A brief history of React Native

The story of React Native is quite fascinating: what started as Facebook’s internal hackathon project, in the summer of 2013, has since become one of the most popular frameworks. The first public preview was in January of 2015 at React.js Con. In March of 2015, Facebook announced at F8 that React Native is open and available on GitHub

The story behind React Native

After a little over a year, React Native’s growth and adoption rate doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The statistics on Github repository are impressive: 991 contributors committed 7,903 times in 45 branches with 123 releases, and it’s 14th most starred repository on GitHub. Plus, it’s constantly updated; React Native is following a two-week train release, where a Release Candidate branch is created every two weeks.

Graph displaying number of React Native contibutions to master, excluding merge commits Graph displaying number of pull requests opened for React Native

React Native was backed up by two tech behemoths at this year’s F8 conference: both Microsoft and Samsung committed to bringing React Native to Windows and Tizen. In the near future, we can expect more Universal Windows Platform and Smart TV apps to be built with React Native.

With the support of both community and tech giants, it’s not a surprise that React Native is a trending topic and framework. For the first time in the past 12 months, search terms for React Native surpassed iOS and Android development according to Google Trends.

Google Trends graph displaying framework interest over time where React Native surpassed iOS and Android Development

Falling in love with React Native

Sometime in November 2015, we started to think about the future of Shoutem platform. After 5 years on the market, supporting thousands of individuals, SMBs and big enterprises building their apps, we knew we needed to take our app creator platform to another level. We faced two major problems: technology limitations and customer demand.

With our current platform technology – based on HTML5, Javascript, Cordova, and other solutions – we knew cross-platform could never achieve the level of performance of native apps

On the other hand, customers wanted greater customization freedom and more powerful apps. If you add the rise of SDKs, frameworks for web developers, high global competition, and automated app maintenance that will drive mobile app development prices down, it was the perfect time for a change.

React Native was an obvious choice for multiple reasons. It solved our current architectural problems while allowing us to achieve a level of performance that is indistinguishable from native apps built with Java or Objective-C

Another reason is that React Native is a cross-platform solution: we’re planning to open our platform to other developers in order to supercharge  development and build beautiful native apps for iOS and Android. Furthermore, React Native is super web developer friendly and doesn’t require learning native iOS and Android languages, or native APIs – learn once, write anywhere.

In the end, we also want to open Shoutem platform to other developers and give them the opportunity to extend platform functionalities with new extensions.

Once the new version of Shoutem is officially launched, customization of the apps will be almost endless. Think of it as a WordPress for mobile apps, where extensions behave in the same way as WordPress plugins.

Infographic displaying history of React Native seen by Shoutem

Shoutem UI Toolkit

React Native still isn’t at its peak, and in the near future we expect to see more amazing apps and community contributions that will blow our minds. Remember when we said we fell in love with React Native?

After months of intensive work, last week we finally went official and introduced the first part of the new Shoutem platform, open-source UI toolkit for React Native – an exhaustive UI component set with beautiful themes and animations.

The amount of positive reactions and feedback from the community was astonishing – acknowledgment from Christopher Chedeau, a test restaurant example with Exponent by Brent Vatne, and many others, as well as more than 900 on GitHub means we are on the right track. 

We cannot wait to show you a new version of Shoutem, but until we’re ready to officially launch it, we’d like to hear your feedback on our open-source UI toolkit.