The Curious Case of React: Evolution and Controversy
The Curious Case of React: Evolution and Controversy

The Curious Case of React: Evolution and Controversy


React, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, has made a significant impact on web development since its inception in 2013. Developed by Jordan Walke at Facebook, React has garnered widespread popularity for its simplicity and flexibility. In this article, we explore the evolution of React, controversies it faced, best practices, its adoption, advantages, and disadvantages.

The Genesis of React

React’s journey began when Jordan Walke, inspired by Lisp, aimed to create a library that simplifies building complex user interfaces through reusable components. Initially used to construct Facebook’s news feed, it was later open-sourced, rapidly gaining traction.

The Dark Ages

While React has a positive reputation today, its early days were not devoid of criticism. Some developers expressed concerns about its coupling between event handlers, the DOM, and view representation. Additionally, doubts arose regarding React’s potential for unethical use, development transparency, frequent releases, and backward compatibility.

Key Concerns:
  1. Dependency Hell: Managing React’s numerous dependencies posed challenges, leading to dependency conflicts.
  2. Lack of Transparency: Some developers questioned the transparency of React’s development process and its alignment with community needs.
  3. Rapid Release Cycle: Frequent React updates made it challenging for developers to keep up, potentially causing compatibility issues.
  4. Lack of Backward Compatibility: React’s approach to backward compatibility was critiqued for being cumbersome.
Rethinking ‘Best Practices’

React is not static; it evolves by challenging best practices. Key focus areas include:

1. Separation of Concerns

React promotes a ‘separation of concerns’ approach by dividing complex systems into distinct components. This modularity enhances system understanding, development, and maintenance.

2. Reusable Components

React’s strength lies in creating reusable components that return JSX elements, allowing for easy composition and customization.

3. Virtual DOM

React’s Virtual DOM (VDOM) optimizes actual DOM updates by reducing manipulations, enhancing application performance.

Performance Best Practices

Optimizing React’s performance involves various strategies:

  • Using React Developer Tools to identify bottlenecks and optimize rendering.
  • Leveraging the shouldComponentUpdate lifecycle method to prevent unnecessary re-renders.
  • Employing PureComponent for shallow prop and state comparisons.
  • Utilizing React.memo for memoizing functional components.
  • Implementing code-splitting via React.lazy and Suspense APIs.
  • Minimizing DOM nodes using React Fragments.
  • Memoizing callback functions with React.useCallback.
  • Memoizing expensive calculations using React.useMemo.
  • Optimizing component rendering with React.useEffect and React.useReducer.
React in Numbers

React’s impact is extensive, with over a million websites employing it. It’s particularly popular for single-page applications (SPAs) and progressive web applications (PWAs). Prominent companies like Facebook, Airbnb, Netflix, and Asana rely on React.

The Advantages of React

React offers several advantages for UI development:

1. Reusable Components

React’s component-based architecture promotes code reusability, simplifying large-scale application development and maintenance.

2. Virtual DOM

The Virtual DOM reduces actual DOM manipulations, enhancing application performance and responsiveness.

3. Fast Rendering

React’s Virtual DOM and functional components facilitate speedy rendering of UI updates.

4. Declarative Syntax

React’s declarative syntax improves code readability and reasoning for developers.

5. Community Support

With an active community, React provides abundant resources for learning, troubleshooting, and integrating third-party libraries and tools.

The Disadvantages of React

While React has numerous advantages, it comes with its share of challenges:

1. Complexity

React can be complex, especially for newcomers to frontend development or functional programming concepts.

2. Steep Learning Curve

The library’s richness results in a steep learning curve, making it time-consuming to become proficient.

3. Dependency Complexity

React is part of a broader ecosystem, necessitating the management of multiple dependencies, which can be challenging.

4. Lack of Guidance

React’s flexibility can be a double-edged sword, as it provides little guidance on structuring and organizing code.


React’s journey from inception to its current status as a widely-used UI library has been marked by evolution and controversy. While it faced criticism early on, React’s flexibility, community support, and adherence to best practices have helped it overcome challenges. Today, it stands as a powerful tool for building user interfaces, with its advantages far outweighing its disadvantages. As it continues to evolve, React remains at the forefront of web development.

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