Svelte for Framework Agnostic Components

July 19, 2019

I recently came across Svelte, which claims to be a new approach to UI development. It compiles your code into plain JavaScript and doesn’t require a runtime. Well, this is not entirely true because the runtime is now scattered across your various components, each containing just the parts of the runtime that it needs.

Frameworks like React, on the other hand, use a common runtime layer that performs the state updates. What this means is that you have to bundle in React with your application (which means a non-trivial bundle size increase, especially for small apps).

Svelte seems quite interesting on its own, but it feels like a particularly good fit for a library. One of my projects, for example, is a library that manages state for turn-based games. It also comes with an integration for React, and bundles in some React components that developers can use.

While the React integration is strong, I never meant for to be a React library. In fact, the React integration is just a thin wrapper around the plain JavaScript client, which can be used on its own. However, there are a few challenges that make the vanilla JS experience less optimal than the React experience.

For example, there is a Debugging Panel (written in React) that React clients have access to. There are also various game components like cards and tokens that are written in React. In theory I could bundle in React itself to make these things available to the plain JavaScript users, but this is not ideal.

In order for the library to be truly React agnostic, I’d either have to distribute different versions of these components, one for each popular UI framework, or go the Web Components route.

Svelte seems like the best of all worlds here. You can compile your components to Web Components, or use them as plain JavaScript classes in environments that don’t support Web Components.

Nicolo John Davis
Nicolo Davis