React.js: What’s so good about the front end technology of Facebook?

Incode Group
Sep 28, 2017 · 5 min read

Major apps are constantly improving their experience and adapting to new frameworks and trends. Many companies are adopting React.js everyday. Some people say it’s all about hype.

React was developed by Facebook. Thankfully Facebook released React as an open source project. Now, many big names such as AirBnB, Uber, Stackoverflow, BBC, PayPal and many more use React to run their platforms. Facebook is making use of ReactJS. Their web page is built with React, as the script that is blended in the application code. The mobile app is also build with a version of React called React Native which is similar, although responsible for displaying the iOS and Android native components instead of the DOM elements.

Interestingly, Facebook was the place where the ReactJS library was initially created, which is why it is obvious for the app to use it. Facebook currently opened a beta of its completely rewritten ReactJS, called React Fiber.

React is fast because only the portion of the page that needs updating gets reloaded. And portions only get updated when it’s absolutely necessary. So when a friend’s latest update appears in your Facebook feed, the whole page doesn’t need to reload. Users can put up with occasional page reloads. But imagine if it happened every time you ‘liked’ something on Facebook? Would you ‘like’ less things because of it?

Now there is heated discussions about troubles with React.js license. Facebook chose to use a BSD-derived license that contained some troubling terms surrounding patent litigation.

In short, this clause means Facebook can revoke the licence of any React user that initiates (or has a financial interest in a party that initiates) a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook and its subsidiaries, or against any other party if that lawsuit arises from Facebook’s software or technology.

But this is no longer an issue, as Facebook has announced it intends to re-license React — and several other Facebook-owned open source projects, including Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js — under the popular MIT license.

Explaining the decision, Facebook engineering director Adam Wolff wrote:

“React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don’t want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons.”

Wolff also noted Facebook believes that:

“If this license were widely adopted, it could actually reduce meritless litigation for all adopters.”

React’s licensing terms also earned the ire of the Apache Foundation, which took the drastic step of banning the library, and all BSD + Patents-licensed code, from its projects.

The new React license will take effect later this week with the launch of React 16, which is a full-rewrite of the library designed to improve its performance at scale.

That depends on your perspective. Facebook’s position is that it has created something of value which it has put into the public domain by open-sourcing it. It could always have charged people to use React, but instead it chose to put a licence condition on the use of React that carries ramifications that most open-source licences do not.

From Facebook’s perspective, it is being generous in open-sourcing React, but at the same time has also taken steps to protect itself from legal action. The perspective of React users is of course different, because the React licence means that React is not really a true open-source code.

More networks that switched to React.js

#INSTAGRAM

The use of ReactJS within Instagram is huge. A proof for that are the numerous features including the geo locations, Google Maps APIs, search engine accuracy as well as tags that pop out without hashtags. IT is all there in the API of the app — and is really impressive.

Instagram is completely based on the ReactJS library and has let fans fully adapt to its amazing features.

#NETFLIX

The React version works with Netflix too — specifically on their platform called Gibbon which is used for low-performance TV devices instead of the DOM used in web browsers. Netflix has even published an official blog post explaining how the ReactJS library helps their startup speed, runtime performance, modularity and various other advantages.

As the UI engineers at Netflix state in the blog post:

“Our decision to adopt React was influenced by a number of factors, most notably: 1) startup speed, 2) runtime performance, and 3) modularity.”

#NEW YORK TIMES

A couple of months ago, New York Times has designed a great new project that simulates different looks of stars on Oscar red carpet. Obviously, this project’s interface was built in React and lets users filter the gallery of different photos from 19 years in a nice way. The re-rendering on this project is only one of the impressive features we can thank ReactJS for.

Justin Heideman backs these reasons up in his blog post on NYTimes Open, stating that:

“Within our app we create lightweight, single responsibility Stores. A Store is responsible for managing a particular data request.”

#DROPBOX

Dropbox has switched to ReactJS over a year ago. Just at the time when React became very popular amongst app developers.

The plethora of resources that are part of this framework are efficiently utilized by Dropbox as well — widely contributing to the success of this amazing cloud based storage service and online backup solution.

So ReactJS development efficiencies, improved effectiveness and numerous organizational benefits have all been reasons for the big names in apps to upgrade to ReactJS and exploit the amazing benefits offered by this script. And even though every framework upgrade takes its toll regarding time and costs, it is absolutely worth it when it comes to creating the perfect user experience — be it on a web or a mobile app.

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Incode Group

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A Ukraine & Swiss-based development company working with web, software, and mobile, delivering quality and innovation with a human touch. incode-group.com

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