DEV Community

Cover image for Why Not Mithril?
Evan Black
Evan Black

Posted on • Originally published at

Why Not Mithril?

We've all been there: a small part of your traditional web app could really use some SPA-like interactivity. You could slap it together with jQuery, but dealing with updating all elements reliably could get messy. A reactive framework may work better in this case, but there can be a lot of baggage with something like React or Vue; you just want this ONE thing to be a bit fancier after all.

If you find yourself in this place, Mithril is worth checking out.

Mithril bills itself as "a modern client-side Javascript framework for building Single Page Applications", and backs it up with things like a router and a request handler out of the box. Despite its full-featuredness, it works just as well for single components, and it comes in at just 22k minimized, which is less than a quarter of React's size.

To better describe Mithril, I think it may help to compare and contrast it with React and Vue.

Similar to React

  • Must be mounted at a specific element, operating only within it
  • Use Javascript logic to control rendering

Different from React

  • Operating on global state is simple
  • Easy without compiler / transpiler

Similar to Vue

  • Geared more for enhancements to traditional web apps
  • Setup is simple

Different from Vue

  • All logic expressed through Javascript
  • Does not operate over server-templated HTML

To give an idea what a simple component might look like, here's a slap-dash example:

// todo.js

var root = document.getElementById('root');
var newTodo = '';
var todos = [];

function setNewTodo(value) {
  newTodo = value;

function removeTodo(i) {
  todos.splice(i, 1);

function addTodo(value) {
  newTodo = '';

var TodoComponent = {
  view: function() {
    return m('div', [
      m('ul',, i) {
        return m('li', [
          m('span', todo),
          m('strong', { href: '#', onclick: function() { removeTodo(i) } }, ' X'),
      m('input', { value: newTodo, oninput: m.withAttr('value', setNewTodo) }),
      m('button', { onclick: function() { addTodo(newTodo) } }, 'Add Todo'),

m.mount(root, TodoComponent);

And here's the example in action:

The main thing that may stand out is the use of the m function. m has many different forms in terms of the arguments it receives, but a general form is: m(<tag or component>, <properties>, <children or textcontent>). The properties portion can be elided in place of the children. The children don't even have to be an array, and can be written as additional arguments.

The docs cover the function's flexibility and pretty much everything else, including common scenarios and a few gotchas.

For me, the main benefits of Mithril have been:

  • Easier to manage display logic than jQuery
  • Easier to set up than React
  • Better fit for isolated, specialized components than Vue

Each of the frameworks have their place, but Mithril hits a certain sweet spot. Hopeully I've convinced you to make it part of your toolbelt.

Discussion (7)

itsmeseb profile image
Sebastian Kolind Sørensen

I love Mithril but for me the "why not" is because I work at a software company, and my bosses likes to make their solutions in "frameworks" that are supported in a wider format then some of those smaller libraries. It's client projects, and you it's hard to sell them why to use Mithril rather then Vue, React or Angular, that they've probably already heard about :)

pheonix929 profile image
Michael Van Der Merwe

I had a choice at least at my company, and i chose mithril. Why? Because mithril has all the main features while being super lightweight and fast! Plus it has helped me learn more about vanilla js than ever before which is great!

liutkin profile image
Vladimir Liutkin • Edited on

This view function looks incredibly ugly. To me, Vue is much cleaner, progressive and more declarative. And I don't see it fails not a single feature you pointed. Basically, that is why not. Also, Mithril doesn't have enough critical mass among developers.

jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

Check out Riot JS - by far the best front-end framework IMO

dimensi0n profile image

I'm an open source worker... The problem is ... Nobody deals with mithrill so I can't start a project with mithrill because I will have no contributors...

roriron profile image

I'm using Mithril, love it.