Angular vs AngularJS: What’s in a Name?

Author profile photo for CareerFoundry author Nicole Abramowski.

Angular vs AngularJS—what’s the difference? They sound very similar, so it’s easy to get them confused.

Both are powerful JavaScript frameworks used to build applications on the web. They’re both developed by Google and widely used. 

AngularJS is the older of the two, released in 2010. Angular is actually a complete rewrite of AngularJS, released in 2016.

AngularJS was widely used and popular for several years, though it’s gradually being replaced by Angular due to performance, scalability and its features. This doesn’t mean AngularJS is totally obsolete though!

In this article we’re taking a deep dive into all things Angular vs AngularJS. We’ll look at the differences between the two, pros and cons and how the two line up in terms of performance, architecture and compatibility.

By the end of this article, you  should have some valuable insights and be able to decide which version is the best fit for your next project.

  1. What is AngularJS?
  2. What is Angular?
  3. Major differences between Angular and AngularJS
  4. Is Angular better than AngularJS?
  5. Wrap-up

1. What is Angular JS?

AngularJS is the original version of Angular developed by Google in 2010. It was created to help developers build better web applications, faster and with fewer errors.

It does this by simplifying the development process, so developers can focus on writing the more important, high-level business logic and functionality unique to their applications. Meanwhile the low-level details of managing data and user interfaces is handled by AngularJS.

Traditionally, web development involved writing a lot of vanilla JavaScript code. This was needed to manipulate the Document Object Model (DOM) to respond to user interactions in the browser. The downside of this is how time-consuming and likely to introduce bugs it was. Not to mention harder to scale, maintain and reuse code.

When Angular was first released its modular concept was relatively new and innovative. That is, breaking up code into reusable “components”. This meant less repetition, and also helped separate concerns so developers on a team were not stepping on each others’ toes.

AngularJS helped set the stage for web development frameworks in the years that followed. Today, many other frameworks have adopted a similar modular approach, using a component-based architecture.

2. What is Angular?

Angular, originally called Angular 2, is a complete rewrite of AngularJS. As web development evolved and new technologies emerged, AngularJS’ limitations started causing issues. Specifically it was criticized for being slow and resource-intensive, as well as not providing the scalability and flexibility needed to develop more complex applications.

To address these complaints, the team at Google decided to totally overhaul Angular and create a new version called Angular 2 (which eventually became simply “Angular”).

Unlike AngularJS, Angular is built on TypeScript, a superset of JavaScript. As it’s a full framework, it provides a complete suite of tools for building and testing applications. 

Here’s some of the major built-in features that come with Angular:

  • Two-way data binding: Data flows both directions between parent and child components
  • Dependency Injection: Helps manage dependencies between different components
  • Angular Material: a UI component library
  • Templates: Creating HTML templates that can be used to define the UI of an application
  • Reactive Extensions for JavaScript (RxJS):  Handles asynchronous code
  • Routing system
  • Form management
  • Testing: Robust testing framework for every stage of development
  • Angular CLI (Command Line Interface)

Angular is designed to scale from single-developer projects to enterprise-level applications, and to make updating as straight-forward as possible. It has a large community, good documentation, and is actively maintained.

3. Major differences between Angular and AngularJS

While comparing Angular vs AngularJS, there are several key differences in terms of architecture, performance, features, and compatibility.

Let’s look at a table to help understand the major differences, strengths and weaknesses between the two frameworks.

FeaturesAngularAngularJS
Release Date20162010
ArchitectureComponent and directive-based architectureModel-View-Controller (MVC) architecture
LanguageTypeScriptJavaScript
Data BindingTwo-way bindingTwo-way binding
RenderingUses virtual DOM and supports server-side renderingUses real DOM
Dependency InjectionA hierarchical dependency injection system is used.No dependency injection system
TestingProvides a robust testing frameworkTesting not built-in
Mobile SupportHas better mobile supportNot mobile-friendly
PerformanceFaster performance due to optimized change detectionSlower performance compared to Angular
Learning CurveSteep learning curve due to complex architecture and TypeScript languageEasier to learn and use
CompatibilityCompatible with modern browsersCompatible with older browsers

Let’s highlight three major areas of difference worth considering between Angular vs AngularJS.

Performance

Angular has faster performance due to optimized change detection, while AngularJS has slower performance compared to Angular.

Architecture

Angular uses a component-based architecture, while AngularJS uses a Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture. In both versions developers can work on different components of the application independently.

Compatibility

Angular is built to support modern browsers and mobile devices, while AngularJS can be used with older browsers and does not have mobile support.

This is an important consideration for developers depending on which devices and browsers they need to support.

4. Is Angular better than AngularJS?

Angular is generally considered the better choice. However, while Angular is the newer and more popular framework, there are still some reasons why someone might choose AngularJS instead of Angular for their web development project:

  1. Familiarity: Developers who have worked with AngularJS for a long time may prefer to stick with it rather than learning a new framework. Especially if a company has a large codebase written in AngularJS.
  2. Compatibility: AngularJS is compatible with older browsers, while Angular is built to support modern browsers. If you need to support older browsers, AngularJS might be a better choice.
  3. Simplicity: AngularJS is generally considered to be simpler and easier to learn than Angular. It has a smaller learning curve and doesn’t require knowledge of TypeScript, which is a requirement for Angular. 
  4. Development speed: Because AngularJS is simpler and more straightforward than Angular, it can be faster to develop certain types of applications.

Overall, while Angular is the more powerful, performant, and feature-rich framework, AngularJS still has some specific use cases that might make it a better choice for certain projects.

Wrap-up

The decision between Angular vs AngularJS is not a totally straight-forward one. Both frameworks have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The choice between Angular and AngularJS depends on the requirements of the project and preferences of the development team.

AngularJS is reliable and simple, suited to smaller, less complex applications. On the other hand, Angular offers more advanced features and better scalability for larger, more complex applications. Of course, this has a cost of a steeper initial learning curve.

Both frameworks have their benefits, and developers should carefully consider their requirements and options before deciding which to use for their project.

Students of CareerFoundry’s Full-Stack Web Development Program will get hands-on experience with these JavaScript frameworks, completing a project in Angular for their portfolios.

If you’d like to read some more about JavaScript, check out these articles:

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