Why ember.js is my go to mvc framework

Published December 08, 2012 by Toran Billups

I've been hacking on ember.js recently in search of the next great paradigm shift. And like anyone adopting a new technology, I first looked around to see what other developers thought about the various mvc frameworks in the wild.

What I found beyond the religion of each framework and it's followers was the commonly asked question 'should I use backbone or ember' (please don't tell trek I even hinted about this). The most pragmatic developers would reply to that question with the age old 'what are you doing with the framework/ what does your project need?'

And to be clear you should get some type of context before picking any new technology because they each have a list of pros / cons associated depending on your needs.

But I don't plan to dwell on this question or answer the 'in what situations should I use one over the other' question. Instead what I feel is missing from the conversation around ember and backbone is the 'what type of api do I want to work with on a daily basis' / 'how do I think about client side programming'. When I look at backbone apps in the wild they don't seem much different than what I'm doing today. They have a little more structure than my hand rolled javascript modules but the actual development story is much the same.

One difference between my hand rolled frontends and backbone is that you don't work with jQuery selectors directly. Instead you have a simple abstraction with the $el object (basically a reference to the views DOM element).

Not a terrible concept if you plan to work the same way we did a few years ago with the added +1 for data-binding. And if I had started with backbone I would have been grateful and thought the other frameworks were all about the same.

But because I started with ember.js (+ ember-data) I found the way I thought about client side development was shifting away from the usual 'html + javascript + jQuery + ajax' glue model to something more elegant. For the first time in my life I was thinking about my javascript app with a 'model first' mindset. Instead of worrying about all the little details about presentation and how I would sync the state in the DOM with my REST backend I just thought about the models and the specific behavior they needed to solve a given problem.

Again this is not intended to be a slam on any of the other mvc frameworks but I found that using ember + ember-data provided me with the same type of api / programming model that I already use on the server side today. And this model is one that I rather enjoy. I prefer to think about behavior and actually enjoy the encapsulation of a rich domain model. And any framework that allows me to work at this level of abstraction is worth a look.

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