What Impact Will Facebook’s React Native Have On Apps?

On March 26, 2015, Facebook announced that it would open-source React Native, its JavaScript framework for building native applications. React Native has widespread implications for the way that mobile apps are being developed today. React Native promises to make it easier than ever for developers to transition from mobile web environments to native applications.

How Facebook Has Approached the Mobile Web

In the past, Facebook used HTML5 to develop its mobile website and then simply wrapped it up for iOS and Android to transition it to native. This allowed them to utilize their mobile websites in a native platform without having to undergo parallel development, but it was far from a perfect solution. React Native is the ultimate end goal of this type of design: it allows developers to create a single mobile website application and have it displayed natively in both iOS and Android, using the mobile environment components. The use of the mobile environment components, such as native widgets, is essential to the usability of the platform, as previously this type of development was cumbersome.

Traditionally, developers have had to either develop in a cross-platform mobile app solution or strictly for iOS or Android, one at a time. Either way, porting a mobile website to a native app has never been a trivial process. The web experience either has to be replicated from the ground up in the new platform or it has to be “wrapped,” as Facebook was previously doing.

The Impact of React Native on Developers

Native app experiences have trailed behind mobile web apps primarily due to the time-consuming development process and financial investment required. The ability to transition from mobile web app to native app will undoubtedly lead to more hybrid solutions, where many businesses will release apps to increase their overall exposure. It will be less expensive to develop apps and rapid deployment for apps will be possible. Opening the path for JavaScript developers will add quite a few talented individuals to the app development tool.

It also means that web development companies can now transition more readily into native app design, as the skill sets now mesh. For smaller development companies, it may no longer be necessary to have a native app specialist; a JavaScript specialist can now be enough. Naturally, this will also increase the level of competitiveness within the industry somewhat. By opening the door for more talent, the app marketplace will become even more competitive and inspired. Moreover, it makes the process of application development itself easier — thus making more complicated, interesting and unique apps possible. And, as an open source product, React Native can be improved upon and built by the community.

The Consumer and React Native

The hope for the consumer is that this will lead to better and more creative applications. Today’s consumer rarely downloads apps on a daily basis, likely because the apps they need aren’t available. Having a larger, more comprehensive library of apps available may incline the consumer to look for apps that they want more readily. As it stands, a consumer is unlikely to look for the native application for many of their favorite websites simply because they assume it is not available.

What’s the bottom line? Well, get ready for an influx of web-based apps. Previously, the only thing really holding developers back was development time. Facebook React opens native app design up to a whole new class of developers and businesses, making app development more affordable, faster and easier. Undoubtedly, this will also lead to an incredible proliferation of apps in a short time — another “app boom” is probably coming.

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