Note: I’m not going to make a big distinction between libraries and frameworks in this article because it’s important to abstract away that detail in order to understand the trend as a whole. For all intents and purposes, I include libraries when using the word “frameworks” in this article.
However, there are very good reasons why this will happen in the next decade and they have to do with how markets are created and become more mature over time. After becoming deeply entrenched in the startup world, I’ve gained new appreciation for business, economics, and looking at universal trends from the perspective of market-driven economics. Over the years, my perspective on this has become richer and refined compared to just taking a couple of business classes in college (which I had already done). It turns out, market dynamics influence many trends that, on their surface, seem to be unpredictable.
One of the things that the market represents is an overarching trend that people follow based on choices that are available by consumers and the ability for suppliers to produce goods that satisfy those choices. For example, your opinion of the best smartphone to buy is influenced by the smartphone market. Likewise, your choice in buying a car is influenced by the automotive market. In other words, markets represent the delicate balance between consumer demand and a producer’s ability to supply that demand. In our case, the consumers are developers, and the suppliers are the open-source community and large technology companies like Google and Facebook who create these frameworks.
Think back to search engines at the turn of the millennium. There were — to name a few — AskJeeves, Alta Vista, Yahoo and of course, Google, among several other nameless search engines crowding out the space. In fact, by the time Google came along, search engines had become so crowded that many Venture Capitalists rejected the Google founders simply because they were the umpteenth search engine. This is all par for the course in a new market that’s “hot”.
The Market Maturity Cycle and Two Common Endings
When markets are new and “hot”, they often follow that frenzy of dozens — if not hundreds — of entrants trying to grab market share from each other. Inevitably, most of these new entrants get wiped out over a decade or two and their market share goes down into the single digits (often zero). The end result is that the market often resembles one of two possible situations:
- An Oligopoly of a few large, mature firms that compete with each other through free market checks and balances (think Detroit auto manufacturers), or
- The slightly more dangerous scenario where the market has a winner-take-all effect, where one firm or organization ends up controlling over 70% of the market.
In an oligopoly, the magic number seems to be somewhere between 3 to 5 mature firms, each having between 15%–30% market share. These are general numbers based on anecdotal evidence and heuristics, but this is important for a couple of reasons because it means that there is usually still some chunk left over for new upstarts. Second, it does NOT imply that existing incumbents can’t be replaced (or added to). Just look at Tesla, entering an already mature market and becoming one of the four largest car manufacturers in the United States, hitting the same level as the Detroit automakers in valuation.
With that background on market life cycles, you may be starting to see some common patterns; the initial wave of frameworks is subsiding into an oligopoly of React, Angular, and jQuery. However, correlation is not causation, and there are big factors that have to be at play for larger incumbents being able to maintain their current positions and economies of scale.
So let’s look at a few economies of scale that are present in Angular, React, and jQuery, starting with jQuery since it’s the easiest to understand.