Are you a project manager confused about React vs React Native? Do you want to learn about React and React Native? Or are you an entrepreneur curious about what React and react Native offer, the advantages and differences of both technology? This article explains in detail all your questions. 

Historically, React was birthed in 2011 by Jordan Walke and his fellow developers to give Facebook a high-performing UI.  FaxJS was previously developed and was later renamed to ReactJS. Since then, the React innovation has brought about a new way of rendering pages. However, in 2015 React Native was introduced to make creating of Interactive UIs easy.

React vs React Native: Technical Overview

The technical overview of both technologies is based on each’s critical components

ReactJS works using the Document Object Model (DOM), a programming interface that embodies Web documents and all of their contents.

The essential feature React uses within the DOM is the “Virtual DOM”, a virtual representation of the real DOM. The Virtual DOM provides higher performance and better user experience compared to the normal DOM. It is also believed to be faster 

However, React Native makes use of Application Program Interface (API). Unlike other cross-platform frameworks, React Native renders specific code components with native APIs, which come with features that improve mobile application performances.

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What is React?

React is an open-source systematic JavaScript library that utilizes a cutting edge way of making reliable and efficient single-page web applications. 

A single-page application is an inbuilt app that works inside browsers and does not require page reloading when in use. Single-Page Applications are all about serving an outstanding UX by modelling themselves to the "natural" environment of the app.

Single-page sites keep users in a comfortable web space where content is presented in a simple, straight, easy, and workable fashion. This is possible thanks to advanced JavaScript frameworks such as React.js, Vue.js, Ember.js, AngularJS, Knockout.js, and Meteor.js.

React allows developers to integrate with an existing code or other libraries easily. Its primary function is to simplify the development of web applications that are fast, simple, and efficient—examples of ReactJS are Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook, and Instagram.

Features/ Advantages of ReactJS

Optimized performance with DOM

One of the features of React is its ability to enhance the speed of the applications and websites developed using the Document Object Model, which in turn provides greater performance and better UI.

The optimized performance is achieved because React creates an inbuilt data structure cache that computes resulting differences and then updates the browser's displayed DOM accurately. Developers only need to write the code as if the entire page is rendered on each change, wherein, in reality, only the sub-components that are changed are rendered.  

Webpage SEO Enhancement

React enhances the SEO optimization of web pages to attract more organic traffic due to its capability of website indexing and server-side rendering.  

Web applications are made easy.

It was a difficult task developing web applications with high functionalities using HTML because of the complexity of the code, but React became a solution by offering fewer coding requirements and greater functionality. ReactJS also have a JavaScript Syntax feature that makes a description of the apps user interface easy 

Component-Based Architecture.

The concept of component-based architecture is used in React. This concept allows component’s reusability by converting a more extensive user interface into an independent micro-system that enables easy development and maintenance, therefore saving a considerable amount of time.

Extensive community and Massive Developer tools

React has a large community of developers because it's one of the first JavaScript Libraries.

The community was able to create massive ecosystem of tools, different component libraries, Integrated Development environments, and extensions for developers to use.

The availability of a wide range of third-party tools and extensions created by the community brings innovation while saving time and resources. This Community-powered innovation has made React one of the most popular libraries for creating excellent apps and websites.

Easy to learn/easy to use

React allows web developers to create dynamic web applications easily because it is easier to learn for those with a background in JavaScript. Also, if you are a newbie to programming, you can get tutorials and training resources available and start learning as quickly as possible. It's that easy.

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Limitations/Disadvantages of Using React

Difficulty with external library support

React has very few native libraries despite supporting many external third-party libraries. 

It is often essential to download another react-enabled library before developers can successfully use React, which is complex and carries an overhead cost. If a developer decides to use the Carbon framework for UI experience, he/she needs to download the Carbon components.

Complex data hierarchy

Unlike other JavaScript Scripting tools, react doesn't support parallel data handling, making data navigation with React complex.

To navigate from one DIV to another in React, developers will need to go to the parent node before navigating to the topmost parent node and finally navigating to the second hierarchy of the tree node.

Constant update 

The React library environment is constantly updated, making developers struggle with it. Although most modern web libraries have the same features, it is still tricky for React developers to cope with.

Learning curve

Learning React can be difficult and time-consuming for a newbie compared to React Native. Why? React uses JavaScript XML (JSX), an extension that allows HTML to be written in React. 

However, senior developers believed JSX is difficult for junior developers, meaning the learning curve for React is longer.

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What is React Native?

React Native enables mobile developers to design native mobile applications with reusable components, allowing cross-platform mobile applications using JavaScript. 

What does that mean?

React Native allows developers to compose a rich mobile UI from declarative components using JavaScript, i.e., it enables developers to use a native application program interface (API) when rendering UI components. 

A React Native developer can create a cross-platform mobile app across multiple platforms such as Windows, Android, and iOS smoothly and efficiently. React Native developers can build a real mobile app that is not different from an app built using Objective-C or Java by using indistinguishable fundamental UI building blocks like regular iOS and Android apps.

Also, React Native makes it easy to drop down to native code if the need to optimize a few aspects of the application arises. It also allows building part of your app in React Native and part of your app using native code directly. 

React Native enables application developers to build apps faster. Instead of recompiling, developers can reload apps instantly and run new code with hot reloading while retaining your application state.

Features/Advantages of React Native

Hassle-free Debugging

With tools like Flipper incorporated in React Native, debugging and optimization become very easy. This convenient tool enables developers to debug React Native mobile apps quickly and efficiently.

Apart from flipper tools, some commands allow troubleshooting and error fixing. An example is the "Meet Doctor," a new React Native command which enables programmers to detect errors in their code and fix them automatically. This feature saves developers time and ensures they get their codes free from bugs and errors. 

Reduced costs and code reusability

Developers don't need to assemble different teams; React Native has one code base for all platforms. 

Also, React native reduces cost because it is license-free, and developers do not need to publish the code source. Anyone can modify the software, as changes made to the code do not need to be reported, thanks to the MIT license associated with React Native. 

Platform-Specific Code Advantage

When developing a React Native application for both Android and iOS, the framework automatically detects the platform it's being run on and generates the correct code for the right platform at the same time. Therefore, it only needs to be developed once by a single team using a single codebase.

Fast Development and Hot Reloading

When a single team builds your cross-platform product, it is easier to keep track of every process involved, which means React Native companies can develop and lunch mobile apps faster on the market.

Apart from synchronized development cycles, the "hot reloading" function of React Native enables reviewing app results and making changes to the app faster.

Developers can also use "live reloading" to automate the building process and eliminate the manual work, making app development faster.

Shareable UI Libraries

There are Component "UI libraries" in React Native ecosystem, which gives developers a smooth UI experience.

However, the ability of developers to share these UI libraries saves the time and stress required to build them from scratch, enabling developers to focus more on innovation and. 

Readily available Developers and Excellent support.

Because of its high demand and popularity, with a mild learning curve, there is a pool of talented Developers using React Native to create cross-platform mobile apps. 

This means it is easy to find and hire React Native developers compared to other app/web developers such as Kotlin or Swift.

Easy to learn and User friendly

The React Native usability and learning curve enable non-programmers to create apps without much effort. All that is needed is an idea and a plan to execute the idea. 

Also, since most of the code present in React Native is JavaScript, front-end developer finds it easy to create applications. All developers need to know is any of React, platform APIs, a few native UI elements, and platform-specific design patterns.

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Limitations/Disadvantages of Using React Native

Lack of native libraries 

Like ReactJS, React Native can slow down the development processes of apps with heavy functionalities due to the lack of native libraries and total reliance on third-party libraries.

It is observed that Swift, Objective-C, and Java are faster than JavaScript when they simultaneously make complex calculations. 

License & Patenting Issues

Since Facebook controls React Native, there are License and Patenting Issues. 

Suppose a programmer uses React Native open-source platform for any purpose contrary to Facebook guidelines or violates any of its rules. Facebook has the right to stop such programmers from using that platform. 

Reacts and React Native developers building their apps on these platforms can be stopped from operating.

A loosely held abstraction layer

The ability of developers to get tags like HTML and code from JavaScript makes React Native a loosely held framework, unlike Swift and Java languages,

Also, JavaScript is a dynamically-typed programming language that doesn't enforce any parameters or rules, and variables can literally be anything that can cause a clash of logic.

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Differences between React and React Native

Functions

React is an open-source systematic JavaScript library mainly used in designing UI for web applications, while React Native serves as the framework or platform for developing cross-platform mobile apps on Android, iOS, and Windows.

React is designed primarily for web applications, while React Native is designed for mobile application user interface.

Navigation

React navigation is empowered directly by React and is wholly integrated with JavaScript, which is ideal for the loading of web applications. With React Native, it is slightly different and complicated.

React Native uses its own library to navigate mobile apps, authorizing key mobile performance.

Animation

With react, animation can be possibly implemented using CSS similar to web development, thereby offering more animations at higher levels. In contrast, React Native relies on animated API for animation across the components of the React Native App.

Platform

React is a non-platform-dependent library, which means it can be executed across any platform. In contrast, React Native is platform-dependent to an extent.

HTML tags

React makes use of HTML tags which consist of two parts; The Components and the HTML Document. However, React Native does not make use of HTML tags. 

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React vs. React Native: Which one is the best?

Both React and React Native are fundamental for applications and website development, and due to their functionalities and evolving ecosystem, they are gaining momentum every day. Choosing the best to work with depends on your project and objectives.

While React is simply a JavaScript library and React Native is a framework. They both complement each other, with React serving as the heart to React Native. 

Also, while React is essential for developing applications with high functionality and complex calculations, its twin, the React Native, gives a native feeling to mobile apps.

Every technology or framework has its limitations, and so do React and React Native. This is why it is advisable to understand both technologies and know the pros and cons before deciding which to use based on the priorities and expected outcome

React vs. React Native Examples

After explaining the meaning of React and React Native, we discussed the similarities and differences and went through the advantages and disadvantages of each technology. Here are few of the real-world examples of websites, applications organization, and companies that make use of React and React Native:

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React

Facebook Web 

React was first used for Facebook's newsfeed. Presently, React is still being extensively used for the Facebook web.

Instagram Web Version

After acquiring Instagram without a web version in 2012, Facebook implemented React to develop the web version of the social media app. Since then, the web version of Instagram has been totally on the React. 

Asana

Asana, a leading project management tool with more than 30000 customers, including Uber, Autodesk, and Spotify, uses React to address client-side performance problems. Although previously written with Luna, Asana later re-wrote its front-end using React. 

Netflix

Netflix is another company that uses React, as boldly written on their blog. Netflix uses React on its Gibbon platform, a platform designed explicitly for low-performance devices. The React library was also adopted because it helped with startup speed, performance, modularity, etc.

Other examples of applications that use React are WhatsApp, Codecademy, Udemy, New York Times, Airbnb, and Yahoo Mail.

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React Native 

Facebook Mobile App

After successfully adopting React for their webpage, Facebook decided to explore some features such as fast iterations and a single team developing their product into a mobile app, and they ended up with React Native.

Facebook apps are built on React Native, a framework that dominates mobile app development for iOS and Android apps today.

Instagram Mobile App

Just the way they did with Facebook, after acquiring Instagram, React Native, got integrated into Instagram's native app.

Skype

In 2017, Skype decided to build an entirely new app. The new app was re-written in React Native, resulting in a completely revamped app with a better layout, better icons, and different cool and new features. Microsoft eventually decided to use React Native for their mobile platforms and the Desktop app.

Tesla

Tesla Car Company built its mobile application with React Native. The app is designed to identify and locate vehicles and partially control cars with the help of a smartphone.

WIX

The WIX website application is written in React Native. Tal Kol, the former head of mobile engineering at Wix, says React Native is an extremely important technology for Wix.

Conclusion

Both React and React Native are excellent tools for front-end development with their speed and durability.  However, the tool to learn or use now depends on your ultimate goals as a developer.

As we have discussed, React Native is a solid framework with API to improve the performance of your mobile app, while ReactJS is used for designing UI for web applications

However, even though both can complement each other depending on the project, it is advisable to pick the proper framework for the best result.

WRITTEN BY
Techreviewer
Research & analytics team
Techreviewer.co
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React vs React Native: What is the Difference?