The Most Popular Backend Frameworks
Web technologies are one of the fastest-moving targets for developers. The web is comprised of a set of standards and technologies that are consistently adapting over time, which makes it a challenging environment for engineers to work in.
Backend frameworks help developers to build server-side applications. These frameworks provide structure for the application, and they can also help with tasks such as security, database interaction, and session management. Sorting through the most popular backend frameworks currently available to find one that’s productive, performant, and efficient on development resources is a difficult equation we can help to balance.
The most performant and attractive frameworks are rarely the most efficient or productive. The technologies with the broadest reach and the largest number of targets rarely have the best-looking UI or create the best UX. Like most engineering challenges, the best solution is typically a compromise between all of the factors most relevant to your projects.
We’ve gathered some of the most popular backend frameworks available for web development today. Appreciated for their reach, capabilities, and performance, among other development characteristics—each of these can play a valuable role in creating exceptional web apps when used in the right teams. Highlighting the most highly appreciated as well as the most widely used, most performant, and most capable; we will take a look at what it is that makes each backend framework popular amongst developers and how to deploy them within your teams.
What is a Web Framework?
The simplest description of any software framework is a collection of tools and resources to enhance application development. In backend web development, this can range from complete architecture, design, and testing suites to providing simple routing tools for developers to use.
Our article on the highest-performing web framework benchmarks takes a look at how some of the most popular and productive front and backend frameworks perform for developers.
While benchmark results are one key indicator that a framework could be the right choice for your next project, there’s more that goes into making a successful decision. The current tooling and knowledge your company holds, future development plans using the technology, and the industries and applications you plan to target will play a more significant role in your teams than a few milliseconds of extra performance.
By choosing the right framework for application development you should be able to accelerate progress and provide robust and secure tools to your teams. The core advantages a strong backend framework should provide to your developers should include:
- Creating more scalable applications (handling a large number of requests)
- Accelerating development time
- Creating more robust app solutions
- Improving application security (protect against common attacks, like SQL injection)
- Making apps more maintainable
- Enabling third-party integrations
- Process requests more quickly
Tools that enable these advantages for teams tend to be the most popular, widely used, and highly appreciated among developers. Here, we’ve gathered together the most popular backend frameworks currently available for web app development to take a look at the technologies worth considering very shortly.
What Is a Backend Framework?
A backend framework is a software framework that provides a standard way to build and deploy web applications on the server side. Backend frameworks usually provide a set of tools and libraries that make it easier for developers to create web applications, including:
- A web server
- A database
- An application programming interface (API)
- A set of libraries and tools for common tasks, such as session management authentication, and authorization
The Most Popular Backend Frameworks For Teams 2023
Express.js was used by more than 23% of backend developers in the last year.
Built on top of NodeJS, Express has kept its spot amongst the most popular web app frameworks for many years due to its remarkable performance, minimalist design, and robust feature set. In our comparison of the highest-performing web framework benchmarks, Express.js scored among the top 3 performers in addressing application latency and scalability.
Flexibility, robustness, and performance are bywords that go with Express.js development and are key reasons why the framework takes the number one spot as the most popular backend framework worldwide.
ASP.NET Core was used by 20% of backend web developers in the last year.
Microsoft’s open-source framework for web application development, the .NET technology framework, has jumped from strength to strength since the company began a major revision of its technology stack. Since ASP.NET Core was released in 2016, the technology has become a flagship framework of the Microsoft brand.
It’s easy to learn (especially if you already know C#), well-suited for building large and complex applications, and comes with a lot of built-in features – making development quicker and easier.
Departing from previous approaches of the .NET framework, ASP.NET Core is a cross-platform technology supporting development and deployment across Windows, macOS, and Linux in addition to extensive cloud application support. Additionally, the tools are notably more performant than other related web technologies in external benchmarks.
As a richly featured modern framework with outstanding resources, tooling, and support it’s no wonder that ASP.NET Core is at the top of the list of popular backend frameworks.
Spring was used by more than 16% of backend web developers in 2021.
In comparison to the two most popular frameworks on our list, Spring is more opinionated in its design and offers a rich array of heavyweight features. While Spring’s design can be a negative for small projects, developers are awarded one of the most performant backend web frameworks currently available as a trade-off.
Leaning on Java for application development. Spring is commonly used for a wide range of apps ranging from microservices to large cloud-based applications. In Pangea’s benchmark comparison, Spring was shown to be the highest-performing backend web framework tested against its nearest competition.
As a mature and highly-developed Java solution, Spring is an excellent choice for teams looking for a performant, responsive, and highly scalable approach to web app development.
Django was used by 13% of backend web developers in 2021.
Django is a Python-based backend web framework that values clean architecture and design as a top priority for its apps. The framework boasts of being a secure, scalable, and complete solution for developers—freeing teams up to focus on implementation and design where it matters most. It also has good community support.
While slightly less performant than either Spring or Express, Django is highly notable for being efficient on developer time and resources in creating fully-featured web apps. To aid in offering speed and resources to developers, Django comes complete with extensive packages and tools to take care of common tasks such as authentication, RSS feeds, and newsletter management.
Another mature open-source framework that has offered a lot to developers over the past 16 years Django’s role as a secure, well-equipped, and highly scalable web app solution is highly valued within teams.
Laravel was used by just under 11% of developers in 2021.
The most popular PHP framework amongst web developers today, Laravel is a capable backend framework that similarly values architecture and design among its highest priorities. Laravel’s most notable features, and perhaps the reason it has remained so popular over the last decade, is its modular package system and built-in dependency manager. It has an expressive syntax, comes with a lot of built-in features, which saves time and effort during development, and has good community support.
Using the framework’s capable package manager, Laravel allows developers to easily add features to enterprise applications—making it a tool that is efficient in development time, secure, and highly effective. With great testing tools, MVC architecture support, and built-in templates one of the key reasons Laravel has remained so popular is its ability to enable developers to create robust and reliable apps in astonishingly short time frames.
While outright performance is lacking in benchmark testing, Laravel more than makes up for its shortfalls in development time, security, and the exceptional applications it enables.
Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails was used by just under 8% of backend web developers in 2021.
The most mature framework on our list, Ruby’s enduring popularity in the near two decades it’s been available says a lot about the capabilities and utility of the framework. Around 5% of the web is currently thought to be supported by Ruby on Rails—showing the tool has exceptional practical utility for its teams. It has an intuitive syntax (making it easy to read and write), comes with a lot of built-in features, which can save time and effort during development, and also has good community support.
One of the most comprehensive full-stack frameworks currently available, Ruby is consistently placed among the top 10 most-loved web frameworks. The framework describes itself as being ‘optimized for programmer happiness’ prioritizing efficiency, good design, and productivity among its most critical attributes.
As a mature solution amongst a field of much more modern competitors Rails isn’t the most highly performant approach to backend development but is one that’s highly rated amongst teams for building high-quality software.
Other Backend Web Frameworks to Note
A few other notable backend frameworks to keep in mind are listed below:
According to one study, React.js is used by 40.4% of users (when professional software developers were asked). There are 3 main reasons why React.js is such a popular choice:
- can be used on the frontend and the backend
The same research showed that Angular is the third most appreciated and used backend framework, with 26.23% of respondents mentioning it. Angular comes with a lot of advantages, including (but not limited to) the following:
- has a large community of users and developers
- supported by Google
With 57,681 ratings on GitHub, Flask ranked as the third-most-popular backend framework:
- lightweight and easy to use
- flexible, as it can be used with a wide variety of tools and libraries
- good community support
Popular Backend Web App Frameworks
In web development, choosing the right framework for the right project at the right time is vital to success. With web technologies shifting and changing so rapidly, it’s easy to get caught out and left behind with the wrong tooling at the wrong time.
Ten years ago, leaning on a web framework that didn’t offer compatibility with mobile devices could be a project-ending disaster for teams. Next year, it’s impossible to tell what that same category of mistake might be. That’s why, sometimes, following the crowd is the safest choice, and can often lead you to the best framework. However, popularity is not everything, and you also need to make sure your chosen framework is well-suited for your specific project.
Good technologies stick around for only a handful of reasons. Productivity, reliability, ease of use, and performance are key among those when it comes to web app frameworks. Taking a look at the most popular tools and technologies in use today can be a key indicator of where you can and should take your projects very soon.
Q1. Which backend is most popular?
While there are backend web app frameworks that score higher on performance and features, the popularity and use of Express lend the technology to extensive community support and exceptional capabilities when placed within the right teams.
Q2. Which backend framework is most used?
Ruby on Rails is the most widely used backend web technology in use today. The technology is estimated to support between 5-6% of the currently active sites on the web today.
Having been around since the early 2000s and is highly appreciated by developers, Rails is a technology that has grown an extensive following and has been used to deploy some of the biggest web apps in use—such as Twitter, Twitch, and Github.
The technology frequently appears at the top of developer surveys as one of the most-loved web frameworks, despite its use slowly decreasing over time. As a highly mature technology, Rails has become noticeably less performant than competing frameworks in the last few years with developers being forced to choose between highly performant technologies and a known, appreciated, and trusted entity in Ruby.
Q3. Which backend is fast?
The most highly-performant backend web technology available today is Spring. Built on Java, Spring has shown to outperform its closest competitors by significant margins in benchmark tests.
While there are some novel frameworks available known for exceptional speed and performance such as FastAPI, there are relatively few that offer such comprehensive feature sets and capabilities while maintaining exceptional performance characteristics. Spring offers performance that compares favorably against its next-nearest competitors with features and capabilities that make it an excellent option for backend web development.
In real-world development, the speed difference between the 5 most performant frameworks is so little as to be almost negligible. Each of the fastest frameworks in a benchmark comparison could be used to implement a highly capable solution with factors such as language, existing knowledge, and third-party integrations playing a much bigger role than the tens of milliseconds faster response time that today’s highly capable tools can achieve.
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