It's hard to escape the gravity of internet giants like Facebook and Google. Not only do they offer an ever-growing number of apps and services that are hard to live without, many other popular websites and applications incorporate code written by these companies.
That's because today's web developers don't typically write all of their code themselves. Instead, they rely on open source "frameworks," which provide both a collection of reusable parts and an overall structure for building an application. Frameworks free developers from much grunt work, allowing them to focus on the newer, more interesting parts of an application.
The big reason for Vue's success, developers who rely on it say, is its simplicity. More companies want to build web applications that, like Google Docs, feel as snappy as a native application. But few actually build applications as complex as Facebook’s or Google’s. What developers often really want is a framework for building small, interactive web apps. Angular can be overkill for simple applications, while React has a steep learning curve even for experienced developers.
Vue applies a more "layered" approach to building a framework. Its simple core foundation is easy for developers to learn. More advanced features can be added atop that foundation. But those advanced features are optional, and they don’t add weight or complexity to an application that doesn’t use them. "It’s very easy to get started, and it grows with you as your skills develop," says Taylor Otwell, a Vue user and creator of the popular server-side framework called Laravel.
Vue has been around since 2014, but it's only really taken off in the past two years. You started the project while working at Google's Creative Lab, a multidisciplinary team within the company. He wasn't involved with the Angular team, but he used it in a few projects, and it inspired him to create his own simpler framework based on some of the same ideas.
"I didn't set out thinking 'I'm going to make a framework to beat the other frameworks,'" he says. "It started out as an experimental little library to solve problems I encountered in my work."
Early on, Vue caught the eye of one of its most vocal advocates, Jinjiang Zhao, a China-based developer at e-commerce giant Alibaba. Zhao says he had started working on something similar at Alibaba, but when he discovered Vue, he adopted it and encouraged Alibaba colleagues to use Vue in their projects. He says it was slow going, because Vue had no name recognition compared with Angular. Still, Zhao kept an eye on Vue, using it in small internal projects when he could; he also helped translate the documentation into Chinese and wrote blog posts in Chinese that helped Vue attract attention in China.
But even with a large and growing user base, making money from open source projects is hard. Even popular projects used by the world’s largest companies struggle with funding. You makes money from Vue in a few ways, including consulting, private training sessions, selling ads on the documentation, and donations. But the most important revenue stream comes from selling sponsorships that allow companies to place their logos on Vue’s website. "I decided to sponsor the project because I was using it for many projects and felt that it deserved to be a paid product," says Otwell of Laravel. But not every company using Vue has been so generous. Eventually, You hopes to add more commercial offerings to entice more companies to pay up.
Regardless, You has already proven that independent software can still find a place in the era of internet giants.