Facebook Releases React Native
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Thursday, 17 September 2015

React Native for Android has been released by Facebook, providing Android developers with a way to create apps in JavaScript.



React is Facebook’s open source JavaScript library, which lets you describe what you want to render in a declarative way using shared components and elements. New web projects at Facebook are commonly built using React in one form or another and Facebook has also made React DevTools available and has open sourced Relay, the framework it has developed to manage React client applications.

Writing about this latest release on the Facebook blog, Daniel Witte and Philipp von Weitershausen said that React Native:

“brings what developers are used to from React on the web — declarative self-contained UI components and fast development cycles — to the mobile platform, while retaining the speed, fidelity, and feel of native applications.”

A version for iOS was released earlier in the year, and React Native for Android has now followed.

At the time the iOS version was launched, Facebook engineer Tom Occhino said that before React Native was created, developing native mobile apps took longer, but produced better experiences on the mobile platforms than were possible on the web:

“For one thing, we have access to platform-specific UI components, like maps, date pickers, switches, and navigation stacks.

We also don't have anything as sophisticated as the native mobile gesture recognizers on the web, and we don't yet have the proper tooling or the developer discipline needed to build a system that gets this right”.

Occhino explained:

“What we really want is the user experience of the native mobile platforms, combined with the developer experience we have when building with React on the web”.

adding that:

“the only difference in the mobile environment is that instead of running React in the browser and rendering to divs and spans, we run it in an embedded instance of JavaScriptCore inside our apps and render to higher-level platform-specific components”.

The blog post by Witte and von Weitershausen describes the creation of Facebook’s first cross-platform React Native app, Ads Manager. They say that working across separate iOS and Android code repositories is difficult, even with lots of tools and automation, adding that Facebook is moving to a unified repository for both platforms -- only one copy of common JavaScript code will be necessary, and syncs will be a thing of the past.

Despite the problems, the team says the experiment worked:

“When all was said and done, our bet paid off. We were able to ship Facebook's first fully React Native app on two platforms, with native look and feel, built by the same team of JavaScript engineers."

As Reactive Native is open source, other JavaScript devs can gain the same benefit.



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