jQuery represented the de facto way of coding with JavaScript for over a decade, but recent developments by new JavaScript libraries have disrupted its prominence. JavaScript’s first popular library solved incompatibility issues that were present in earlier web browsers. Those problems stopped existing when Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla agreed to adopt established JavaScript standards for their respective browsers and paved the way for the development of new JavaScript technologies.

Which begs the question: is jQuery dead?

Before inquiring into that question, let’s look at the factors behind jQuery’s rise and why its usage has slowed.

History of jQuery: Bringing Unity to Chaos

jQuery officially premiered on August 26, 2006, during the browser wars. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was still the dominant web browser for mainstream internet users, but Firefox commanded 11% (source: WikiPedia.org) and that number rose over the years. Before 2004, Microsoft’s variant of JavaScript—dubbed JScript—dominated client-side scripting due to Internet Explorer being the default browser for the internet. This changed in 2004 when Firefox was released and worked with ECMA International to develop a standards draft that would add significant changes for JavaScript (you can read more history about that moment here).

This led to some compatibility issues between Internet Explorer and Firefox. Websites that implemented Microsoft’s version of JavaScript caused problems for the increasingly popular Firefox browser. You’d sometimes need to develop a script for Internet Explorer and a separate script for Firefox and other browsers.

Enter jQuery.

This library normalized JavaScript development. With some minor exceptions, jQuery operated the same across all browsers. It introduced DOM selectors using CSS syntax, cross-browser event handling, and easier implementation for AJAX. A 2008 article from CodeMag.com references the incompatibility headaches of front-end developers managing different browser experiences and explains all the ways jQuery simplifies that nightmare. A branch of the jQuery library emerged with specific functionalities for creating user interfaces, called jQuery UI. Later versions of jQuery would be responsible for the implementations of sliders, carousels, animations, and other interactive elements adopted by web designers.

Beginning of the End? jQuery’s Flattening Trend

In the decade since its initial release, jQuery conquered the internet. While jQuery enjoyed widespread usage among web developers, new libraries started to emerge that evolved JavaScript to new heights. The first library that disrupted JavaScript as a client-side language was Node.js, which introduced back-end functionality such as database access and file reading/writing capabilities. Developed in 2009, the library gained fame when a package manager was released for it and when Windows support was enabled in 2011. Other popular JavaScript libraries that followed were Angular, Backbone, Vue, and React. These libraries were initially released and stabilized between 2011 and 2015.

What impact did these libraries have on the usage of jQuery? By viewing various charts at BuiltWith.com based on the top 10,000 websites, an interesting correlation appears to exist. jQuery’s usage spikes between 2011 and 2015 but starts to flatten in 2016.

jQuery usage statistics chart (from BuiltWith.com)

At the same time, React and Vue begins to grow rapidly in 2016 and then spikes in usage around 2017. This trend continues today.

React.js usage statistics chart (from BuiltWith.com)
Vue.js usage statistics chart (from BuiltWith.com)

These facts mirror some opinions about jQuery versus React and Vue. Here are are few comments from RealToughCandy.com:

I remember using jQuery years ago and had to transition the company’s website to React framework.

I learned jQuery back in the day.  Once I started learning React, then I stopped using it.  I think that modern javascript can do everything that jQuery can.

[…] Haven’t touched [jQuery] since I learned React which been like a year. I really don’t see a reason for it. […]

Also: Bootstrap, a popular front-end framework that uses CSS, is dropping jQuery as a dependency.

It seems that more web developers are turning to newer libraries to create JavaScript-based websites. Do all these trends point to the end of jQuery?

Not Dead Yet, But…

jQuery is a useful library. Many web developers still create website widgets and other tools that utilize jQuery. AJAX implementation is still mostly done in jQuery, although most browsers are starting to make the fetch API native in their builds and making the need for AJAX irrelevant. No additional server technology is needed to support jQuery. Plus, the group that supports the library is still pushing updates. The end of life hasn’t been declared for jQuery but given the many factors previously discussed, its gravestone may arrive within the next 2-3 years. Technology only marches forward, never backward.