Some of the most widely used mobile apps and websites are powered by React and React Native. Both of these libraries were created by Facebook developers to tackle issues cropping up as the company expanded and grew.
To provide a better mobile experience, developers at Facebook released React Native, an open-source UI framework for developing mobile apps.
If you're creating a web or mobile app, you're likely wondering what the differences are between React and React Native. Let's take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of each library to help you make a choice that best fits your project.
Developed and backed by Facebook (now Meta Platforms, Inc.) in 2011, React is one of the most popular libraries for building UI for both mobile and web apps. Facebook's approach to development was significantly changed by the creation of React.
React.js isn't a framework, though, but a library. Since it is only concerned with state management and rendering that state to the DOM, developers need to use additional libraries to complete projects.
When choosing a framework for your next project, it can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technologies. Check out this article to learn about the difference between React and Next.js.
After many months of development, Facebook released the first version of React Native in 2015. While the working principles of React Native are incredibly similar to React, as it uses the React library in addition to native platform capabilities, one of the primary differences is that React Native doesn't use the Virtual DOM to manipulate the DOM. Instead, it runs a background process right on the end device and uses serialized data to communicate with the native platform.
React is often the go-to choice for developers who are looking to build high-performing, responsive, and dynamic UI for their web interfaces. That being said, there are drawbacks in addition to advantages to using this library. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of ReactJS to help you decide if it's the right library for your project.
It's very accessible to learn React, which allows new developers to jump into developing dynamic web apps fairly quickly. Even though the amount of required code is less than other libraries, functionality isn't compromised.
The document object model (DOM) is a programming API that defines the logical structure of HTML and XML documents. The traditional DOM construct raises several concerns, primarily the way it processes changes. Because DOM trees contain thousands of elements, and the DOM tree of the entire document has to be updated in order for the server to respond properly, the update speed with traditional DOM is a concern.
The team that developed React tackled this issue by using virtual DOM and was able to increase the speed of updates. This means that other parts of the interface aren't impacted when small changes are applied by the user. The reason this is possible is due to React components isolation.
Virtual DOM makes it possible for updates to occur quickly and, in turn, for developers to create highly dynamic UI. You can see the magic happen in real-time if you're using Facebook chat and seeing your news feed update simultaneously.
Another advantage of ReactJS is that it makes use of reusable components that each have their own controls and logic. This means that developers can use these components in various projects, which significantly streamlines the development process.
React is quite a bit more flexible than other front-end libraries, thanks to its modular structure. This can help companies save time and money and create a simpler maintenance experience.
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Keeping up with the frequent version updates can be frustrating. On top of that, complete documentation often isn't available due to the speed at which updates are released. This can mean that developers are left without detailed text guides to help them along in the process.
Additionally, this means that developers often have to learn new things when using React, which can interrupt workflow and be difficult to keep up with.
React's native libraries focus primarily on UI, so developers must rely on external libraries to develop a complete app. This means that an additional burden to using ReactJS is thoroughly understanding the external libraries.
In many cases, ReactJS can incur higher cost overheads than React Native. This is because the additional components that developers need to download can add up both in terms of resource consumption and the overall timeline of the project.
Of course, React isn't the only front-end framework out there. If the disadvantages of React are a dealbreaker for you, check out how it compares to Vue and Angular.
React Native allows you to create mobile apps across platforms that have a legitimately native feel. While there are some compelling reasons that RN has become one of the most popular frameworks for mobile app development, there are definitely some drawbacks worth knowing about.
React Native is also fairly easy to learn, which is definitely a plus. Many developers appreciate the development experience for a number of reasons, including the robust tools and potential for seriously reducing the amount of time it takes to complete projects.
The ability to recycle components and reuse code is one of the reasons that developers love both React and React Native. Because of these features, both the time cost and financial cost of developing projects can be reduced. Of course, this also means that mobile apps can get to the market faster, which is a big plus.
There are also a lot of shortcuts provided for common tasks while using React Native, thanks to integrated components and hot reloading, both of which help to create a productive and enjoyable experience for developers. Because a number of unnecessary interruptions are cut out of the process, many developers find that they are able to stay better engaged while working in a way that helps to produce better end products.
Beginning with the latest release, default Flipper support is offered on React Native apps. Flipper is a mobile app debugging tool popular in iOS and Android communities.
Many options come along with the Flipper tool, including the ability to view crash reports, view and edit the device preferences and databases, and view all network requests by device applications.
React Native allows developers to reuse code components, which can create meaningful time savings.
Since React components are isolated from one another and changing one component doesn't impact the others, it's possible to reuse components in a way that doesn't produce changes in unwanted places.
If developers get stuck during a project, there is a large community there that can help to find a solution. This can make a huge difference in terms of development time, as developers can frequently find answers to common issues through the active community.
Unlike other cross-platform frameworks, React Native renders some code components with native Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). React Native can render code independently and directly to native APIs by communicating with targeted components for Android or iOS.
Ultimately, React Native can offer improved performance by using a separate thread from UI.
There's also a set of native modules provided by React Native that help to offer higher performance in operations that require heavy computation, such as video playback or image editing. Developers can either write custom modules themselves if they have experience with Java and Objective-C, or they can apply the existing modules.
Developing apps using React Native can save a lot of money and time in development. There is often a lower up-front investment and fewer overall development costs, and it's also less costly to maintain one code base.
In general, there is much less work involved in building and maintaining React Native apps than in building and maintaining many different, separate native apps.
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If a critical part of your mobile app includes advanced interactions or complicated designs, React Native might not be the right choice. Instead, native development is likely the way to go.
To be fair, React Native is definitely better than other hybrid tools out there. The reality is, though, that performance is slower than native apps because of the large overhead framework.
If you're creating a simple, straightforward app, you probably won't find that the decrease in performance is problematically noticeable.
There are a lot of great things about React Native, but a native app is still better able to fully utilize the functionalities of its specific platform in a way that React Native can't quite compete with. Basically, RN can't totally take advantage of all of the potentials of a platform in the same way a native app can.
It can be difficult to keep the app updated with the most recent version of React Native. In many cases, updating versions is a complex process.
While there are a number of custom modules available, developers might still be in a position where they have to build components from scratch. Additionally, some of the existing modules are underdeveloped at this point.
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It isn't uncommon for developers to encounter compatibility issues when using React Native.
For developers that are working on a front-end UI that requires high user interaction, React might be the library to get the job done. When used correctly, it can save a lot of time, energy, and resources.
If you're looking to build a mobile app that you want to be available on all devices and across platforms, React Native is a good choice.
That being said, it's always a good idea to weigh out the pros and cons when selecting libraries to use when building web and mobile apps.
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