React JS vs React Native - What’s the Difference and Why Should You Care?

As you probably know if you’ve been reading our blog, we at Share IT adore React JS. Recently, we published an article on this website where we expressed why we think React JS is so awesome and why it’s so popular among developers.

Not that long ago, Stefan, our frontend developer, talked about how we use React JS to build interactive elements on websites.

To be perfectly frank, even though a lot of time has passed since that interview went live on our website, not much has changed. React JS is still our go-to solution because it’s part of the MERN tech stack which we currently use for almost all of our projects.

When we talk about React and sing its praises to our potential and existing customers, one question frequently comes up; especially when we chat with people who are not super techy.

*“Is React JS same as React Native, and if not, what’s the difference?” *

The answer is obviously no, but explaining what sets React JS from React Native to a non-techy person is not as easy as most developers would think.

To set the record straight and equip our readers/customers with as much context and knowledge about the solutions we’re constantly praising, we’re going to focus this post on just that - explaining the differences about React JS or React Native.

Let’s begin!

Some Context About React JS and React Native


As you probably already know if you have been reading our articles on this subject, React was created back in 2011. At that time, Facebook ads were going through a bit of rebuild. Newer features were being added to the platform and the engineering team was doing everything in its power to keep up with the changes.

Regardless how hard they tried to keep all the balls in the air at same time, the frequent updates were constantly slowing down their progress. At one point, Facebook’s UI was pushed as far as it could go, so the development team had no other choice but to rebuild and realign the entire app from scratch.

While all of this was going on, Jordan Walke, one of the engineers at Facebook back then, used XHP (an HTML component library for PHP) to create FaxJS, the very first prototype of React JS. He created a new JS library that brought together the speed of JavaScript and a new way of rendering pages which sort of gave birth to a responsive and dynamic user input.

That same year, the newly patented React JS was deployed for Facebook’s timeline and it instantly made a huge difference. In 2012, the same thing happened for Instagram. Once Facebook officially acquired the world’s most popular photo sharing social media platform, the same tech was used to rebuild Instagram’s timeline as well.

Thanks to the insane success of both platforms and how well Walke’s solution worked - in 2013, the JS library was officially open sourced.

Since it skyrocketed in popularity almost immediately, Facebook’s team decided to take things a step further and release React Native.

React JS vs React Native: The Definitions

Now that you know how both of these solutions came to be, let’s dig a bit deeper and explain what React.js and React Native are. We’ll also underline the business advantages and disadvantages of both React.js and React Native.

First, the definitions:

  • React JS, or simply “React” as it’s frequently called in the IT community, is a JavaScript library that we use for building a hierarchy of UI components. In a nutshell, React JS is responsible for the rendering of UI components and it provides support for both the frontend and server-side.

  • React Native is very similar to React JS, but there are a couple of key differences that you need to know. React Native is a JavaScript open-source framework, primarily used for building native mobile applications. It makes it possible for developers to write code using their knowledge of JavaScript, and build production-ready mobile apps. React Native deploys a so-called ‘bridge’ that enables the communication between the written code and the native platforms. So, it connects the JavaScript thread with the native thread.

React JS vs React Native: The Obvious Differences


That’s not the case with React Native. With React Native, you have everything you need to get the ball rolling.

Kickstarting a new project is super easy with React Native. Only a couple command lines stand between you and running your terminal. You can start coding your first native app immediately using ES6, some ES7 features and even a few polyfills.

However, to run your app, you will need assistance from Xcode or Android Studio, depending which OS you have Xcode works for iOS and Mac, Android Studio for Android and Windows.

React JS vs React Native: When to use Which?

So, to sum it up, React Native is a full platform for building cross-functional mobile apps from the ground up, while React JS is a JavaScript library that you use for building a better performing UI layer.

When we zoom out and look at both of these solutions objectively, we can easily see that React Native is built upon React JS and that it contains all of its principles.

Metaphorically speaking, React JS is the lifeblood of React Native. Without it, React Native cannot function. The framework is basically a build up of the core competencies of React JS and it gives it a new purpose with the help of a couple of other things.

React JS alone is a browser code that is rendered through a Virtual DOM. It uses HTML. React Native operates with the help of Native APIs to render components on mobile devices, i.e. you need to use use animated APIs to build want you want to build

The obvious thing to remember here is that React Native doesn’t operate the same way as React JS. React Native is not made from web elements which means that it can’t be styled the same way, regardless of how much you’d want to. You cannot simply recycle them. Doesn’t work like that. To style your React-Native components, you will have to create stylesheets in JavaScript that look super similar to CSS. Luckily, you can probably find already existing React Native libraries for almost everything “standard” you want to copy for React JS.

It’s easy to slip and make mistakes with React Native development, which may cause delays in releases, additional costs, and something all managers dread: increased time-to-market. This is why it’s always a smart thing to leave it to experts.

If you need someone for React development, you came to the right place. Contact Share IT for consultation and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.