React vs React Native: Key Difference, Advantages Detailed Comparison

By | April 2, 2022
React vs React Native

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.

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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.

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.

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Pros and Cons of React

Pros

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Performance

The virtual DOM enhances the performance of React. The virtual DOM 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.

  • 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.

Cons

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. With JSX, we can mix HTML with 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.

In 2015, React Native was released as an open-source project by Meta Platforms, Inc. Today, React Native has become one of the top frameworks for mobile development.

Pros and Cons of React Native

Pros

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.

  • 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.

  • Smaller Teams

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Cons

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, local database, and 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 that 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 both are robust technologies for web and mobile application development. 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 is the heart of 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 mobile applications for different 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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Author: Paritosh Louhan

Paritosh is a developer by profession and a writer by heart. He is working with Nagarro as a Team Lead and loves to write in his free time. He believes that anything that couldn’t be achieved by training can be accomplished by a strong will. Will to act!

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