The team behind Bootstrap, the immensely popular grid-based, front-end framework for web development, launched the first release candidate of Bootstrap 3 includes over the weekend. Besides a tweaked look and a couple of new features (and also the removal of a few others), the most important change in this update is that Bootstrap, just like its close competitor Foundation, is now mobile first and responsive by default. The announcement coincided with new data from source-code search engine meanpath, which also this weekend announced that 1 percent of the 150 million websites in its index now use Bootstrap.
Bootstrap, which was developed at Twitter but has since been spun out into its own organization after its developers left the company, has clearly caught on with developers, who can easily set up a good-looking site without having to involve designers or worry about how the site will look on different browsers.
My guess is that the vast majority of those 1 percent of sites are run by startups. The problem with this, of course, is that if you spend enough time looking at startup landing pages (which most of us here at TechCrunch are contractually obliged to do), it often feels like they all look alike after a while because the majority of developers all built the same generic Bootstrap-powered site.
That said, version 3 introduces a new flat look for a few design elements that makes it stand apart from version 2 sites. In total, the development team made over 72,000 additions and deletions and changed 300 files between the last version of Bootstrap 2 and this first release candidate.
By going mobile first, Bootstrap now asks developers to first think about the mobile site and then think about how it expands to larger screens. Previously, the thought process was the other way round, with developers working from the 12-column desktop grid down to smartphone-sized screens. In the process, the team also changed some naming schemes and added features like retina image mixins and small grid systems for tablets and phones.
If you’re currently using Bootstrap 2, switching to Bootstrap 3 should be relatively easy, but given how much of the code has changed means you can’t just drop in the new files and hope everything will work.