by Resourcing People

You’ll recall a time when React Native was the go-to framework for creating truly native mobile applications for iOS and Android. It quickly earned an outstanding reputation for creating complex apps that offered a powerful user experience. 

From Facebook and Skype to SoundCloud, Shopify and Instagram, it was clearly the framework of choice for some of the biggest names. This speaks volumes, right?


So, why are some people mourning the death of React Native? 

Airbnb was one of the first big companies to take up React Native, so when they discontinued active development of React Native projects, people's perceptions shifted dramatically. One of the main reasons for the company’s decision to ‘sunset React Native’ was down to the hefty job of maintaining the language. So why was it proving so cumbersome to maintain? 

Airbnb had created their own offset of React Native which interfered with its code, meaning the development process wasn’t as slick or quick as they needed it to be. Put short, they had outgrown React Native. 

React Native is fantastic for small or medium sized projects, but once they reach a certain complexity the benefits may become overshadowed by the maintenance required. 

But before you don your funeral hats and start mourning the death of this revered application framework, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why React Native could still be the right choice.

Whether it truly is ‘dead’ or not, there's still a host of reasons as to why React Native is right for mobile app development projects.

  • It’s cost effective and saves time - 95% or more of the code is cross-platform, meaning maximise code reuse too

  • It accelerates development - by assisting with iteration and faster growth, your projects benefit from reduced time to market

  • React Native requires a smaller development team to kickstart a project, so less resource is taken up

  • Hot reloading / live reload provides developers with a vastly improved experience 

  • It offers faster publishing updates for apps and a streamlined build process

  • It’s moveable - if it becomes necessary to move an app to another development framework, it can easily be done

  • Allows you to augment existing apps

  • Strong performance for mobile environment - crucial in a mobile-first landscape

Still, whilst it offers some awe-inspiring perks, React Native does come with its own set of challenges. 

  • It’s still relatively immature - early stages could mean more risk

  • Native developers are still required, and it’s tough to build a cross-platform team

  • It comes with a steep learning curve, as it’s difficult to learn, especially for new developers

  • Developers are finding it tough to keep up with all the new releases and updates 

  • It has a lack of security robustness, which is key for big business

  • It’s slower compared to native applications, which is bad news for time-critical projects

  • Testing can be more challenging with React Native


What can we expect from React Native in 2021 and beyond?

React Native continues to work on a large-scale re-architecture project called Fabric. The ambitious project aims to make the framework more flexible and better able to integrate with native infrastructure. Fabric project experts say they are actively applying the lessons they've learned over the past five years, and they're confident the more modern framework will be much more efficient. 

A new streaming model will allow user interface updates to work with three separate threads, reducing the load on the mainstream, so it will be easier to handle asynchronous data, and a more simplified, lightweight bridge will improve citation between JavaScript and native. 


The future is bright...

After five years of continuous improvement, React Native has earned its place as a dependable cross-platform framework, and one that’s deserving of large-scale investment. Supported by Facebook, steady growth and popularity is pretty much guaranteed, so it’s safe to say it is most definitely not dead.

Many successful companies have adopted and continue to use the framework and are reaping its many benefits, which is why it will remain a strong contender in 2021/2022. Long live React Native! That said, although stable, resilient and popular, there are ambitious competitors vying to take the crown, and the one to watch is Google’s Flutter. Since its release in 2018, Flutter has steadily gained popularity, appearing just behind React Native in Stack Overflow’s Annual Developer Survey of Most Wanted Frameworks. Flutter could be looking very promising, but is it ready for the spotlight? In our next blog we’ll explore this popular new kid on the block - Flutter - further.


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