Full React Overview (React JS, React Native, and More)


Sam Kim

According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s biggest mistake was depending too much on HTML instead of native. That’s when the Facebook tech team tried to resolve their mistake by developing React, a new type of JavaScript library. 

In the time since React was first deployed in 2011 for Facebook (and in 2012 for Instagram), React has enjoyed significant popularity due to its simplicity, flexibility, and performance.

It’s important to clear up any confusion about this open-source, front-end development library and its most popular variations, ReactJS and React Native. Product managers, as well as newer developers, can’t always tell the difference or advise which library may be best for a particular project. 

We’ve written this React deep-dive to cover everything you need to know about React library. We’ll also compare it with its variation, React Native.

What Is React Native?

React Native is an open-source framework that is popular with developers who want to build mobile applications with JavaScript and React. 

Developers can use React Native to create cross-platform mobile apps for iOS and Android using a single codebase. This powerful ability saves time and is incredibly cost-effective. 

React Native uses native components, rather than web components, to build mobile applications. This results in apps with a more native look and feel. React Native also supports hot reloading, which means developers can view real-time changes in the app while they code. 

You should note that the native components will give way for Turbo Native Module and Fabric Native Components in React's future new architecture.

Developers choose React Native because it allows for faster development and easier codebase maintenance. It also has a large, active developer community that provides ample support and resources for anyone using the framework.

Features of React Native 

React Native offers several features that make it a popular choice for mobile app development. We’ve outlined a few below.

1. Cross-platform development

As stated earlier, React Native can be used to build mobile apps and deploy them on both iOS and Android platforms, saving money and time. 

Each platform has its own set of app-publishing requirements. You’ll still need to meet those requirements before releasing an app on the platform.

2. Hot reloading

React Native supports hot reloading. This feature enables developers to code while viewing their changes in real time. 

Hot reloading makes it easier to debug and resolve issues while also simplifying mobile development tracking. Dev teams can instantly share app updates with their clients for quicker feedback.

3. Native-like user experience

React Native uses native components. Whenever you use it to build an app, the app will have a similar look and feel to native apps.

Apps with true native capabilities offer enormous user-experience benefits, improved performance, and the ability to create functions around the camera and other mobile device features.

4. Modular and reusable code

Developers can use React Native to write modular and reusable code for greater consistency and flexibility. Modular code can be shared between different parts of the app or even between different apps.

React Native’s support for modular and reusable code also reduces development time and effort. That makes it a great tool for business startups that want to build and scale as fast as possible.

5. Third-party library support

Programming languages become popular when they have a large and active user community. 

React Native’s supportive community of developers has resulted in the creation of a wide range of third-party libraries and tools that can be used to enhance app functionality. These include the UI library Teaset, Airbnb’s Lottie library for animations, and React Native Mapview’s intuitive map components, with many more available through GitHub.

6. Performance

React Native uses highly optimized architecture for faster and smoother performance, making it suitable for building complex, high-performance apps.

React developers also appreciate how its powerful and customizable framework makes high-quality mobile app development a breeze.

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What Is ReactJS?

ReactJS, also known as React, is an open-source JavaScript library developed by Facebook to build user interfaces (UIs) for web applications. It was first released in 2013 and has become one of the most popular and widely used JavaScript libraries for building UIs.

ReactJS breaks UI down into reusable components. These components are created using JavaScript and can be easily reused throughout the application, effectively simplifying codebase management and maintenance.

One of the key features of ReactJS is its virtual DOM (Document Object Model). The virtual DOM is a lightweight representation of the actual DOM used to manage the app's UI. 

When the app's state changes, ReactJS updates the virtual DOM and compares it to the actual DOM to determine the minimum number of changes required to update the UI. This results in faster rendering and better performance than traditional DOM-updating methods.

ReactJS's component-based architecture streamlines the development of sophisticated user interfaces. The ReactJS library also supports customization, allowing developers to add libraries or tools for specific functionalities.

Features of ReactJS

ReactJS is a dynamic library with countless capabilities, but we’ve summarized some of its most critical features below.

1. Component-based architecture

ReactJS uses component-based architecture, where UIs are broken down into small, reusable components. 

This makes it easier to build complex user interfaces and manage the codebase. React’s architecture saves developers time when creating and repeatedly using a complex UI across a web application.

2. Virtual DOM

ReactJS uses a lightweight virtual DOM, a simplified version of the real DOM. 

React compares the virtual DOM to the actual DOM to find the fewest number of necessary changes required to update the UI when the app's state changes. In turn, rendering and performance improve.

3. JSX

ReactJS uses JSX, a syntax extension of JavaScript, which allows developers to write HTML-like code within JavaScript code. 

The advantage of JSX is that it allows for elegant, clean code. Likewise, developers who are already familiar with HTML find JSX easy to use when building React apps.

4. Unidirectional data flow

ReactJS follows a unidirectional data flow model, where data flows from the parent component to the child component. 

This gives the developer greater control over data while thwarting potential issues with data inconsistency. It also saves resources that would have otherwise gone to waste had the data flow not been unidirectional.

5. Reusable components

Many web apps use the same UI component across several pages or sections of the app. 

Thankfully, ReactJS components are highly reusable and can be applied across different sections of the application. This reduces development time and effort — and makes codebase maintenance a little more painless. 

6. Easy integration with other libraries

ReactJS supports integrations, including web browser plugins, that expand the capabilities of your programming languages. Use them to take advantage of ReactJS’s flexible support for customization and create custom functions and powerful web apps. 

Integrating ReactJS with other libraries and tools, such as Redux for state management and React Router for routing, is a straightforward process. Its adaptability and ease of use is exactly why developers like it. 

If you’ve ever used WordPress's live preview feature when editing a template, then you’re already familiar with the concept of how React's live update review works. The two systems are quite similar. In React, teams can update products and view the changes live, promoting quick communications and seamless iterations.

What's the Difference Between React Native and ReactJS?

Non-developers and new developers often confuse React Native and ReactJS because of their similar names. 

However, they have different purposes — and a few key differences. 

As we’ve already covered, ReactJS is a JavaScript library for developing web application UI. It uses a virtual DOM to make user interface updates more efficient, and a component-based architecture to create reusable UI components. 

ReactJS’s primary use is the development of browser-based web applications like Facebook.com, Netflix.com, or Instagram.com. Major parts of these websites were developed with React.

On the other hand, React Native is a framework for developing mobile applications with JavaScript and React. It uses native components to render the user interface, giving the application a more intuitive appearance and feel. 

React Native enables developers to construct iOS and Android applications from a single codebase. The cross-platform ability of React Native makes it time and cost-efficient.

Here are nine main differences between React Native and ReactJS:

1. Platform

ReactJS is primarily used for building web-based applications, while React Native is used for building mobile applications on iOS and Android platforms.

2. Components

ReactJS components are designed for the web, while React Native components are designed for mobile. React Native components are based on native iOS and Android components, while ReactJS components are based on HTML elements.

3. Styling

When it comes to visual presentation, ReactJS relies on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). React Native employs a similar but mobile-specific CSS framework.

4. Performance

ReactJS is web-optimized, while React Native is mobile-optimized. React Native outperforms ReactJS because it uses native components to render the UI.

ReactJS and React Native both have powerful user-interface capabilities, but use distinct architectures and performance optimizations. Your team should choose between them based on the platform and the demands of the project.

5. Installation Process

Because React is a JavaScript library, developers only need to include React in their HTML page's <script> tag to create integrable website React components. 

This is a flawless process for smaller web apps. For larger projects, you consider using a bundler to complete the task.

For application development, React Native requires a development environment like Android Studio or Xcode. To create and run a new project on a device or emulator, you can install an environment like Node or React Native CLI.

6. Animation

With ReactJS, you can use CSS to animate UI elements. 

By contrast, React Native requires you to use an animated native API to create animated components of various UI elements.

7. Syntax

ReactJS code is written in JavaScript and uses div and h1 tags to renders HTML components. 

Meanwhile, React supports the JavaScript extension JSX to further simplify coding.

JSX couples logic and markup within its components. That means you can write markup code in JavaScript but the JSX code will not be visible after compilation — JavaScript will replace it.

React Native syntax is different. Instead of HTML-like components, it produces native components like <view>, <images>, and <text>. Web developers cannot use React Native since it does not render HTML.

8. Security

React Native may be less secure than React because it’s an open-source Javascript framework. 

The open-source nature may create a security gap, which can be a particular concern when building financial or banking apps. 

9. Costs

When comparing the costs associated with using ReactJS and React Native, there is a clear distinction. 

It's common knowledge that it can be pricey to use React for development, because it typically necessitates the installation of additional libraries. The total project cost may increase as a result.

React Native has native support for cross-platform development. As a result, development moves faster and less money is sunk on the initial investment and ongoing upkeep.

There Are Several Benefits to Building with ReactJS 

ReactJS powers some of the most popular web application UIs in the world, including Facebook and Netflix.

1. Reusable components

ReactJS allows developers to create UI components for reuse and sharing across different parts of the application. This makes managing and maintaining the codebase easier and can reduce development time and effort.

2. Declarative syntax

ReactJS uses a declarative syntax that makes it easier to understand and manage the code. Developers can focus on describing the desired outcome, and ReactJS takes care of the details of rendering the UI.‍

3. Virtual DOM

ReactJS uses a virtual DOM, a lightweight representation of the actual DOM. When the app's state changes, React DOM updates the virtual DOM, comparing it to the actual DOM to determine the minimum number of changes required to update the UI. The result is faster rendering and better performance.

4. SEO-friendly

ReactJS is SEO-friendly, which means that search engines can easily crawl and index the content of webpages built with ReactJS. This can improve the visibility and search engine ranking of the application.

5. Excellent community support

ReactJS’s active user community makes it easy to access support, troubleshooting, tutorials, and other helpful resources. Developers can learn to use ReactJS more effectively and find faster solutions to common issues.

6. Flexibility

ReactJS’s inherent flexibility can be easily integrated with other libraries and tools, such as Redux for state management, React Router for routing, and many others. This makes it adaptable to different use cases.

ReactJS offers many benefits for building high-quality user interfaces for web applications. Its component-based architecture, virtual DOM, declarative syntax, and SEO-friendliness make it a powerful and efficient tool for building modern web applications.

While ReactJS has many advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider when using the framework:

1. Steep learning curve

ReactJS can have a steep learning curve for developers who are new to the framework. The component-based architecture and virtual DOM can be complex to understand at first, and developers may need to spend time learning best practices and how to use the framework effectively.

2. JSX syntax

ReactJS uses a syntax called JSX, which combines JavaScript and HTML markup. Some developers may find this syntax unfamiliar or confusing and may prefer to use plain JavaScript and HTML instead.

3. Tooling dependencies

To effectively use ReactJS, developers need to use various tools and libraries, such as Node.js, Webpack, and Babel. This can create a dependency chain that may be difficult to manage and update over time.

4. Performance issues

While ReactJS is optimized for performance, large and complex applications can still experience performance issues. Rendering large numbers of components or handling complex state management can impact the app's performance and require additional optimization.

5. Lack of opinionated structure

ReactJS is a library and not a full-fledged framework, meaning it does not provide an opinionated structure for organizing code. This can lead to inconsistent code organization and make it difficult to maintain code over time.

ReactJS is a powerful and flexible framework that can build high-quality user interfaces for web applications. However, developers should consider the potential disadvantages of the framework and carefully evaluate whether it is the right tool for their specific project and use case.

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The Benefits of Building with React Native

1. Cross-platform development

React Native allows developers to write code once and deploy it across iOS and Android platforms. This saves development time and effort and makes it easier to maintain a single codebase.

2. Native performance

React Native uses native components to render the UI, which results in a more native look and feel for the app. This can improve performance and user experience compared to web-based UI frameworks.

3. Reusable components

React Native allows developers to create reusable UI components that can be shared across different parts of the application, similar to ReactJS. This can make managing and maintaining the codebase easier and reduces development time and effort.

4. Live reload

React Native has a built-in feature called Live Reload, which allows developers to see changes in the app's UI in real-time as they make changes to the code. This can make it faster and easier to develop and test the app.

5. Large community

React Native has an active community of developers with ample support and resources for programmers at every experience level, from beginner to advanced.

6. Third-party library support

As we covered earlier, React Native offers strong support for third-party libraries and tools that provide broader functionalities and features.

While React Native offers many benefits, there are potential disadvantages to consider when using the framework:

1. Limited customization

React Native relies on native components to render the UI. This can limit the ability to customize the app's appearance and behavior beyond what the native components provide.

2. Performance issues

While React Native is optimized for performance, some complex apps may still experience performance issues. This can be especially true for apps that use complex animations or handle large amounts of data.

3. Platform limitations

Although React Native allows developers to build cross-platform applications, some platform-specific features and functionalities may not be available or require additional work.

4. Dependency management

React Native requires a range of dependencies and tools, such as Node.js, Xcode, and Android Studio. This can create a complex dependency chain that can be difficult to manage and update over time.

5. Learning curve

The learning curve for React Native might be high for inexperienced developers. Beginner developers may need to study best practices and learn the framework's standards to get the most out of it.

6. Debugging issues

It might be difficult to debug issues in React Native, since the code is typically separated between JavaScript and native. For less seasoned programmers, finding and fixing errors may become a challenge.


ReactJS and React Native are powerful and flexible libraries for building high-quality web and mobile applications. Like every other library, they have strengths and weaknesses.

Before you use a React variation to develop a web or mobile app, carefully evaluate which one is the right tool for your specific project and use case. Anyday offers technical consultation services — send us a message and we’ll be happy to provide professional advice.

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