Does a Third-Party Library Make You More Efficient as a Developer?


In the production cycle, many developers find themselves reaching for a third-party library to grab some code for their project as opposed to creating their own library and being able to refer to it. But which is better?

The Pros

Using a third-party source for your project offers you a faster solution than writing your own code and using your own library. Some larger libraries are well maintained, and those in charge are good at communication, so you have ample time to adjust code if coming changes will impact how your product works. Third-party libraries provide a great resource if the tools you need are not part of your toolkit. Sometimes, a particular skill is very specific and is out of your range, an example could be encryption. These groups make getting a completed product out the door faster and less costly.

The Cons

You’re giving up control over your product when you use a third-party library. If changes are coming that will impact the code, you may not know. Your product could get buggy or break because of a small tweak from a line you dropped in from someone else. You’re not going to understand all the code at its base. If something breaks, you might spend more time tracking down the source of the error than you would have writing fresh code or pulling from a library you created in the first place.

How do you choose whether to use someone else’s library or not?

The choice is easy if the expertise is outside of your wheelhouse. It’s also easier if time and budget are large factors. Just be sure to pick the right library. Larger organizations (like Facebook) will have a better managed and more stable library. You can also tell based on how well organized and how frequently accessed a library is if it is well managed. You’re going to get better use from a library where there are many members and it’s easier to find items. If a library was created as a “pet project,” think carefully, as you may not be notified about critical updates in a timely way.


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