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.
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?
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, and 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 insufficient 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.
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 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, 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:
- Reusable Components
React consists of multiple UI components, each with 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.
React supports extensions so 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 like React Native, Flux, Redux, and many others.
- Data Binding
React uses one-way data binding. The application architecture in React, called Flux, controls data flow to components via a control point known as the dispatcher. With one-way data binding, debugging the components of large React applications becomes easier.
- 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.
The entire virtual DOM gets updated whenever there is any change in the web application. 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
- New York Times
- Yahoo! Mail
- Khan Academy
Pros of React
The following are the key advantages of React:
- Easy to Learn
- Developing Dynamic Web Applications has Become Easier:
The virtual DOM enhances the performance of React. It is a cross-platform and programming API that deals with HTML, XML, and XHTML. Before 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 represents 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 learning and adapting to new changes in the React library challenging. 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, no detailed documentation is available. Therefore, poor documentation is one of the most significant drawbacks of React.
What is React Native?
With this framework, we can develop applications for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, tvOS, Web, and UWP using the React framework with the native platform capabilities. In addition, React Native supports mobile app development for Android and iOS simultaneously since we can write code that can be shared between the two platforms.
React came to life when Meta (formerly Facebook) brought their services, 'Facebook', a social media platform, to mobile devices. Instead of creating a native mobile application, they run their service on an HTML5 mobile web page. However, this solution was ineffective, leaving room for performance and UI improvements.
Initially, React Native only supported iOS, but the company quickly made it available for Android in 2015.
Here are the salient 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 app development cost.
- 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 works. 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 can see the changes in the output immediately. React Native divides the screen into panels, where you will have the source code on one side, 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 Ads Manager
- Xbox Game
- Microsoft Office
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
- 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 mobile app development process. 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, many 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
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
- 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:
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.
It uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
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.
React uses virtual DOM, which allows easy interaction with DOM elements.
It widely utilizes native APIs.
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.
React is ideal for developing dynamic user interfaces for web applications.
React Native is ideal for developing native mobile applications.
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 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.
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. Conversely, 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.