Can HTMX Replace React?

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The popularity of React continues to grow! According to the StackOverflow survey from 2023, Node.js and React.js emerged as the top two most prevalent web technologies among all respondents. While professional developers use both technologies almost equally, individuals learning to code tend to favor Node.js slightly more than React (52% compared to 48%).

React currently stands as the second most popular web technology. This prominence might lead some to assume that no other technology could rival React's status. However, that's not entirely true. As outlined in our previous blog, even the top-ranking technology, Node.js, has encountered a competitor for specific functionalities in Bun.

In this article, we'll delve into the ongoing debates surrounding whether HTMX can pose a challenge to React and explore the reasons behind them. Let's begin with an introduction to HTMX!

What Is HTMX? 

HTMX has existed for a while now, although it's been a silent project. It began as intercooler.js back in 2013. However, its inclusion in the GitHub Accelerator could change its journey.

As stressed on the official HTMX website, it gives you access to “AJAX, CSS Transitions, WebSockets and Server-Sent Events directly in HTML, using attributes, so you can build modern user interfaces with the simplicity and power of hypertext”.

HTMX is a compact (14k min. gzipped), dependency-free JavaScript library capable of crafting advanced user interfaces effortlessly and effectively using the power of hypertext (markup).

What Are HTMX’s Biggest Strengths? 

Unlike many complex frameworks, HTMX has one of the simplest learning curves. This is due to its straightforward approach, whereas by extending HTML, it offers a familiar environment for developers, facilitating easier learning for beginners.

Another great thing about HTMX is its performance. HTMX's lightweight design leads to quicker page loading. HTMX's lightweight structure can eliminate the need for extensive JavaScript libraries or frameworks, resulting in faster interactions and reduced latency for users.

One of the key strengths of HTMX is that it simplifies creation of interactive web applications. It makes the client side easier by transferring a significant portion of dynamic behavior to server-side logic, leading to cleaner and more maintainable code. That is why it is considered more popular among backend developers, as it enables them to play a more active role in building interactive UI components without going into deep frontend scripting. 

HTMX has the ability to update content dynamically without full-page reloads. That's why this library is recognized for being more cost-efficient and having a stronger user experience aspect.

Key strengths of HTMX:

1. Simple learning curve
2. Fast page loading
3. Easily creates interactive web apps
4. Updates content without full-page reload

Do These Strengths Challenge React?

There is no “Yes or No” answer to this question. However, there are significant points to take into consideration when it comes to a comparison of React and HTMX.

Firstly, ask yourselves: “How complex is my project”? If your project needs a wide range of reusable components or some challenging UI interactions, you should consider React. Its component-based structure and extensive ecosystem offer the essential resources to manage these situations. 

On the other hand, HTMX's strengths appear beneficial where simple and fast development is essential. With HTMX, you can add UI interactivity to your front end directly, reducing the need for extensive JavaScript development and tooling setup, as you would need with some other libraries.

Because HTMX facilitates real-time web page updates by integrating data from a server in live sessions, it can be beneficial when it comes to creating chat rooms and dashboards. Also, due to being much better at handling UI with a large amount of data, HTMX could be a great solution for creating tables or lists, compared to React.

It is important to note that those are not real-time updates in the true sense ( for example with WebSockets), but rather asynchronous calls to a backend that returns HTML as a response instead of JSON. 

Finally, there are other non-technical aspects to consider. First is the readiness of your team to learn new technologies. While HTMX doesn't present a steep learning curve, it might take some extra time to learn the ropes. Moreover, if your team is proficient and at ease with React, there might not be a compelling reason to transition to HTMX. Conversely, if your team leans towards a more simple front-end approach,  HTMX might align better.

Here is the list of contents that presents the best uses of React and HTMX comparatively.

Conclusion: Is HTMX the Future?

HTMX offers many interesting options, whereas the most important one lies in the simple building of interactive web applications. Therefore, it is often stressed that HTMX is the future of full-stack development. 

This is primarily attributed to its seamless compatibility with various backend technologies like Python, Ruby, PHP, and Node.js. Its attribute for seamless data fetching further positions HTMX as a convenient library for facilitating swift front-end adjustments in your project.

Nevertheless, the technical aspects in this domain are diverse and continuously evolving within the software development landscape. For deeper insights into this subject, we recommend reading an insightful post titled "HTMX is the future" on Dev.to.

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