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JavaScript Breaks from Browser to Become Mobile Force, Report Says

JavaScript traditionally has been all about Web development, but a new survey indicates it's breaking out of that bailiwick to become a force in mobile app development.

Whereas mobile development not that long ago was mainly constricted to using languages such as Java and Objective-C -- with C++, Swift and C# in the mix -- approaches such as React Native, NativeScript, PhoneGap/Cordova, Ionic and so on have put JavaScript to the task.

The result: "JavaScript has become a major force in the mobile app development world," says a new survey from npm Inc. that examines "Enterprise JavaScript in 2019."

npm, maintainer of the npm package manager for JavaScript and reportedly the world's largest software registry, put its unique position in the industry to conduct the survey that garnered more than 33,000 responses from 194 countries across 23 industries to reveal the mobile surge.

And, having achieved a foothold in mobile, JavaScript is increasingly being used for other uses, the survey indicated.

"JavaScript has broken out of the browser and become a general purpose programming language, put to all the same uses as other programming languages," the survey report said.

Those use cases even include desktop development, with the report noting: "A number of popular desktop applications such as Slack are written in JavaScript, so we'll be watching to see how the native app development community within npm grows."

Looking at the numbers, the survey reported 46 percent of respondents are building native mobile apps and desktop apps. The breakdown of where JavaScript apps run is presented in this graphic:

JavaScript Use Cases
[Click on image for larger view.] JavaScript Use Cases (source: npm Inc.)

Other survey highlights as presented by npm include:

  • React's growth continues to dominate -- 63 percent of developers use React, up 5 percent year over year. This makes React more than twice as popular as the next-biggest framework, Angular. React and its ecosystem of complementary technologies dominate web, mobile, and desktop development in the npm community.
  • TypeScript gains momentum -- 61 percent of all JavaScript developers report using TypeScript, an impressive 31 percent increase in usage since npm's last survey. With TypeScript adoption on the rise, the study digs deeper into top-level usage data to find how many npm users are primarily TypeScript developers.
  • GraphQL is set for a boom -- 23 percent of developers have already started using GraphQL, but 49 percent of all npm users are considering using it in 2019. npm plans future studies that will further examine the motivations and use-cases driving this interest.
  • Kubernetes is big, and serverless is gaining serious momentum -- 56 percent of respondents deploy using containerization technologies, and a surprising 33 percent of respondents already use "serverless" or "cloud functions" to deploy code.
  • Security concerns have increased -- 83 percent of respondents are concerned about whether the open source code they use is secure, an 8 percent increase over last year, reflecting JavaScript's maturing developer base. The complete survey report contains analysis on what best practices the industry prefers to utilize, and the increasing frequency of methods such as automated security scans.
  • Companies who use open source JavaScript care about compliance -- 58 percent of npm users said that the license of a package impacts their decision to use it, and 55 percent were prohibited from using certain licenses by their employers. The study goes into detail on the kinds of licenses that cause the most concern among enterprises.

Methodology for the survey, which was conducted late last year and early this year, is available here.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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