News and Resources Tools

Oculus previews a new untethered VR headset

Welcome to DeveloperEconomics’ weekly news roundup. In this edition Oculus previews a new untethered headset, Cyanogen shifts business strategy to a modular OS program and online furniture store Wayfair releases its first API. Read on for the full news rundown.


Oculus working on cheap untethered headset


Oculus revealed plans to release an untethered VR headset during its developer conference last week. The new VR device is intended to sit between mobile and full PC experiences, without relying on a separate smart device, like Google Daydream. The device is currently in a prototype stage and Oculus has remained silent on a release date.


Cyanogen shifts to Modular OS program


Cyanogen has appointed a new CEO and says it will shift its business model toward a Modular OS program. The new Modular OS program gives developers more freedom to borrow from Cyanogen’s technology, removing the limitations of the full Cyanogen OS stack. The company previously admitted it was having difficulty scaling its userbase and laid-off 20% of its staff earlier this summer.


iOS 10 adoption outpacing all other iOS versions


iOS 10 is now installed on 66% of active devices, according to marketing firm Fiksu. The adoption of the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS has been faster than all previous versions, according to the company. A Fiksu representative said: “We’ve never seen this kind of acceleration in the adoption curve for an iOS upgrade.” Apple’s official numbers dispute Fiksu’s and claims the OS has reach 54% of devices.


Oculus introduces $499 VR-ready PC


Oculus showed-off an VR-ready PC costing just $499, during its developer summit last week. The rig meets new Oculus minimum requirements, enabled by asynchronous spacewarp technology, which lets 45 frames per second look like 90 frames per second. The new price point is half the cost of the VR-ready PC Oculus introduced last year.


WaveMaker enhances app tool API integrations


WaveMaker has updated its platform to allow enterprise devs to create hybrid mobile apps. The update supports integrations of apps on any stack, including Java, .NET, PHP, Python and Node.js. WaveMaker says its new platform also doesn’t require the deployment of server-side components, required to access data from systems independent of the technology stack.


Wayfair launches 3D model API


Online furniture retailer Wayfair has released its first API. The API gives developers access to over 10,000 “realistic” 3D furniture and décor models. Wayfair says it’s also working on its own VR and AR app that allows customers to view its catalogue of furniture in their own home.


NetBeans 8.2 releases ahead of Apache hand-off


Oracle has released version 8.2 of NetBeans. Version 8.2 is the last NetBeans release before the Java IDE leaves Oracle and becomes part of the Apache Software Foundation’s Incubator Project. New features include ECMAScript 6 support, Docker Support, PHP7 support and NodeJS enhancements.


Facebook open-sources Yarn, a JavaScript package manager


Facebook in collaboration with Exponent, Google and Tilde has open-sourced Yarn, a new Javascript package manager. Facebook are already using Yarn in production. It greatly improves speed compared to the official npm client and adds security by comparing checksums of the modules installed.


Visual Studio Code updated with TypeScript 2.0


Microsoft released version 1.6 of the code editor, bringing TypeScript 2.0 and more. Other improvements include Format on Save, Switch Windows (partially addresses this issue), search term history and more.


Facebook launches Workplace, enterprise social networking


Facebook has launched Workplace, an enterprise-focused messaging and social networking service. Workplace has chat, live video and audio calling, multi-emotional reactions and automatic translation services. Workplace has the Graph API for building custom integrations

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Choosing a Javascript charting library in 2016

Given the overabundance of tools available to a Javascript developer in 2016, finding and choosing the right one is often a challenge.

Especially when it comes to visualising data, either drawing animated charts or implementing custom interactive infographics, the choice becomes harder since there are a lot of tools out there: Wikipedia’s “Comparison of Javascript charting frameworks” currently lists 44 different libraries, currenty stands at 72(!) different charting tools and – to make matters worse – the Google search result for “best javascript charting libraries” over-delivers with approximately 786K results, out of which the first 20 results are all links with titles like “{{integer in multiples of 5}} best javascript libraries”.

Naturally, most of the relevant Stackoverflow questions of the”what is the best tool” nature are “closed as not constructive”.

In this article I aim to help with the above challenge by means of a slightly unconventional approach: In my research I tried to quantify the merits of the most popular libraries, given a series of “developer-friendly” metrics.

Sounds weird and subjective? It is. Read on.

Step 1: Understanding declarative vs imperative approaches

Before we start comparing, it is essential to understand how almost all of the available libraries can be split into two distinct categories based on their approach. Let us borrow from classical computer science and use the “declarative vs imperative” paradigm comparison for this.

The declarative approach

The majority of JS charting libraries follow the declarative paradigm: You write code that describes what you want to end up with, and the library ensures it happens dealing with all the minutiae.

FusionCharts, Highcharts, amCharts, Chart.js etc. all follow this approach: You pick a chart type (column, bar, pie), you specify a configuration object and the library outputs a nice looking interactive chart based on your wishes.

The imperative approach

On the other hand, tools like D3.js, Paper.js or Snap.svg follow the imperative paradigm. They provide you with helper methods which you then need to use to write code that visualises your data step-by-step.

For example, to create a bar chart with D3.js you will need to initialise the canvas, calculate where to draw the axis, draw the axis, calculate where to draw the columns, draw the columns, the legend, the point data, add the events etc.

It does feel a little counter-intuitive to choose any tool that follows the imperative approach, until one sees the amazing work implemented by Mike Bostock (creator of D3.js) for the New York Times, with animated interactive infographics such as the 2012 “512 Paths to the White house” to understand how powerful a library like D3.js can be.

In the next step I made an effort to establish “winners” in each of those two categories.

Step 2: Quantify the popularity of each tool

2.1 Mentions in Google articles

One needs to start from somewhere so my first step was to revisit the “best javascript charting libraries” Google search, filter out to show results only from the past year, open the first 20 hits (first two pages) and note down which libraries were mentioned.

95 libraries in total – see the “Mentions” tab of this Google sheet for a full reference (it’s the first tab – and yes, there exists a library called “Aristocharts”. Seriously).

I then filtered out the list to include only the libraries with at least 4 hits:


Some surprises here already. No amCharts? No mention at all of Paper.js or Snap.svg? Interestingly, the fact that N3-charts “made the cut” here can be construed I believe as a testament to the popularity of Angular.js.

What comes as no surprise is the popularity of D3.js. It is also the only library in this list that follows the “imperative” paradigm making D3.js the clear choice when it comes to that approach. I marked D3.js as the “winner” in the imperative category, filtered it out and continued.

2.2 Licensing

Next step was to establish the license of each library. Many developers are partial to tools that are either open source or come with really relaxed licensing.


Some reading is involved if one wants to make sense of Google custom license for their “Charts” library (it’s free with a lot of caveats). Interestingly ZingChart offers a free (albeit watermarked) version of its library.

Please note that personal bias prevented me from filtering out the commercial offerings at this stage. I’ve used both Highcharts and FusionCharts in the past to great success and as a result I opted to not judge based on price – until I had all the metrics that is.

2.3 Github stars and watchers

Does the library have a repo in Github? And if yes, how many people are watching, how many have starred it? I intentionally steered clear of other Github measurements such as number of contributions or PRs since each repo has owners and each owner has his / her own personal approach towards how “open” they are to contributions.

On the other hand, a project’s star rating is a clear indication of how many developers (rather than simply users) “like” it. The “Watch” metric also tells us the number of devs who actively want to be notified when new things happen in the project.

javascript charting library

Google Charts had a few github repos but they were for projects that wrap / package their “Google Charts” project, e.g. GoogleWebComponents.

Two things stood out for me in the table above. The massive community support for ChartJS  – almost the same number of stars as Backbone.JS (!) – as well as the number of people who are watching Chart.js.

What is also surprising is that out of the three commercial offerings, Highcharts number of stars is orders of magnitude higher than the rest.

2.4 Stackoverflow tagged questions

Another metric that can tell us how many people are using a library is to see the number of questions that are “tagged” in stackoverflow for a specific library.

This is not foolproof – one might argue that extremely well designed and structured libraries will be so intuitive in their use that people will not be asking questions about them – but my personal experience has shown that even the simplest of tools generate a lot of questions when used by a lot of people.

javascript charting library comparison

Is Highcharts the most difficult library of all? Or is it perhaps the most widely-used one? Perhaps its developers are extremely responsive to the questions of the community? We cannot answer this with 100% confidence. What these counts show however, is that highcharts has more tagged questions in Stackoverflow than all rest of the libraries combined.

Choosing the winners

Since I’ve already opted for a (completely) subjective approach, what better way to pick a winner by simply…. adding everything up.

Here are the top 5 libraries sorted by “Score”, i.e. the sum of github stars, github watchers and stackoverflow tagged questions:

javascript charting library comparison

Full data available on the “Final results” tab of this Google sheet.

Declarative approach – Open source – Chart.js

If the Github stars are anything to judge by, there is a lot of developer enthusiasm for what Chart.js offers.

The documentation is clear and concise – – with several inline examples, browser support is solid (as long as <canvas> is supported chart.js will work – this means no IE8 and some inconsistencies on <= IE 10) and the 8 chart types it offers should be more than enough for most needs.

Declarative approach – Commercial – Highcharts

I’m an avid user of Highcharts and I was pleasantly surprised to see it “rising” in the ranks of my little quantitative experiment. The massive number of stackoverflow questions clearly signifies that despite its commercial nature, the community uses it… a lot. The high number of github stars – (I repeat: for a commercial project) – is also quite indicative of the “developer feelings” for Highcharts.

The documentation is stellar (with a really powerful “Demo” showcase where every single example is linked to a working JSFiddle), the API browser / reference is a great resource and browser support is not an issue since Highcharts auto-falls back to VML rendering for older IE browsers.

Check out this JSFiddle to see how easy it is to visualise a table like the one shown in “Choosing the winners” above:

choosing a javascript ibrary

Imperative approach – Open source – D3.js

The central principle of D3 is to enable developers to programmatically construct SVG objects and render them as they see fit. As long as you can visualise it, D3.js can help you (a) draw it, (b) make it interactive and (c) animate it.

D3.js is the tool to use when a charting library simply won’t cut it. And the community demonstrates this very clearly:

Github stars – 54848
Github watchers – 2653
Stackoverflow tagged questions – 22036

If I had to score this the same way I scored the charting libraries, then D3 leaves everyone behind by a factor of 2 with a score of 79537.

News and Resources

Angular team announces final release of version 2.0

Welcome to DeveloperEconomics’ weekly news roundup. In this edition, Google announces the release of Android Studio 2.2, Oracle confirms rumours of a Java EE 8 delay and Microsoft has been crowned the new king when it comes to open source contributors. Read on for the full news rundown.

Google app ads beat Facebook with 3 billion installs

Google says its ad products are now responsible for more than three billion app install ads. The announcement follows Facebook’s claim in April that its ads have generated over two billion installs. Google says it’s also experiencing a decline in average ad prices, down 9% year-on-year, due to the continuing growth of YouTube ads.

Microsoft has most open source contributors, says GitHub

Microsoft has beat Facebook to become the organisation with the most open source contributors on GitHub. Microsoft racked-up 16,419 contributors, beating Facebook’s 15,682 and Docker’s 14,059. GitHub’s report also found that JavaScript is the most popular language, Font Awesome is the repository with the most open source contributors and Homebrew is the repository with the most users reviewing code.

Java EE 8 not ready until end of 2017

Oracle says the release of Java EE 8 will be delayed until the end of next year. The delay, which was rumoured for some time, was announced at the JavaOne conference last week, where a new roadmap was proposed. Oracle now plans to release Java EE 8 with basic microservice and cloud capabilities, before releasing EE 9 sometime in 2018 with more features.

Affectiva emotional analytics platform now free for indie devs

Start-up Affectiva is allowing any company that earns less than a million dollars a year to use its SDK and API. The Affectiva platform uses “emotional analytics” to analyse user sentiment via chatbots or surveys. The company also announced a partnership with Giphy, which will see Affectiva encode Giphy gifs for sentiment analysis.

Angular team announces final release of version 2.0

The Angular team has announced the final release version of Angular 2.0. The new version of the JavaScript framework features better support for modern browsers, modular functionality that makes it easier to use third-party libraries, and is recommended for use with Microsoft’s TypeScript. Google also says it will provide devs with more guides to learn Angular 2.0 faster.

Android Studio 2.2 released

Android Studio 2.2 is now available to download. The update brings a significant number of new features, including an improved layout editor, an activity recorder that generates Espresso code for automated testing, and an emulator that can simulate data from different sensors. The new IDE also boasts an APK analyser, GPU debugger and much more.

GitHub announces project management tools and support for formal reviews

GitHub has announced the “biggest update yet” to its platform, bringing project management features to the table. The built in Trello-like project management tool lets users move cards with pull requests and switch cards between columns such as “in progress” and “done.” GitHub also now lets devs formally approve all pull requests and leave review summaries.

Kochava releases free version of app analytics tool

Kochava has launched Free App Analytics, a tool to measure and optimise app ad campaigns. The free tool lets devs optimise campaigns across big networks such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and Snapchat. The tool also includes a global index of integrated ad networks. However, features such as scaling are only available in Kochava’s paid Enterprise offering.

Microsoft opens Desktop Bridge for Win32 app conversion

Microsoft’s Destktop Bridge is now ready to use, allowing devs to repackage desktop apps, including Win32 apps, for the Window Store. The Desktop Bridge also converts apps to the Universal Windows Platform, allowing Win32 apps to run on any device running Windows 10. Microsoft says the bridge has already been used by the likes of Evernote, Arduino IDE and doubleTwist to bring full featured apps to Windows Store.

Oracle announces ‘drag and drop’ chatbot platform

Oracle has unveiled a new platform for building and running chatbots. The tool doesn’t require any coding experience – featuring a drag and drop graphical interface – and is positioned an easy-to-use bot builder for enterprises. According to Oracle, its bots will work with all modern messaging platforms, such as Facebook, Slack and Kik.

Google acquires API.AI bot building start-up

Google has bought API.AI, a start-up that provides dev tools for building conversational bots. According to Google, over 60,000 developers are using API.AI’s tools to build conversational experiences for environments such as Slack, Facebook Messenger and Kiki. The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.