An Overview of React.js

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React – better known as React.js – is a JavaScript library used in many modern web applications. It facilitates the building of responsive user interfaces, able to perform well in highly scalable environments. The library’s functionality combined with its relative ease of use has led to a massive growth in popularity among developers over the last few years.

We’re going to provide a high-level overview of React.js to see if it makes sense on your own company’s web development projects. Expect additional articles on the topic in the future, including a look at React for mobile – React Native.

A Short History of React.js

Jordan Walke, an engineer at Facebook, first developed the React framework in 2011. After getting used on the social network’s news feed, the company then implemented it on its Instagram network the following year. The framework became open source in 2013 at JSConf US, a JavaScript user conference.

The previously mentioned React Native first became available in 2015. In addition to supporting the Android and iOS mobile platforms, this framework also works with Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans to re-architect React into a new framework, known as React Fiber. While currently used in places on the social network, Fiber is expected to be publicly available by the end of the year. It promises a performance boost in addition to backwards compatibility.

A Closer Look at React.js’s Major Features

The original need for React.js involved creating a library suitable for responsive, data-driven web applications that are highly scalable. Considering the massive user base and resultant throughput of Facebook, it makes sense React saw its genesis at that social network.

The framework lets developers create component-based structures able to manage their own state. When combined with the virtual DOM (the HTML Document Object Model) and support for one-way dataflow, this makes it easier to build data-driven user interfaces for a scalable environment. React is able to seamlessly manage the user interface; only rendering those components with changed data.

React is essentially agnostic when it comes to an application’s chosen technology stack. This facilitates using the framework in one small part of an existing web application without affecting the rest of its architecture. If your organization is curious about React.js, taking this approach is a great way to learn the library before implementing it across the entire application.

JSX, a markup language somewhat similar to XML or HTML, is the primary means for defining user interface components in React.js. Since it is optional, programmers can still use raw JavaScript to achieve the same result, but JSX code is more concise and readable. It is also easy to access the component’s state and thus rendering its display whenever this underlying state changes.

While this overview only scratches the surface of what’s possible with React.js, leverage these insights to better determine whether the framework makes sense as part of your organization’s web development toolbox. If you are in the business of building extremely responsive web apps that are highly scalable, React probably belongs in your stack.

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