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Top 10 Backend Frameworks in 2021

5 Min Read

Henry Boisdequin

I've curated a list of the top 10 backend/API building frameworks to use in 2021. Each of these frameworks has its pros and cons, programming language, efficiency, and more. All of these frameworks are awesome, so choose the one you like best! With that out of the way, let's dive right into it!

10. Laravel

Laravel is a free and open-source backend framework for PHP. It's a very mature and stable framework that was released in June 2011.

chart

Above is a graph of Laravel's activity on Google Search from the past 5 years worldwide (from Google Trends). Google Trends is a great way to measure the popularity of a topic/web framework. As you can see, Laravel has been quite stable with a slight decrease in the past year. Laravel is a fully equipped and heavy framework. Most people compare Laravel to other large backend frameworks such as Django or Rails. Laravel is a progressive and scalable framework that can be used for large scale applications. This framework adopts the Model View Controller architecture or MVC for short. This way the application is split into the model, view, and controller. This architecture allows for a SOLID, full-control, and structurally great application. The Laravel ecosystem also comes with an ORM, built-in routing, lots of integrated services, and a large community. So why is Laravel in 10th place? To understand this, we need to revisit the Google Trends chart from before. Why has Laravel's popularity decreased in the past year? Unfortunately, there has been a downward trend for PHP in general. New languages seem to catch beginner's attention more than older ones such as PHP. Although Laravel is a great framework, there are other newer alternatives that are steadily gaining popularity.

9. Actix Web

Actix Web is a web framework for Rust. I would argue that it's the most mature Rust web framework, at version 3.3. It's a bit more complex than other web frameworks such as Rocket, Flask, or Express, and has a steeper learning curve. A major pro of Actix is that it's one of the fastest web frameworks in the world. For some years running, it was the fastest web framework. Also, it's extremely powerful as Actix Web is type-safe, feature-rich (logging, HTTP/2, etc), extensible, flexible, and blazingly fast (as mentioned on their website). It also has great documentation and community support which makes the learning curve a little less steep. You can use Actix for "Hello World" websites, to fully-featured SAAS apps. Actix has had a bit of history which you can learn more about here but all of it is resolved now. If you're into Rust (which is gaining a lot of popularity), I would recommend checking out Actix Web.

8. Spring Boot

Spring Boot is a web framework for (currently) Kotlin and Java. It has a lot of built-in features such as sessions, metrics, starter dependencies, connection to databases, and more. It's a solid framework that has a lot of built-in features. Also, as Spring Boot is the most popular web framework for Kotlin and Java, there are lots of tutorials and developers using Spring Boot. Although Java or Kotlin's main purpose is not web development, if you know Java/Kotlin and want to give web development a go, Spring Boot would be the best framework to do it in.

7. Flask

Flask is a lightweight micro-framework for building web applications in Python. It's trivial how easy it is to get your first Flask application up and running. Since Python is the most popular language (arguably) and Flask is a popular web framework, there is a massive community behind it. In 5 lines of code, you can get a hello world API up and running. It doesn't have as many features as other Frameworks such as Spring Boot or Laravel but since Python has a huge ecosystem, you can find anything you would want as a 3rd party dependency. I would recommend Flask for any Python developers or someone looking to get into the world of web development. Here is a great tutorial for getting started with Flask.

6. Rocket

Rocket is the most popular web framework for Rust. It's extremely powerful, safe, easy to learn/use, and boilerplate free. Some of its features include type-safety, boilerplate free (code generation), an initiative API, and its extensibility. It also has out of the box support for cookies, sessions, forms, JSON, streams, typed URIs, testing, and more. Although Rocket is fairly new compared to the other frameworks on the list, it's a powerful and easy-to-use framework that would be a great fit for many people. Before Rocket's 0.1.0 release, companies were using it in production! This shows how great this web framework is. My favorite part about Rocket is its use of procedural macros. If you're not familiar with Rust, procedural macros allow you to generate code easily. This is one of Rust's and Rocket's best features. Just put this on top of the code you want to execute: #[get("/")] and when the user goes to / the code bellow will execute. I would recommend Rocket for any Rust developers or web developers in general.

5. Phoenix

Phoenix is a web framework for Elixir. It's powerful, intuitive, and easy to use. Some of its best features include Phoenix LiveView, an MVC architecture, real-time data transfer, and live dashboards. You can create large applications such as a Twitter/Instagram clone in as short as a week (if you're familiar with Elixir). In addition, Phoenix has an awesome testing environment which makes testing nice and intuitive for beginners. If you are interested in learning a functional programming language such as Elixir and you want to get into web development, Phoenix is the best framework out there.

4. ASP.NET

ASP.NET is a massive framework for C# created by Microsoft. You can build web apps, APIs, real-time data transfer applications, and microservices with ASP.NET. It's fast, scalable, secure, and has a massive community. Estimates show that over 19 million developers use ASP.NET. ASP.NET has countless tutorials, mentors, forums, and more for beginners to advanced developers. Although ASP.NET is great for building large-scale applications, it has a bit of a learning curve due to its amount of features. I would compare it to Angular in the frontend development world. I would recommend ASP.NET to any C# developers or one who would like to build a large-scale web API.

3. Rails

Rails is a mature web framework for the Ruby programming language. Applications such as GitHub, Twitch, Shopify, Airbnb, DEV, and more use Rails. Ruby on Rails is very powerful with an MVC architecture, lots of different frameworks, an initiative API, built-in testing, and more. Like Flask and Rocket, it's very easy to get your first "Hello World" application up and running. In 4 simple bash commands, your first application is up and running. If you want to get into the world of web development and create an app like GitHub or Twitch, Ruby on Rails is for you!

2. Express

Express is a minimalist web framework for Node.js. It's free of boilerplate, minimal, fast, unopinionated, and powerful. Since Javascript is used on the frontend, it's a no-brainer to use Express if you want to become a full-stack web developer. With Express 5.0 coming out soon, it's the perfect time to try out Express. Express provides a simple and minimal API which is one of the most performing in the Node.js world. Express has debugging, middleware, routing, error handling, template engines, and more all built-in. Moreover, Express has one of the largest communities and has endless tutorials, forums, mentors, blog posts, you name it. I would try Express if you want to build a full-stack application or if you already know Javascript/Typescript.

1. Django

Here it is, the #1 web framework to use in 2021 (in my opinion), it's Django! Django is a powerful web framework for Python. According to their website, "Django makes it easier to build better Web apps more quickly and with less code". It's fast, secure, scalable, and has one of the largest communities on this list. It has lots of powerful built-in features, maybe the most on this list. Apps like Instagram, DropBox, Spotify, YouTube, and more use the Django web framework. This is framework a must-learn for Python or web developers in general.


I hope you found a new web framework you can use to build your next API! Once again, any of these frameworks are great, just choose one and start hacking. Thanks for reading!

Henry

CONTENT
10. Laravel9. Actix Web8. Spring Boot7. Flask6. Rocket5. Phoenix4. ASP.NET3. Rails2. Express1. Django

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