Inertia and Livewire are packages that help developers to build server-driven web apps with 2 very different approaches. In this post we'll go into what those differences are, what pros & cons each have and when you should use one over the other.
Inertia and Livewire take completely different approaches to achieve their goals but at the core both of them get rid of all the complexity of modern SPAs by freeing you from client side routing and the need of an API that comes with it.
Inertia is framework agnostic but that isn't the full story. There are many adapters for different front-end and back-end frameworks like Vue, React, Svelte, Laravel and more to come but you are required to drop all your back-end framework templating.
- Framework agnostic
- No need for special authentication, APIs or middlewares
- Most questions are quickly answered by browsing their well written documentation
- Quite a bit of boilerplate setup needed
Livewire is the complete opposite of Inertia. The first major difference is that it doesn't try to be framework agnostic, it is strictly made for Laravel to integrate as tightly as possible to reap all the benefits of what Laravel has to offer out of the box. The second and probably most important difference is that it will not force you to move away from Blade but ask you to embrace it.
- Tightly coupled to Laravel, providing a more in-depth integration
- Component-based architecture results in better isolation and easier testing with built-in PHP tools
- Vue like syntax which provides a quick jumpstart if you're familiar with it
- Using React or Svelte inside your Livewire components is rather difficult
- Easy to end up with a highly fragmented application (same problem as front-end frameworks)
- Smaller community and development team as Inertia (this will improve over time)
The use cases for Inertia and Livewire share some commonality but Livewire provides you more flexibility. Inertias goal is to help you to build single-page apps without the pain of building an API but it isn't possible to drop in Inertia for specific sections of your website.
This is where Livewire shines and works more like Vue or React but for PHP. Livewire allows you to make use of a component based architecture which means you can start out small and sprinkle in some components here and there and slowly scale up to a full blown single-page like app powered by dozens or hundreds of components.
The choice between Inertia and Livewire for me boils down to 2 use cases and types of developers with different goals and ideals when building an application.
- Go with Livewire if you prefer to keep your tooling minimal, enjoy a tight integration with your choice of back-end framework and want to keep the amount of non-PHP you have to maintain to a minimum.
Now after reading all of this the architecture purist in you might think that Inertia sounds like the clear winner because it has less coupling to any specific framework but how often do you really switch frameworks? Once a framework is chosen it rarely happens that a switch is necessary and if it does it is usually years down the road at which point even that extra bit of less coupling wouldn't do anything for you.
This post focused mainly on the differences that will have the biggest impact on your tooling and workflow. This was intentional as the Inertia and Livewire documentations are great and will tell you all you need to know about them to make a decision but having those major differences pointed out early on helps to avoid choosing the wrong tooling and spending more time on a project than necessary.