React vs React Native: A Detailed Comparison

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React vs React Native: A Detailed Comparison

Paritosh Louhan
Last updated on November 27, 2022

    React and React Native are powerful technologies that serve as the backbone for many websites and mobile applications. Earlier, Facebook users could not view News Feeds and access chats at a time. To overcome this issue, Facebook introduced React, which is also known as ReactJS. ReactJS is a JavaScript library that allows developers to create interactive user interfaces.

    On the other hand, React Native expands React’s functionality and provides a framework for developing native mobile applications. But many seasoned developers do not understand the differences between React and React Native.

    The primary difference between React and React Native is that React is a front-end JavaScript library, whereas React Native is a mobile application framework. Besides, there are many other differences between React and React Native.

    This article will walk you through the key differences between React and React Native. Also, it will familiarize you with React and React Native individually, along with the pros and cons of each.

    What is React?

    React, also known as ReactJS or React.js, is a free and open-source JavaScript library. It is a front-end JavaScript library used for developing interactive user interfaces based on UI components. You can use React as a base for developing single-page or mobile applications.

    Modern websites mostly follow the model-view-controller (MVC) architecture. In the MVC architecture , React is ‘V’, which stands for ‘View’. A single React application is composed of multiple components, where each component is developed using a small and reusable piece of HTML code. We can use these components with other React components to build complex applications.

    React enables web developers to create web applications that can change data without reloading the page. However, the React library is not sufficient to develop full-fledged React applications since it is only concerned with state management and rendering that state to DOM. Therefore, you need additional libraries for routing and certain client-side functionalities.

    History

    Jordan Walke, a software engineer at Meta (formerly Facebook), got influenced by XHP, an HTML component library for PHP, and released the first prototype of React called “FaxJS”. This prototype was used in Facebook’s News Feed in 2011 and Instagram in 2012. In 2103, the company released React as an open-source library.

    Later, Meta announced React Native, a framework for developing native applications for Android and iOS, in 2015 at React Conf. In just two years, the company then introduced React Fiber, a collection of internal algorithms for rendering. Since its inception, React Fiber has served as a foundation for React library's feature development.

    The year 2017 witnessed the release of React 16.0. In 2020, the company released React v17.0, which was the first major release. However, React developer-facing API remained the same. The latest and most recent version of React is React 18.1, released in 2022.

    Features of React

    The following are the remarkable features of React:

    Features of React

    • Reusable Components

    React consists of multiple UI components, where each component has its own logic and controls. Since each component is developed independently, we can reuse React components anywhere we need them. In addition, we can nest one component with other components to develop large, and complex React applications.

    • JSX (JavaScript Syntax Extension)

    React leverages JSX syntax, which is the combination of JavaScript and HTML. With JSX, it is possible to embed JavaScript objects into HTML elements. In order to compile the code written in JSX, you need a Babel compiler as browsers cannot run it. This compiler transpiles the code in JSX into JavaScript. So, if you know HTML and JavaScript, learning JSX is simple.

    • Extension

    React provides support for extensions so that users can leverage it for various purposes, such as mobile app development and server-side rendering. You can extend React's functionality using other tools, such as React Native, Flux, Redux, and many others.

    • Data Binding

    React uses one-way data binding. The application architecture in React, called Flux, is responsible for controlling the flow of data to components via a control point known as the dispatcher. With one-way data binding, it becomes easier to debug the components of large React applications.

    • Virtual DOM

    DOM is an acronym for Document Object Model. React leverages a virtual DOM, which stores the virtual representation of UIs in memory, and the ReactDOM library synchronizes the virtual DOM with the real DOM. The Virtual DOM (VDOM) produces an exact copy of the actual DOM.

    Whenever there is any change in the web application, the entire virtual DOM gets updated. React finds the difference between the updated virtual DOM and the actual DOM. It changes only those parts of the real DOM that have recently changed.

    • Conditional Statements

    React displays data in the browser based on the conditions you provide inside JSX, as it supports the use of conditional statements.

    Apps Developed Using React

    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • New York Times
    • Netflix
    • Yahoo! Mail
    • WhatsApp
    • Codecademy
    • Khan Academy
    • Dropbox

    Pros of React

    The following are the key advantages of React:

    • Simplicity

    React is simple to use since it follows a component-based architecture, comes with a well-defined lifecycle, and is developed using simple JavaScript.

    • Easy to Learn

    Unlike Angular and Ember, React is easy to learn since you can use simple JavaScript with it. Therefore, if you have sound knowledge of JavaScript, it becomes easier to learn and use React.

    • Developing Dynamic Web Applications has Become Easier:

    Developing dynamic web applications with HTML strings is tricky and challenging since it involves complex coding. React overcomes this issue and makes the development of dynamic web applications easier. It uses a special syntax called JSX, a syntax extension to JavaScript.

    • Performance

    The virtual DOM enhances the performance of React. It is a cross-platform and programming API that deals with HTML, XML, and XHTML. Prior to the introduction of virtual DOM, many developers experienced that when the DOM was updated, the performance of a React application slowed down.

    The virtual DOM is the representation of a web browser’s DOM and entirely exists in memory. Therefore, when we write any React component, we do not directly write it to the DOM. Instead, we write virtual components, which React will turn into DOM, resulting in better performance.

    Cons of React

    The following are some significant downsides of React:

    • High Development Pace

    React changes too quickly, and many developers find it challenging to learn and adapt to new changes in the React library. To work well with the React library, developers always have to update their skills whenever it changes or updates.

    • Poor documentation

    Since React is a constantly updating technology, there is no detailed documentation available. Therefore, poor documentation is one of the most significant drawbacks of React.

    • JSX

    As mentioned earlier, React uses a special syntax called JSX, which is a syntax extension to JavaScript. But many developers, especially novice developers, complain about the steep learning curve of JSX.

    What is React Native?

    React Native, also known as RN, is an open-source UI software framework. It is built on top of the React library. It is a JavaScript-based mobile app framework that allows us to build natively-rendered apps for Android and iOS.

    With this framework, we can develop applications for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, tvOS, Web, and UWP by using the React framework with the native platform capabilities. In addition, React Native supports mobile app development for both Android and iOS simultaneously since we can write code that can be shared between the two platforms.

    History

    React came to life when Meta (formerly Facebook) decided to bring their services 'Facebook', a social media platform, to mobile devices. Instead of creating a native mobile application, they opt for running their service on an HTML5 mobile web page. However, this solution was not effective, leaving room for performance and UI improvements.

    Soon in 2013, Jordan Walke found a method of producing UI components for iOS apps leveraging JavaScript. And due to this discovery, the company organized a Hackathon to discover the power of JavaScript for mobile development. This is how React Native was developed.

    Initially, React native only supported iOS, but the company quickly made it available for Android as well in 2015.

    Do you want to learn React Native and develop your own cross-platform mobile applications? You can purchase the course here.

    Features

    Here are the salient features of React Native:

    Features of React Native

    • One Framework, Multiple Platforms

    React Native enables developers to share a single piece of code between Android and iOS platforms. Moreover, React Native supports the sharing of codebase between React web applications. Such reusability of code between platforms saves a lot of time and reduces the overall cost of app development.

    • Hot Reloading

    The hot reloading feature of React Native makes it more unique. This reloading feature is based on the Hot Module Replacement (HMR). HMR is an inter-mediator that assists in updating files and maintaining them at a specific place while an application is working. It enables React mobile applications to manage multiple tasks efficiently. With hot reloading, developers can see the changes made to an application in real-time.

    • Live Reload

    As soon as you modify the source code a little bit, you are able to see the changes in the output immediately. React Native divides the screen into panels, where on one side, you will have the source code, and the other panel will display the output. So, the live reload feature of React Native lets you see changes in the code in real-time.

    • UI Focused

    React Native has excellent rendering capabilities and concentrates more on designing intuitive user interfaces for mobile applications. So, we can say that RN is more UI-focused.

    • Reusable Components

    With React Native, you get an array of components that serve as building blocks for developing mobile applications. You can use these components while developing applications as it reduces the time and effort of creating the same components from scratch.

    Apps Developed Using React Native

    The following are applications developed using React Native for Android and iOS platforms:

    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Facebook Ads Manager
    • Xbox Game
    • Shopify
    • Tableau
    • Microsoft Office
    • Oculus
    • Wix
    • Salesforce

    Pros of React Native

    Here are some popular benefits of React Native:

    • Faster to Build

    One of the most significant benefits of React Native is its short development time. It has multiple ready-to-use components that accelerate the development of mobile applications.

    • Single Team

    The development of native mobile applications for Android and iOS requires two teams. Also, individual Android and iOS teams employ different application development methods. This, in turn, results in the inconsistency between the mobile app developed for Android and iOS platforms separately. But when we choose React Native, we only require one team having sound knowledge of JavaScript that can write code for both platforms. Therefore, using React Native reduces the team size.

    • Ready-made Solutions and a Vibrant Library

    React Native has a wide array of ready-to-use solutions along with the React library to enhance the process of mobile app development. For example, it has a testing library that allows developers to write error-free and bug-free code. Besides testing, if developers wish to observe successful type checking, they can utilize tools such as ESlint, Axios, etc.

    • Large Community Support

    Backed by Meta, React Native has large community support. Being an open-source framework, a lot of passionate developers contribute their skills to enhancing the framework. Also, you can get help from expert developers from the community in case of any problem.

    Cons of React Native

    Below are the drawbacks of React Native:

    • Very Challenging to Debug

    It is very challenging and tedious to debug React Native mobile applications since React Native is developed using JavaScript, Objective-C, C/C++, and Java. Developers require knowledge of the native language of the platform on which an application is developed.

    To overcome the issue of debugging , React Native community and developers have enabled the integration of React Native with Flipper. In general, Flipper provides several tools useful for debugging, such as a tool for a bug report and log preview, a local database, and a performance inspector.

    • No Type Safety

    Developers can use JavaScript for creating mobile applications with React Native. There is no denying that JavaScript is one of the most flexible and widely used programming languages. However, it is also a loosely typed language . Thus, there is no Type safety, which eventually makes it challenging to scale React Native mobile applications.

    • New and Immature

    React Native is still in its improvement phase, and it is a new framework compared to other widely used frameworks for developing Android and iOS applications. Therefore, developers working with React Native may find several features missing in the framework.

    React vs React Native: Head-to-Head Comparison

    The following table draws a detailed comparison between React and React Native:

    Parameters React React Native
    Definition React or ReactJS is a front-end JavaScript library for developing user interfaces. React Native is a cross-platform JavaScript-based framework for developing mobile applications.
    User Interface React renders HTML tags in its user interface. In addition, React components can include HTML tags. This framework renders JSX in its user interface. It supports specific JSX tags.
    Styling It uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It uses a Stylesheet object, i.e., a JavaScript object.
    External library support React lacks native library support. However, it supports several third-party packages and libraries. React Native lacks support for both native and external libraries and packages.
    Rendering React uses virtual DOM, which allows easy interaction with DOM elements. It widely utilizes native APIs.
    Navigation It uses React Router, which enables users to navigate different web pages. It uses a built-in Navigator library to allow users to navigate to different web pages.
    Primary use React is ideal for developing dynamic user interfaces for web applications. React Native is ideal for developing native mobile applications.
    Users Renowned companies like Meta, Medium, Udemy, and Netflix use React to create dynamic user interfaces for their websites. Uber Eats and Tesla are popular companies that use React Native to develop mobile applications.

    Which one to Choose - React or React Native?

    React and React Native are both robust technologies for web and mobile application development, respectively. Both these technologies are gaining massive popularity due to their evolving ecosystem and functionalities. As discussed earlier, React is a JavaScript library, whereas React Native is a JavaScript-based mobile development framework. Also, React forms the basis for React Native.

    React is an ideal choice when you wish to build a stable user interface for web apps. On the other hand, choosing React Native would be a great move if you wish to develop native-like mobile applications for Android and iOS platforms.

    Conclusion

    React and React Native have their own set of benefits and limitations. Also, each of these technologies is ideal for developing a specific set of projects. For instance, ReactJS is a perfect choice if you wish to create dynamic and incredibly performant UI for web applications. On the flip side, choosing React native would be a great move when you need to develop a cross-platform mobile application or give mobile applications a truly native feeling.

    Hopefully, you might have understood the key differences between React and React Native after reading this article. We recommend you map the pros and cons of React and React Native and then make a more informed choice based on your project requirements.

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    FAQs


    While React is a JavaScript-based front-end library, React Native is a framework based on React for developing cross-platform mobile applications.

    Yes, React is often referred to as ReactJS.

    React is a front-end JavaScript library for creating user interfaces.

    The choice between React and React Native depends on what you need to develop. React is ideal when you want to create interactive user interfaces for web applications, while React Native is a perfect choice for developing native-like mobile applications for Android and iOS.

    React uses JSX (JavaScript Syntax Extension), which lets you embed JavaScript objects into HTML elements.

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