Developers rejoiced when Facebook open-sourced its JavaScript library, React Native, for Android on Tuesday, six months after it released an iPhone version on GitHub.

One UK development company, Red Badger which is responsible for well known brand's sites that transact billions of pounds, is particularly happy. Its CEO, Cain Ullah, believes that Facebook's open source project React and React Native is a monumental step for tech history. Techworld asks him why. 

Cain Ullah, CEO of development studios ©RedBadger
Cain Ullah, CEO of development studios ©RedBadger

Why is Facebook's announcement of React Native for Android and iOS important for the developer community?

“It’s incredibly important to both the developer community and for companies that utilise native (operating system-specific) applications.

“At the moment there is huge device proliferation and the community is split across device, operating systems, different languages and huge testing overhead to get apps to work on them all.

“React Native allows developers to build for multiple platforms with a large amount of re-use of their code across all devices. It will bring the web, tablet and mobile closer together but without the reduction of performance or user experience. Developers will be able to build apps with advance features that a responsive website cannot achieve."

How will this affect enterprise?

“It’s equally important for companies, which commonly have a website supported by three or four other native applications, all written in different code basis with individual maintenance costs and (sometimes) separate teams developing them.

“React Native can effectively replace this eco-system with one code base plus very small amounts of device specific code, increasing the speed of iteration, reducing the number of developers and working hours to develop as well as lower maintenance costs.

“But, the main benefactors are their customers who get a great customer experience as a result.”

Open source: What's in it for Facebook?

“I love the fact that Facebook have open sourced it. It’s very much in the mindset of the transparent, sharing developer community rather than the characteristics of a typical big corporation.

“Reputation is certainly a bonus for Facebook - but I'm not sure that this was necessarily their intention when they open-sourced React and, subsequently, React Native.

“Having spoken to the Facebook engineers responsible for React, they are overwhelmed by the uptake and had no idea it would be so popular. They obviously use React and React Native heavily for their own applications, this is why they created it.

“Facebook have developed their Facebook groups application with 87 percent of the same code base across IOS and Android.

“By open-sourcing it, they get a lot of benefit from the wider developer community contributing to code that they can use in their own applications."

Do you use React or React Native? What are you initial thoughts?

“Red Badger uses both. We use React heavily in all of our client projects. We're building one e-commerce website that transacts £5 billion per year on React.

The Red Badger development team working on a project

“It’s changed the way we develop websites and we believe it is one of the biggest things that has happened in web technology in the last 10 years. We’ve also built React Native Apps and are about to build a suite of React Native apps for one of our large clients - but I can’t say who.

"We even built the London React Meetup application in React Native."

What are the biggest challenges with using React?

“Adoption. It’s still early days with React and a lot of people don't know about it. Convincing them to use it will be a challenge. Having said that, the speed on development of the platform, the level effort put in by Facebook in developing it and the ever growing community means the future is very, very bright indeed. It could be the killer of native applications as we know it certain business domains."

Facebook announced it put React Native for Android on Github this week. 

Red Badger contributes to React and React Native. It runs the London React Meetup out of Facebook's London offices every month.