ReactEurope interview #18: Lee Byron

Patrick Aljord
3 min readJun 1, 2015

Meet Lee Byron, one of GraphQL co-creator with Nick Schrock and Dan Schafer. Lee is also the author of immutable-js and contributes to countless other open source projects. He is also a member of TC39 where he works on future standards in Javascript such as native immutability.

At the conference, Lee will talk about Exploring GraphQL.

Here’s his full interview:

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, what do you do?

I grew up in the Midwest and went to school in Pittsburgh, PA where I studied design but spent a lot of time building digital things. After a brief foray into designing interactive news graphics for the New York Times, I found my way to Facebook where I’ve been a Data Scientist, a Product Designer, a Manager and most recently an Engineer. These days I focus on building infrastructure to enable high quality products including React, Immutable.js, and GraphQL. I’m also a member of TC39 which is guiding the evolution of JavaScript.

What were you using before React?

For front-end development, a lot of small single-purpose libraries. At Facebook, I contributed to and used Javelin ( while supporting front-end engineering for Facebook’s mobile website. I’ve also spent a lot of time within Facebook’s web server codebase which uses XHP, a spiritual precursor to React and the syntactical inspiration for JSX.

Could you tell us a bit more about Relay and GraphQL, how they relate to React and how they came to be?

GraphQL was built by Nick Schrock, Dan Schafer and myself just over three years ago and has been the data layer for most of our iOS and Android applications amongst others for the better part of the last three years. We built GraphQL because we needed a query language that allowed for deeply nested and composable queries, replacing our use of FQL — a variant of SQL designed for use with Facebook’s public APIs. GraphQL has continued to evolve over the years to enable more powerful client-side tools and libraries, and we’re getting ready to share a lot of these tools publicly.

Our iOS and Android apps are truly client-side applications while our website has historically been more web-page than web-app. React has been a supremely powerful tool to move highly interactive logic completely client-side and Relay is a framework-level tool based on React that allows us to developed huge portions of Facebook’s website to be a client-side application. Relay borrows a lot of concepts from our iOS and Android client applications including its reliance on GraphQL. Relay can even be used within React Native for iOS which takes the whole thing full-circle.

What’s your greatest react projects, open source or not that you’d like to tell the world about?

I’ve gotten to use React in a lot of projects from a streaming music player to a rich IDE for GraphQL and a lot of things in between.

After spending so much time with XHP and React, I never want to build UI the old way. Last year while supporting our iOS team, I was part of an effort to introduce the core concepts of React to a native iOS environment which the team used to rebuild NewsFeed with 70% less code and improved rendering and scrolling performance. They have since open-sourced that project as ComponentKit (

What do you expect from the conf?

I’m a big fan of just about everyone on the speaker list, so I’m more excited to listen than I am to present. The quality of the community that has come up around React is truly humbling, I can’t wait to learn from everyone.

Anything else you want to tell future attendees?

Contribute to the conversation! Help us guide not just React but all the surrounding technologies and discussions by getting involved.

There you go, you now know a bit more about Lee and hopefully you will be able to meet him personally at the conf.

If you haven’t done so, make sure to grab your ticket to the conference before they’re all gone and see you there!

You can follow @ReactEurope on Twitter to get the latest news about the conference and interviews.