MEAN vs. MERN Stack Explained

Jeffrey Erickson | Content Strategist | June 26, 2024

A developer can choose from many combinations of technologies and programming languages to build an application. Decision points are based on which database, web server, and front-end framework may best meet the requirements of the application and the capabilities of the team. The combination chosen becomes the tech “stack” on which an application is built.

Two of today’s most popular tech stacks are the MEAN stack and the MERN stack. Both are solid choices for building dynamically updatable web and mobile apps, and, as you might deduce from their names, they have many things in common. But there are key differences that can entice a developer to choose one over the other.

What Is the MEAN Stack?

The MEAN stack is a combination of open source technologies that are commonly used together for building dynamic web or mobile applications. The technologies are MongoDB, Express, Angular, and Node.js. All these are JavaScript-based or, in the case of MongoDB, work seamlessly with JavaScript technologies.

What Is the MERN Stack?

Like the MEAN stack, the MERN stack is a group of open source technologies used to build web and mobile applications. It also uses JavaScript for its primary programming language and consists of MongoDB, Express, React, and Node.js. This stack has grown in popularity in recent years.

MEAN Stack Features

What has helped the MEAN stack gain new followers in recent years? A few key features appeal to today’s developers. Among the most popular are the following:

  • Reliable document database. The MongoDB database is good for applications demanding high performance and frequent data updates and reads. MongoDB’s flexible data modeling and efficient indexing capabilities make it ideal for such scenarios. In some scenarios, other databases, such as MySQL or Oracle Database, can substitute for MongoDB.
  • Lightweight web application framework. Express is the web framework for MEAN stack development. Express provides a range of app-building tools and supports a variety of programming languages. Express can enhance application performance by efficiently handling concurrent requests.
  • JavaScript runtime environment. Node.js executes JavaScript code on the server side. This eliminates the need for separate front-end and back-end languages, helping simplify the development process and fostering code consistency.
  • Popular front-end framework. Angular is a complete application-design framework and development platform for building web and mobile applications. It’s written in TypeScript, an enhanced version of JavaScript that encourages a more structured approach to coding and can enhance code consistency and productivity.
  • Open source. All major components of the MEAN stack are open source technologies. That lowers the cost of fielding new applications.
  • Community support. The MEAN stack boasts a large, well-established community of users where a developer can find support and resources, including tutorials, forums, and meetups.

MERN Stack Features

Developers like the MERN stack because, like the MEAN stack, it offers an efficient way to build web applications. Furthermore, the MERN stack is known for its flexibility and scalability. Other features prized by developers include the following:

  • Reliable document database. The MongoDB database is good for applications demanding high performance and frequent data updates and reads. MongoDB’s flexible data modeling and efficient indexing capabilities make it ideal for such scenarios. In some scenarios, other databases, such as MySQL or Oracle Database, can substitute for MongoDB.
  • Lightweight web application framework. Express is the web framework for both MEAN and MERN stack development. Express provides a range of app-building tools and supports a variety of programming languages. Express can enhance application performance by efficiently handling concurrent requests.
  • JavaScript runtime environment. Node.js executes JavaScript code on the server side. This eliminates the need for separate front-end and back-end languages, simplifying the development process and fostering code consistency.
  • Popular front-end library. The MERN stack leverages React for front-end components. React is a JavaScript library that emphasizes simplicity, flexibility, and component-based architecture.
  • Open source. All major components of the MERN stack are open source technologies, so they can be cost-effective to use. The open nature of the community fosters innovation, creativity, and stable and reliable software.
  • Community support. The MERN stack is known for making easy-to-build web and mobile applications. As its popularity grows, so too does the community around it. Developers will find a range of resources, starter guides, tutorials, and documentation available.

MEAN Stack Pros and Cons

The MEAN stack offers a range of benefits, such as flexibility, efficiency, and consistency, across the entire development process. It also allows for the use of JavaScript throughout the entire stack. However, drawbacks include a steep learning curve for beginners and potential security vulnerabilities.

When deciding which stack to use, consider these factors.

Benefits of a MEAN stack

  • Open source. The open nature of these technologies means developers can build apps with community support—and without upfront license costs.
  • Flexible. It offers a wide range of developer-friendly tools and frameworks at each layer of the stack.
  • Customizable. It offers a high degree of customization in an application’s look and functionality through Angular’s modular architecture and extensive third-party library support.
  • Consistent data. MongoDB, Angular, and Node.js all use JSON to store and share data, so there’s no need to reformat data as it moves between the database and the user interface.
  • Scalability. The MEAN stack is valued for its scalability, even in real-time applications with MongoDB scaling quickly and using Angular for the interactive front end.
  • Community support. The technologies that make up the MEAN stack all have active communities that provide support, tutorials, and documentation. It’s easy for a developer to find online courses, forums, and blogs dedicated to these technologies.

Disadvantages of a MEAN stack

  • Security vulnerabilities. Like all web application frameworks, data security is a concern with the MEAN stack. MongoDB, for example, has been dinged for recent security vulnerabilities.
  • Limited offline support. MongoDB and Express are both server-side technologies, which means they require a reliable internet connection to work.
  • Compatibility concerns. MongoDB, Express, Angular, and Node.js are all open source technologies developed by different organizations. There’s no guarantee that they will continue to be compatible with each other in the future.
  • The learning curve. Each technology in the stack takes time to get the hang of, and integrating them can be complex.

MERN Stack Pros and Cons

The MERN stack has both pros and cons. Advantages include its flexibility and scalability and a large community of developers. However, the requirement for JavaScript fluency can be challenging for those unfamiliar with the language.

When deciding whether the MERN stack is right for you, consider these factors.

Benefits of a MERN stack

  • Ease of use. A key reason for the growing popularity of the MERN stack is the ease with which developers can assemble a usable, scalable web or mobile application. For example, React, the front-end framework in the MERN stack, is relatively easy to learn with its intuitive syntax and component-based approach.
  • Open source. The entire MERN stack is open source, enabling the development of robust web applications for a low cost, with no upfront outlay for licensing and a platform for support and knowledge sharing among developers.
  • Simplified full stack development. All components of the MERN stack are JavaScript-based technologies. The MERN stack provides an extensive collection of library and package support that lets developers construct applications in less time.
  • Low cost. The use of JavaScript throughout the MERN stack enables companies to benefit from hiring JavaScript experts rather than seeking out specialists in multiple technologies.
  • Community support. The React community is vibrant and growing rapidly, offering a wealth of resources and support.

Disadvantages of a MERN stack

  • Learning curve. The MERN stack requires knowledge of multiple technologies, including JavaScript, MongoDB, Express, React, and Node.js. Learning and mastering all these components can be time-consuming, especially for beginners.
  • Scalability concerns. While Node.js is known for its scalability, the MERN stack may face challenges in handling extremely high loads or heavy computations. It’s more often used to build dynamic single-page applications.
  • Documentation. The open source technologies of the MERN stack are continually updated, and it’s hard for the online documentation system to keep up.

MERN Stack vs. MEAN Stack: Key Differences

The key difference between the MERN stack and the MEAN stack is that in the former, React is used as the front-end framework, while MEAN uses Angular. Although Angular and React are both popular front-end technologies, they have some key architectural differences. Angular is a full-featured framework that follows the model-view-controller (MVC) architectural pattern, while React is a JavaScript library that focuses on the view component only. This means Angular provides a more set structure and includes many built-in features, while React allows for more flexibility and component-based development.

Another difference is the learning curve. Angular has a large and complex API, while React has a simpler API and can be picked up easily by developers who are familiar with JavaScript.

Performance is also a differentiating factor. React uses a virtual DOM, or a document object model, which allows it to efficiently update and render only the components that have changed. This results in faster performance compared with Angular.

Finally, Angular has a larger and more mature community versus React’s fast-growing and vibrant community. Both have a wide range of open source libraries and packages available for integration.

MERN Stack vs. MEAN Stack: Feature Comparison

Feature MEAN stack MERN stack
Front-end framework Angular
A full JavaScript framework for front-end development.
React
A JavaScript library used to create user interfaces.
Common use case Enterprise-level applications
The Angular framework helps larger teams with code consistency and maintenance.
Smaller applications
React’s component library and UI layer abstraction make app building fast and simple.
Skills acquisition Steeper
Angular’s framework, once mastered, can simplify the building of complex and interactive user interfaces.
Easier
React’s extensive component library allows developers to assemble apps in less time.

Choosing the Right Stack for Your Business

A development team weighs a host of factors when choosing a tech stack. Questions to consider include

  1. Scale: How do you foresee the application being used and by how many users?
  2. Skill sets: What skill sets do your people already possess, and what technologies are they comfortable with?
  3. Current technology: Does your organization already have licenses for technology you can use?
  4. Expense: Can you choose open source technology and cloud services that are structured in a way to keep your costs down?
  5. Security: Does your stack offer end-to-end encryption to protect data?

Get Started with Oracle Database for Developers

Did you know you can easily use Oracle Database in place of MongoDB in your MERN and MEAN stack? Oracle Database 23ai has MongoDB APIs, so it can sub in for MongoDB along with the other JavaScript components. This is a seamless replacement.

Another alternative to MERN is using JavaScript APIs built using Node.js with Express as the back-end platform and supporting React or Flutter as the front end. Developers can use the platform to build both web and mobile applications. These APIs work with Oracle Database 19c and with 23ai using an Oracle Database adapter for Parse Platform. Parse Platform is integrated in Oracle Backend for Spring Boot and Microservices. Now you can use a Kubernetes-based back-end platform to run both Spring Boot and microservices as well as JavaScript full-stack applications, bringing DevOps and DataOps together.

The twin open source, full-stack development platforms of MEAN and MERN remain extremely popular for building dynamic web and mobile applications. Both are JavaScript-based and composed of dominant open source technologies in the database, app server, and front-end frameworks—and they enjoy large and enthusiastic community support. Development teams should weigh the scale, cost, and complexity of their projects as well as their current skill sets to determine which of these is the right choice.

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MEAN and MERN FAQs

Which is better, MEAN or MERN?

Whether MEAN or MERN is better depends on your project requirements, development team skill set, and preferred technology ecosystem. MEAN is a more established and widely used technology stack, with Angular offering a robust front-end framework. However, MERN is gaining popularity due to the flexibility and efficiency of React for building user interfaces.

What’s the difference between MERN and MEAN in 2024?

In 2024, the main difference between MERN and MEAN is that the popularity of MERN is on the upswing. From a technology point of view, MERN uses React for its front-end framework, while MEAN uses Angular. That has earned MERN more traction and usage compared with MEAN because React is seen as a powerful JavaScript library for building user interfaces, while Angular has experienced some decline in popularity. On the other hand, Angular has a larger and more mature user community versus React.

Is MERN outdated?

No, MERN—the stack comprised of MongoDB, Express, React, and Node.js—isn’t outdated. In fact, it’s a popular and widely used set of technologies for developing full-stack web applications. React is one of the most widely adopted JavaScript libraries for building user interfaces, and there’s a vibrant user community offering documentation, support, and a platform for collaboration and knowledge-sharing among developers.