Ember.js is a front-end framework primarily used for avoiding repetitive development work. Features common to every app have been built into Ember, which allows developers to focus on the unique aspects of their product. Developers love Ember for its sensible design, good documentation and simplicity. The framework has never been as popular as some other ones (e.g. Angular), but it has dedicated fans and is still going strong in 2018. In this article we answer the question of whether it’s still a good idea to use Ember for your new project.

A new wave of JavaScript developers

According to this Ember contributor, surveys from 2015 tell us that most JavaScript developers had less than 5 years of experience and were thus unlikely to be decision makers for their projects. But since they are growing into these roles now, there’s hope that they will push Ember towards the forefront of popular JS frameworks.

Performance

There have been voices about Ember’s unsatisfying speed and weight, but the framework is fast enough for most projects. If Linked and Netflix use it, it has to be pulling its weight. Other examples of companies that use Ember include Groupon, DigitalOcean and Vine.

“Ember.js is all about creating complex, single-page applications for the web, where you can switch between different pages at near instantaneous speeds without waiting for distant servers to reply with the next page. (…) This is the future we envision for you,” writes Yoh Suzuki, a Twitch engineer.

Ember’s development team is continuously releasing updates

It’s less popular than AngularJS, for example, but Ember still has a robust, dedicated community and a lot of support for developers. The core team is focused on bringing in new features while working towards a “painless” upgrade flow. The updates are stable and easily introduced even with years-old apps.

As Ember is an “opinionated” framework characterised by strong conventionality, there are many common features between Ember apps built by different teams. This means that a feature developed for one app has a good chance of being compatible with another app, and so updating an Ember project with external resources can be nearly effortless. Community-developed solutions (e.g. add-ons) also tend to have the same patterns, so they can be easily brought into almost any Ember app and aren’t difficult to customize. Convention over configuration is a powerful approach.

Another benefit of opinionated software is the ease with which balance and understanding can be reached between developers on even the largest teams. Tom Dale, a LinkedIn engineer and one of Ember’s creators, talks about this in this short video interview. His main point is that, in a company as large as LinkedIn, finding common ground between developers working on a single project can be a challenge. With Ember, however (and other technologies following convention over configuration), this challenge rarely ever arises.

Upcoming changes

Despite one of the core philosophies behind Ember being stability without stagnation, the framework is set to change dramatically over the next few months. On one hand, these are good news. A rebirth of this sort is sure to have a positive impact on Ember’s lifespan. On the other hand, the stability that has been maintained for years will give way to change.

The announced future changes to Ember involve better developer experience, updated syntax and file structure (with module unification for co-locating related files), improved templating, and Typescript support. The new edition, Ember Octane, “will focus on the themes of productivity and performance,” according to the official 2018 Roadmap. All these changes will make updates to the existing Ember add-ons necessary, and any ones lagging behind the rest might cause difficulty in introducing the whole suite of improvements to existing applications.

Many voices in the community predict a new life for Ember, along with a surge in popularity. It’s difficult to say how exactly all this will go down, and what the end result will be, but it’s safe to assume that Ember will still be maintained and alive years down the line.

Developer ambition

One of the ideas behind Ember’s creation was to help developers deliver ambitious projects. This is not a framework built with only standard single-page apps in mind - it’s just as good for complex apps available on several platforms, including desktop and mobile. Ember was also meant to address issues with the JavaScript frameworks commonly used at the time of its creation. Ember’s main focus has always been on doing things better.

Conclusions

Though not the most popular front-end JavaScript framework out there, Ember.js is well-loved by those developers who’ve chosen to put their trust in it. Its community is robust and extremely ambitious, the principles behind Ember make it sound like an almost noble technology, if such a thing can be said about a framework, and the plans for its future rebirth should extend Ember’s lifecycle for at least another several years. There’s nothing to suggest that Ember.js is a dying framework, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it in your project.

In fact, teams are using Ember to reach beyond the current capabilities of their products and strive for more. Gavin Joyce, Manager of Engineering at Intercom, sums up their adventure with Ember in the following words: “eight weeks ago, we began an experiment to determine if Ember.js would allow us to raise the bar in terms of our product capability and development speed. (…) Based on the success of this project, we now have three teams working with Ember.js.” Intercom’s experiment was a success, and a clear indicator of Ember’s hidden potential.

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