Thoughts On Ember Octane

When it comes to JavaScript frameworks, few can lay claim to the longevity of Ember which just turned eight years old. To give readers some perspective, Ember is about as old as AngularJS (the first version of Angular), older than React, older than Vue and many other options out there. It harks back to the days when IE6 was still a browser many of us had to support.

To the surprise of some who abandoned Ember (and JavaScript frameworks in general) years ago, Ember just released a large update which changes and improves Ember in many facets. For years, Ember has been trailing behind other frameworks and libraries. Even though updates were still being made, Ember has always felt like a relic of Web yesteryear.

Despite trailing behind newer, faster and smaller options, Ember has enjoyed success at numerous companies including LinkedIn and Intercom. Nobody can argue that Ember isn’t used or that it is even dying, it’s just not that popular any more. It’s hard to deny that React has eaten front-end development.

With Ember Octane, many facets of Ember have been improved, Ember applications are still overly verbose and the templating syntax which uses Handlebars feels outdated.

In Octane, some of the changes actually resemble that of Aurelia dating back to 2015. Previously, view-models and templates were located in separate directories. The old approach looked like this:

app/
  components/
    my-component.js
  templates/
    components/
      my-component.hbs

In Ember Octane, this now resembles that of frameworks like Angular or in my opinion as mentioned, more closely to Aurelia:

app/
  components/
    my-component.js
    my-component.hbs

As you can see, the view-model and template are in the same directory now. Likewise, Ember Octane introduces a new decorator for computed properties called @tracked which is reminiscent of Aurelia’s @computedFrom decorator. A similar concept further cemented by the introduction of a decorator called @computed in Ember Octane.

I think Ember Octane is a step in the right direction. Some parts feel inspired by React and other parts feel inspired by Aurelia. Still, looking at Ember, it feels overly complicated and like it is still playing catchup with Aurelia from 2016 or really, every other established framework using modern Javascript syntax.

For me personally, there is nothing in Ember Octane that is exciting or innovative enough that it would suddenly win back developers who left Ember or have eschewed it for other options such as React and Vue. Still, it is great to see the project is maintained and this is all a positive step in the right direction.

I don’t want people to misconstrue this post as a beat-up of Ember with a hidden agenda to promote another framework. I think the more frameworks and libraries there are, the better. But when you’re competing with the big daddy React or up and coming superstar Svelte, you have to bring something substantial to the table and really, Ember doesn’t feel that different when you dig beneath the surface.

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