React vs React Native


Despite their similar names and shared beginnings, React and React Native serve different purposes and different development environments – React for web development and React Native for mobile apps. Today we decided to sum up their similarities and differences, to clear up any confusion.  

React vs React Native – A Quick Technology Comparison

What is React.js?

React is a powerful JavaScript library developed by Facebook (now Meta), specifically designed for building user interfaces for web applications. It enables developers to create reusable UI components, which makes for efficient updates and rendering of interactive views on web browsers.

More about React here:

React JS FAQ

React JS pros and cons

Best React js Tech Stack in 2024

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source JavaScript framework, also developed by Facebook Meta, designed for developing mobile applications on Android and iOS platforms. It extends the component-based architecture of React, allowing developers to craft applications that utilize native platform capabilities alongside JavaScript and React.

More about React Native here:

What is React Native

Pros and cons of React Native

Best React Native Tech Stack in 2024

Why migrate to React Native?

Key Differences between React vs React Native 

Platform Focus by Default

React js: Dedicated for Web Applications

React is tailored for building fast and interactive web applications. It simplifies the creation of dynamic user interfaces by handling complex interactions with the browser’s underlying document structure efficiently. A well-known example is the Facebook news feed, which relies on React to manage constant updates and interactions smoothly without reloading the page. Another example is Airbnb’s website, which uses React to enhance the user experience with its responsive and interactive features.

React Native: Designed for Mobile Apps

React Native is specifically developed for creating mobile apps that operate smoothly on both iOS and Android platforms. It directly uses mobile’s native components instead of relying on web components, providing a real native app experience. Apps like Instagram and UberEats are built with React Native, leveraging its ability to integrate seamlessly with mobile device features like the camera and location services, providing a fast and fluid user experience that feels fully integrated with the device.

User Interface Components

Both React and React Native use a tree-based update mechanism to optimize rendering, but they do so in ways tailored to their separate environments.

React uses a Virtual DOM to efficiently manage and update interfaces. It describes them using simple components, and when changes occur, React calculates the differences and updates the browser’s DOM accordingly. This process ensures that updates are both fast and minimal, maintaining high performance even during complex UI changes.

React Native, while also utilizing a tree structure for layout management, does not translate these into a virtual DOM. Instead, it converts the JSX into native components that are specific to iOS or Android. It optimises interactions and updates to align closely with the native performance characteristics and visual fidelity expected on mobile devices. Although both frameworks use similar principles of reactivity and component-based architecture, React Native’s approach directly interfaces with native APIs, ensuring that applications feel and perform as native apps on their respective platforms.

Development Environments

In React, developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. React’s JSX syntax allows you to write HTML-like code which gets transformed into JavaScript. CSS is used alongside this for styling, making the development process intuitive for those familiar with traditional web development.

React Native uses JavaScript and the same design principles as React but doesn’t use HTML or CSS. Instead, it uses a set of native components which are compiled into native platform elements at runtime, providing a look and feel that matches the native platforms (iOS and Android). By default, styles in React Native are written using a JavaScript object structure, which mimics CSS in syntax but actually interfaces directly with native mobile elements for performance. While React Native offers built-in styling capabilities with JavaScript objects, some developers prefer to leverage third-party libraries like NativeWind for a more streamlined or feature-rich styling experience.

We use NativeWind and the styling is much faster. All devs on the project use the same pre-defined styles and we can make all the changes in one place on all objects. It’s much easier.

Kornel Kwiatkowski, React Native Expert at Pagepro

Core Similarities between React and React Native 

Origin and Development by Facebook

Both Reactjs and React Native are open-source projects developed by Meta (Facebook). React was introduced in 2013 and has revolutionised web development and React Native was released in 2015. 

Both projects are actively maintained by Meta (Facebook) and a huge community of contributors. The projects continuously evolve to include the latest advancements in performance and scalability.

Use of JSX (JavaScript XML) in React Native and React

JSX is a syntax extension for JavaScript, used by both React Native and React. It combines the power of JavaScript with the simplicity of HTML. It allows web and mobile developers to write the structure of their user interface code in a way that is visually analogous to HTML but with the full functionality of JavaScript. 

// JSX (React)
const jsxElement = (
  <div className="container" style={{ backgroundColor: 'lightblue', padding: '20px' }}>
    <h1>Hello, World!</h1>
    <p>Welcome to my website.</p>

(In the simple example above we can see that JSX use angle brackets, like HTML, to define elements, such as <div>, <h1>, and <p>.

Attributes like class and style are used in both JSX and HTML to apply CSS classes and styles to elements.

JSX allows for dynamic attribute values using JavaScript expressions, such as className="container" and style={{ backgroundColor: 'lightblue', padding: '20px' }}.

Component-Based Architecture

The architectural foundation of both tools is centred around components—self-contained, reusable elements that encapsulate functionality and rendering logic. This structure supports modular, maintainable, and scalable app development.

Components in both React JS and RN can manage their state, handle user input, and render UI updates dynamically. They promote high cohesion and low coupling, making it easier to manage complex applications as they grow.

State and Props System for Managing Data

React and React Native use a reactive data flow model, based on the state and props. State is a local data storage that is private to the component and can change over time, usually triggered by user actions or system events. Props (short for “properties”), are immutable and are used to pass data and event handlers from parent to child components.

This unidirectional data flow (from parent to child components through props) ensures predictability and easier debugging. When state changes, it triggers re-renders of components. React then efficiently updates the web’s DOM by comparing new virtual DOM states with previous ones, a process known as ‘diffing.’ It’s an intuitive way of building dynamic interfaces for web applications and optimizes performance by minimizing unnecessary updates and redraws.

React Native, while following a similar component and state management philosophy, does not update a virtual DOM. Instead, it uses the diffing results to send only the necessary updates across a bridge to native components. This ensures that mobile applications perform well by directly interacting with native APIs, thus maintaining high performance with smooth user experiences.

Community and Support

Both React and React Native benefit from robust, active communities and a wealth of resources that support developers at all skill levels.

React and React Native on Github

React Native on github april 2024

Cross-Platform Capabilities of React and React Native

Running React Apps on Mobile

While React is primarily designed for web browsers, there are several ways to adapt React applications to run effectively on mobile devices:

  1. Responsive Design: Utilize responsive design techniques, such as CSS media queries, to ensure that your React web app adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes, including mobile devices. This approach leverages standard web technologies and does not require additional frameworks.
  2. Progressive Web Apps (PWA): React applications can be enhanced to become Progressive Web Apps. PWAs provide a more app-like experience on mobile devices, featuring capabilities like offline support, push notifications, and the ability to be installed on the home screen, all of which enhance mobile usability and performance.

Running React Native Apps on the Web

Conversely, React Native, which is predominantly aimed at mobile platforms, can also be adapted to run on web browsers:

  1. React Native for Web: This library adapts React Native components and APIs for the web environment. It allows developers to maintain a single codebase for their applications across iOS, Android, and web platforms, converting React Native’s components into web-appropriate elements.
  2. Expo for Web: Using the Expo framework, which supports universal React applications, developers can configure React Native apps to run on web browsers with minimal setup. Expo for Web leverages React Native for Web to ensure that the application behaves consistently across all platforms.


As you can see now, while React and React Native share common roots and syntax, they cater to different development environments and use cases. React excels in web development, offering a seamless development experience for building browser-based interfaces. React Native, on the other hand, is tailored for mobile development, enabling developers to create native mobile applications with a single codebase.

Ultimately, the choice between React and React Native depends on the specific requirements and goals of your project. Whether you’re building a web application or a mobile app, both frameworks provide powerful tools and resources to support your development journey.

Need help in app development?

Żaneta Lenczewska

Żaneta joined Pagepro at the start of 2022 as a Content Specialist, bringing with her a vibrant passion for the ever-evolving world of web and mobile development. Every day, Żaneta dedicates herself to expanding her technical knowledge, ensuring that her insights and writings are not only informative but also enriched with the latest developments in web and mobile technology.

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