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What is React? A Complete Overview

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28th Jul, 2021
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What is React? A Complete Overview

What is React?

React is an open-source, component-based JavaScript library used to create quick and interactive interfaces or UI components for users for web and mobile-based applications.  

Ever since its release in 2013 by Facebook, React, a JavaScript library used to build web applications, has consistently witnessed an upward trend. It is now the most-used JavaScript library alongside the likes of jQuery, Vue, and Angular.

It is a declarative and highly accurate library that provides reusable code, which enhances the efficiency and flexibility of single-page applications. 

Its key features are SX and Virtual DOM, which set it apart from other JavaScript libraries. Popular companies like Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb are users of React.

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Key Highlights of React

  • The component-based, front-end library optimizes the page loading speed and efficiency of single-page applications.
  • React helps in generating easy-to-use interactive UIs.
  • It is used to design comfortable and interactive views for every state in the application.
  • It offers on-time updates that help users to receive relevant components required when data changes.
  • React breaks the UI into smaller individual components, enabling users to simultaneously work on each component resulting in faster app development.

Why does React have the edge over other frameworks?

React has a lot of efficient features that make the library stand out against other libraries. The following is the list of powerful features that have catapulted React to the numero uno position:

  • Effective DOM Manipulation

DOM (Document Object Model) is a crucial part of the web application, as it represents the web page of a document, generally HTML. DOM manipulation has become the latest trend in modern applications as they require numerous animations, state transitions, impactful effects, and so on: 

The Virtual DOM is a virtual model of the actual DOM tree with each branch ending in a node that contains objects. The feature enables the users to update only the necessary parts of the DOM tree instead of re-rendering the entire UI.

The whole process of implementing a virtual DOM is faster as it stays only in the memory without providing access to the user.

  • JSX

The JavaScript’s syntax extension is merged with React to clearly define how the user interface (UI) is supposed to look. JSX can be used to write HTML structures in a file that has JavaScript code. By doing this, the code becomes easily understandable as the process avoids complex JavaScript DOM structures.

  • More functionality with lesser code

React facilitates the simple and quick generation of dynamic web applications as it requires less coding against JavaScript that involves complex coding.

  • Quick application development

Components are the foundation of any React application. Most apps require a lot of components to control each task in app development. React components have a wide range of logic and controls that can be reused because of which the applications can be developed at a quick pace.

  • Easy error debugging

In React, the child components are placed inside the parent components, and so the data flows only in one way. The single direction of data enables the app developers to identify the exact location of the error in an application resulting in faster debugging. React components are designed based on the Separation of concerns principle, according to which a computer program is separated into smaller sections, each of which addresses different issues.

  • Use of UI component library

A set of ready-made components that provide the necessary blocks of code for developing apps constitute the UI component library. The use of the UI library, Kendo React, brings in a lot of advantages like greater compatibility, better accessibility, speed, and easier handling.

For instance, the Create React app is used at the beginning stage of React app setup. This enables the developers to start using the React app with a single command. 

  • Redux

Redux is a popular state management library used in React. It places all the data inside a store such that each component has access to the store. The two powerful concepts of Redux are actions and reducers. 

Actions are the events that transfer the data, and reducers are functions that perform a task corresponding to the data and return it to a new state.

  • Easy to learn

It is easy to learn React as it is an amalgamation of HTML and JavaScript concepts with some add-ons.

  • Use in developing mobile apps 

React is known for its effectiveness in web application development but is not limited to only that. React Native, an immensely popular framework of React helps in developing mobile applications. 

  • Chrome extension to debug React applications

Facebook has come up with a chrome extension that is exclusively used for debugging React applications. This makes debugging simpler and faster.

The above features make React one of the most-used JavaScript libraries, which are preferred by a huge number of businesses over the likes of jQuery, Vue, and Angular. 

In addition to this, React does not insist on strict code conventions or file organizations, unlike other frameworks. This helps developers to have their convenient conventions and use React in any way they like. React can be assigned to handle a single button, a few interface pieces, or an application’s entire user interface. 

Prerequisites for learning and using React

The following list will help developers who have just started using React determine if they are ready to take the plunge:

  1. A basic understanding of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, Babel, and Package manager: Front-end developers should know how to generate CSS selectors, HTML tags and to develop applications using HTML and CSS.
  2. A good grip on ES6, JSX, and their features: In React, the developers need to use JSX that gives the flavour of HTML JavaScript. A complete understanding of how to use JSX is mandatory to learn React.
  3. Understanding of how Node Package Manager (NPM) works: A basic understanding of installing packages using NPM, finding required software from the NPM registry is indispensable for developing React apps. 

React Vs. Angular and Vue

Angular, developed by Google in 2010, is a TypeScript based framework. Two versions of the same were released in 2016 (Angular 2) and 2020 (Angular 11).

Vue, a.k.a Vue.js, was released by Evan You in 2014. The latest version of Vue was released in September 2010 (Vue 3.0), which has its own GitHub tool. 

Let us compare the key aspects of the three frameworks. 

Key featuresReactAngularVue
Year of release201320102014
Latest Version17.x113.0.x
Leading companies using the frameworkFacebook, UberGoogle, WixAlibaba, GitLab
Number of Contributors15331352382
Number of jobs in LinkedIn709637274711590

Future Scope of React in the Industry

With growing patronage from new-age developers, React has become a top trend in the front-end development industry. 

  • React developers are better compensated than other web developing frameworks. According to PayScale, the average salary offered to developers in React.js is $92,341 per year. Compensations increase as you level up in your career — L4 Lead Front End Engineers are paid a high base salary of $115,862 per year.
  • It is widely preferred by many companies owing to its simplicity and quick pace and so React developers have a huge demand in the market. Many leading companies like Facebook, PayPal, Instagram, UBER, and Airbnb use React for their web development. Therefore, React developers have a potential future as the technology is used in a wide range of industries.
  • Ever since its release in 2013, React has been consistently growing in demand and popularity and Facebook adding many advanced features to the tool is making it more desirable and stronger in the market. ReactJs has completely revamped the front-end handling making it faster and easier by addressing its view issue and providing a UI view and storage layer.

Let us look at the key parameters of React that show its current trend in the market:

Key ParametersFigures of React
Number of Watchers6,700
Number of Stars16,400
Number of Forks32,900
Number of Contributors1,533
  • React is also comparatively easier to learn and has a wider community than other libraries like Angular or Vue. The job market for React developers looks very promising. 

The following table shows the number of positions available for React developers:

List of job portalsNumber of Vacancies
Simply Hired10508

To Conclude

The path to learning React might take time, but it is certainly worth the effort and time given its popularity as the most-used JavaScript for developing modern applications. The powerful and efficient features of React and the ease of handling them make it unique from other libraries and frameworks. The tools introduced by React like JSX, DOM, and reusable components have completely revolutionized and simplified the process of app development. 

All the above features make ReactJs an indispensable tool in web development. Developers who look beyond Angular and Vue find React as their one-stop destination. According to The State of JavaScript 2020 survey, React tops the list of most-used JavaScript libraries, which proves that this framework is here to stay for a long time.

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Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.
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