React vs. React Native–Which One To Choose and When?

Oskar Mieczkowski

React vs React Native - Which one to choose?

React (or React JS) and React Native share the name for a good reason: the latter is based on the former. Both introduced by Facebook, they are open-sourced frameworks working with Javascript. Surprisingly, developers use each of them to vastly different ends. The bottom line is - if you’re planning to build a web app, go with React, and if you’re creating a mobile app, React Native would be your best bet. 

But let’s dive deeper into how those two technologies differ and what you should know to make an informed decision. 

What is React?

React is an open-source JavaScript library often employed in creating fast and reliable User Interfaces (UI) for web apps.

Where Did React Come From?

Facebook, wanting to improve their site's user experience needed to optimize the increasingly complex dynamic UI to work fast and smooth. Facebook’s software engineer Jordan Walke, a software engineer at Facebook, created a prototype of what would soon become React – FaxJS – in 2011.

Fast forward two years— shortly after publication React quickly begins gathering devoted supporters who appreciate its usefulness and scalability. One additional factor contributing to its popularity is licensing: an open-source MIT license meant that React is free for personal or commercial use and every developer has the right to modify it as they see fit.

Why is React So Popular?

In 2023, React was voted the most popular web framework among professional developers. So why is it so popular?

1. Speed

Virtual DOM is a programming concept used in React. It’s an in-memory representation of a “real” Document Object Model (DOM) that's lighter and faster. Developers also appreciate relatively easy testing, with prompts from React informing about every encountered error live.

2. Component-based architecture

In React, developers build components that can be composed together and reused to make complex UIs. This approach breaks the UI development into smaller pieces that are easier to manage.

3. JavaScript and HTML integration

JSX syntax, which is JavaScript combined with HTML/XML-like text, proves easy to read and extremely helpful when developing web apps.

Cta image

React Challenges

As with every technology, React had its growing pains. At one point its complexity and lack of comprehensive learning materials were a barrier for beginner developers. Plus, new React trends and ideas were appearing virtually every day, making proper documentation difficult to maintain. Today it's no longer the case, with updates officially announced far in advance and useful tools such as Create React App available.

If you’re looking for alternatives to React, Angular is a framework made by Google, considered to be its biggest competition. Read our comparison of React vs. Angular to see which framework is best for you.

ReactJS Examples

The apparent examples of real-life React use are various Facebook products. Both web versions of WhatsApp and Instagram were built using React. The latest Facebook revision heavily relied on React for better performance when loading new live content simultaneously on the wall and in Messenger. Other big names who use React on their websites include:

  • Asana
  • BBC
  • Netflix
  • Twitter
  • Uber

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source JavaScript framework created by Facebook and is typically used for developing cross-platform (iOS and Android) native mobile apps. Applications built in React Native have 100% native UI and do not suffer from limitations associated with other frameworks. 

Facebook quickly recognized the steady increase in mobile needs and in 2015 released the React Native framework. Instead of relying on HTML, React Native has been designed to make mobile apps work more seamlessly and streamline the development process.

Traditionally, Android and iOS apps would have to be created from the ground up in two separate programming languages. When developing apps using React Native the developer can use JavaScript to build versions for all platforms, changing only the bits responsible for evoking the native elements.

Why Use React Native?

Today, the framework itself is fairly mature. It’s backed by Facebook, and is used by many big players, including Walmart and Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart. It’s also open-source, so it's free to modify by anyone with enough programming knowledge. There’s more:

1. Easy to learn for JavaScript developers

Developers who already know JavaScript, or even better – React – have an easier time learning React Native.

2. One code for all platforms

Sharing one codebase for iOS, Android and other platforms leads to faster development of multiple-platform apps.

3. Big & helpful community

An active community of developers working in React Native creates quality informational content that's easily available online. Developers can join a Facebook group with over 49,000 members or read through over 7,000 questions tagged [react-native] on Stack Overflow

React Native Challenges to Consider

According to our developers, React Native still lacks some of the custom, platform-specific modules, so you may end up needing a native developer who can create them for your project. The navigation isn’t considered very smooth and the animation engine isn’t that powerful. Read all the pros and cons of React Native development.

Understandably, not every programming tool will be right for every project. React Native is far from the only way to build mobile apps. Read our comparisons on React Native vs. Flutter and vs. NativeScript.

React Native Examples

Besides Facebook properties, these are some of the most popular apps built using React Native:

  • Coinbase
  • Discord
  • Pinterest
  • Shopify
  • UberEats
Cta image

React Vs. React Native Comparison

To put it simply, React and React Native are not really competitors. They're both JavaScript tools but serve different purposes. Which one you should choose depends on what type of product you want to develop.


  • is best when you want to build a fast and stable User Interface for your website, 
  • saves developers’ time with reusable components and fast rendering,
  • is mainly used for web development
  • is a library.

React Native:

  • is best when you want to create a mobile app for various operating systems,
  • saves developers’ time with pre-built components and code reusable for various platforms,
  • is mainly used for mobile development,
  • is a framework.

Library vs. Framework

React, on the other hand, it's a library. A library is a collection of pre-composed rules and routines that a developer can use instead of writing every line of code from scratch. Libraries cover common use cases and can be incorporated into frameworks.

Frameworks are generally more complex than libraries. React Native was built as a framework. When using it, the developer gets a set of rules and mechanisms ready to be built upon, serving as a sort of support structure.

What If You Need Both Mobile and Web?

You can use React Native for Web which uses React DOM to run React Native components and APIs on the web.

But the tool specifically suited for this job is actually ReactXP, a library created by Microsoft for cross-platform development. It works with React and React Native to further streamline the process by allowing most of the code to be shared between the iOS, Android, Windows, and the web version of an app.

Did You Know?

Complexity and lack of systematized information are the main reasons it can be hard to get into React and React Native. Since skill shortage in IT is still a relevant issue in 2023, you may want to consider outsourcing your app development to a team already well-versed in the technologies you want to use.

Cta image