to spare, they can migrate by creating a React replica of the entire AngularJS system and make the shift in one go. While there is downtime involved here, developers do not have to waste time on the wrapping step or worry about compatibility.

At the end of the day, whether you will take the plunge with React or not will be your choice. The truth that the AngularJS web development company is slowly shifting to React cannot be denied and it is advisable to do so too, to avoid being the last one holding on to a sinking ship.

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