ReactEurope interview #7: Dan Schafer

Patrick Aljord
3 min readMar 23, 2015


Meet Dan Schafer, one of the other co-creator of GraphQL with Nick Schrock and Lee Byron (interview coming soon!). Dan will talk with Nick about GraphQL at the conference. Here’s the full interview:

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

I’m originally from a bunch of places around the United States, but I’ve been in San Francisco for almost five years now. I joined Facebook right after graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 2010. I spent about two years on the news feed team, and in 2012 started working on building the API for a native news feed. Along with Nick Schrock and Lee Byron (both of whom will also be at ReactEurope!), we built the first version of GraphQL, and I’ve been working on the GraphQL team at Facebook ever since.

What were you using before React?

Prior to using React, I was mostly a server-side developer on Facebook’s PHP stack, using a Facebook abstraction called “Generator XHP.” That framework allows the developer to specify business logic, markup (using XHP), and data requirements all in one component. If that sounds similar to Relay… well, that’s not by coincidence!

What made you switch to React?

I first really used React in the summer of 2014; we were trying to figure out how feasible it would be to build a native mobile ads manager application using GraphQL, Relay, and React Native. At that time, the GraphQL API wrappers for ads didn’t exist yet, so I worked on building the initial versions of those APIs and the initial version of the Ads Manager app to consume those APIs.

Building out that prototype was a pretty amazing experience. Native development had always been a scary, incomprehensible black box of iOS APIs, memory management, and 30 minute long Xcode compiles; now it was just web development as I’d always known it, but with native components. That was definitely when it started to click for me: the combination of GraphQL, Relay, and React Native isn’t just a set of independent interesting technologies. It’s a complete development stack that allowed me to become a native client developer.

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

The app I mentioned above, the mobile ads manager, shipped in February 2015. It’s built on GraphQL, Relay, and React Native, and it was built by engineers who hadn’t done much GraphQL or React Native development prior to starting work on it. Basically the only line that still blames to me is “var React = require(‘React’)”, but I’m still incredibly proud of it: it’s pretty exciting to see those technologies combine, allowing the ads manager team to build and ship a product.

What do you expect from the conf?

I got to meet a bunch of members of the community at React.js Conf last January, and it was amazing talking with and learning from all of those folks. I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar and some new faces in Paris!

Anything else you want to tell future attendees?

Looking forward to meeting all of you in July!

There you go, you now know a bit more about Dan 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!



Patrick Aljord

Hacker, organizer, cheese eater.