Ever since ng-europe last month, people have been freaking out about Angular 2.0, initially I had written up some thoughts about this in the days following, but I decided to wait a while for things to settle down before writing about this. I am hardly an Angular expert, and though I do use it both at work and also in pet projects I wondered really how much I had to add to the discussion.
Freak Out – The Sky Is Falling – The Angular Developers Hate Us
Even though Google claims to have over 1600 sites (internal and external) running Angular
they have very few high profile sites running on it. Their commitment to creating a framework that can be maintained over
years does not appear to spring from their internal usage of the framework in a any high profile applications.
The maintainers of Angular appear to pretty well have been given free reign by their bosses at Google to completely re-imagine the framework from the ground up, be damned whether or not it will force a complete re-write off all projects that are using it. Heck they have even created a new language for building your applications in, as well as changing basically everything about Angular (dropping $scope, directives, modules, controllers) so that it will be a completely different animal from Angular 1.x. The other bomb they dropped is that Angular 1.3 would be supported from 18 Months after Angular 2.0 was released.
Of course everyone who has spent the past three years learning the intricacies of $scope, and how to write effective directives and have create a giant codebase of Angular apps started freaking out. If you work at a company were codebases last years or decades and are evolved over time being told that pretty well everything you have written in Angular will have to be completely rewritten if you want to stay with the latest release is not welcome news. There has been nebulous talk about some kind of migration strategy but always preceded by stating that until the Angular 2.0 has been codified it is too early to talk about how it would work. I remember the migration strategy from VB6 to VB.Net (which I think would be similar in scope to the kind of changes proposed for Angular 2.0) and it was basically useless to the point where there are still companies 15 years later whose only job is to convert VB6 applications, and it is still a nightmarish task.
And we know that Google doesn’t have a track of supporting things it feels is no longer in its best interest:
shutting down Reader and Google Wave
(does anyone else think that if Google had given Wave a little longer while to develop they could have had a serious
HipChat or Slack competitor?) when
they no longer have interest in them.
Right now Angular is the 500 lb Gorilla because of its massive user bar and it’s inevitability, of it losers that it will lose one of its greatest assets.
Calm The F*ck Down – Nothing Is Set In Stone – There Will Be A Migration Plan
First of all, people overreact, developers doubly so. Criticize a developers favorite editor or IDE if you ever want to
see this effect in action. Move someones cheese and watch the freak-outs happen, so it cane as no surprise that when
people finally realized that Angular 2 was going to be drastically different there was going to be s reaction.
Though the lead developers had been dropping hints about major changes months but the scope of the change was never 100% clear until ng-europe and the new syntax was demoed on screen.
Part of the problem was the fact that there hadn’t been much transparency or consultation of what the users of angular wanted (and no, that isn’t the responsibility of the developers of an open source project but if they want to retain said users they should probably keep that thought in mind). The other problem is a lot of users felt that the Angular developers where basically architecture astronauts searching for a more elegant solution where most people were happy with Angular’s approach.
Of course the truth is always more complicated, and because of the internet freakout the angular developers have
kind of jumped into crisis management mode writing blog posts
and appearing on [podcasts][http://devchat.tv/adventures-in-angular/016-aia-ng-1-3-and-2-0-with-brad-green-igor-minar-and-mi-ko-hevery] to explain exactly what is going on. Part of the changes are because even though it has Angular has sprung to popularity in the past couple of years, it was initially written 5 years ago when the state of web technologies was different and to include modern and upcoming features like Shadow Dom, Object Observe, and Web Components things under the hood have to change in fairly major ways. However, one would think that these new technologies could be implimented in ways that don’t require a complete change of the way Angular is written (although in various places the architects behind Angular claim that it was necessary to change the way attributes are notated to get web components to work).
It is important to remember that Angular 2 is in the design process, and undoubtedly will change before the final version is released. The developers have promised that when they get closer to release there will be some kind of a migration story. And the backlash has been intense so plans for what Angular 2 will be might change or they might change the lifespan of Angular 1.x and continue it longer than the original 18 months earlier stated. In fact, my guess is the appearance of the AngularJS 1.4 Planning guide and the fact that appears to be a version 1.4 upcoming is a sign that the developers are listening.
The griping about Angular 2.0 and the way it was quietly developed in isolation is certainly grounded (I mostly agree with
John Petersen’s conclusions in his blog post How Google broke the OSS compact with Angular 2.0). It certainly seems like
the people chosen to run the Angular project could learn a lot from some of the more mature projects in the space.
jQuery, for example, telegraphs their intentions for major changes years in advance and deprecates features very slowly and even includes compatibility plugins (with deprecation notices so that you can find and update your code) when they finally do remove a feature (and even then people get frustrated).
I am still on the Angular bandwagon, but when people ask me now whether it is still worth learning Angular or should they learn React or Ember or wait for Angular 2 I am less emphatic in my “of course learn Angular refrain from the past”. Now I would definitely say try a bit of each and pick the one you like best after a few hours with each framework, and if you do pick Angular definately use the Controller as abstraction. And to the developers of Angular I would say that there is lots about Angular that can be improved without changing everything rewriting the framework (at least keep working on the 1.x branch until a majority of the 750+ issues are closed.