ReactJS: A Specialized JavaScript Library [REVIEW]

July 13, 2017 6:38 pm Published by

reactjs review

What is ReactJS?

ReactJS is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It’s not a complete front-end framework like AngularJS; rather, it is a creative solution to handling the view layer for apps. Developers describe this as “replacing the V in the MVC model”. Using React provides simplified programming, scalability, and dynamic user interfaces.

Background of ReactJS

There are dozens of “origin stories” for React, but the truth is that it started as a JavaScript port of XHP. Jordan Walke, an employee working at Facebook’s Ads Org, created the earliest version to solve the division’s problem with overly-complex apps. Engineers were experiencing unintentional changes caused by cascading updates. In response Walke put together the prototype for React, which was applied to Facebook’s newsfeed in 2011. His solution was heavily reliant on Facebook’s existing infrastructure.

The following year, Instagram creators saw the proto-React at Facebook and wanted to use it for Instagram. Pete Hunt convinced Facebook to let him decouple the code from its Facebook-specific state to a more general use tool. At this point it was given the name React, and in 2013 it went open source. React is maintained by a number of users including both Facebook and Instagram.

Keep reading to find out how we review React.JS.

Features

  • Server-side rendering
  • JSX (simplified JavaScript)
  • One way data flow
  • Virtual DOM
  • Component-driven development
  • Testability

Strengths

Speed is React’s core strength. Rather than re-rendering the DOM every time there’s a change, it creates a Virtual DOM for comparison. Only nodes that change are updated. This allows for dynamic features that use real-time data (friends lists, likes, chat programs, market tickers, etc) without users having to reload the page.

React is very simple to read. Users can easily see how components are rendered, how components interact with each other, and the general layout. Simplicity takes much of the hassle out of maintenance.

Also, React is very SEO friendly. This is not the case with many Javascript frameworks.

  • Has a large community
  • Easier to find developers
  • Hybrid platform that compiles natively
  • It’s really fast
  • Easy for testing
  • Solutions can be tested with customized coding, so the final result can be guaranteed
  • Faster interface deployment
  • Component-driven interface development

Weaknesses

As a specialized library, React will not provide the same structure as a complete framework like AngularJS. Some see this as an advantage- after all, a large framework can be restrictive. However, you can’t build a fully functional app with React alone. Custom configurations are required to integrate ReactJS into a traditional MVC framework.

Also, React requires a specific way of approaching programming that can be hard for experienced programmers to get their heads around. It’s evolving very quickly given a recent upsurge in interest, but that has resulted in some confusion. What was once relatively easy to learn has become more complicated. Also, there isn’t good documentation available for React.

Real Life Applications

React is used by major players like AirBNB, Bloomberg, Tesla, and Discord. Here are a few specific examples of how it’s benefiting big companies.

  • The desktop version of Facebook uses React in its Friends, Notifications, and Chat features.
  • React powers the Push Notification Settings and Edit Profile views at Instagram.
  • Walmart started using React Native to improve the performance of their iOS and Android shopping apps.

Future Outlook

It’s hard to estimate the future of React. Only about .11% of websites currently use it, but React is showing comparatively similar rates of growth to AngularJS (on a smaller scale, of course). Component-driven development is also gaining popularity, seeing some representation in recent Angular releases. It will be interesting to see if React continues to grow with its core features being picked up by more complete toolsets.

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