TechCast #91 – Brent Vatne on React Native

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Today’s TechCast features Brent Vatne, who explains how the React Native framework can be used to build applications in both iOS and Android using JavaScript and CSS. We talk about how Brent got started on the project, how he prefers React Native to iOS and Android native development, and how it stacks up compared to other JavaScript mobile frameworks like Ionic. Brent has worked on both server and client side applications using Ruby, JQuery, Backbone and Angular before coming to React Native, so he’s informed with some hard-won experience.

Brent will be a speaker at Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise. His talk is called React Native: A Better Way to do Mobile (for Both Managers and Engineers). Learn more about this developer-friendly, Chariot-sponsored conference here.

We Talk to Brent About:

  • His role on the React Native core team. As a previous full-stack developer and Rails consultant, he worked his way through many frameworks (Angular, JQuery, Backbone.js) and found that React was the best fit for his job. A foray into mobile left him searching for a React-like solution, so after patiently waiting for the release of React Native, he dove in deep (with a 166-day commit streak to prove it!) and never looked back.
  • The asynchronous “bridge” between the Native side and the JavaScript side of a React Native app, and why it’s a unique solution to data transfer.
  • How React stacks up to other emerging platforms, like Appcelerator’s Titanium, and how it deals with phone-specific features like toolbar or notifications.
  • The best and worst use cases for React Native, and a few examples of apps that are doing it right. For example: Discord, a Slack-like chat application, or [Editorial note 12/11/2019: The original link placed here is now defunct] Discovery VR, an app that created an immersive VR experience on your phone (see what happened to DiscoveryVR in this article courtesy Luke Pensworth of Daily Wireless). You can see more on the React Native Showcase page.
  • The community behind React Native, and how it goes about accepting and integrating changes.
  • Brent’s work with Exponent, a tool where you can write iOS and Android experiences in JavaScript using React Native, without Xcode or Android Studio, and share them with anyone else who has the app in a single click.
  • Why his talk is for engineers AND managers. Brent believes React Native frees managers from having to hire three different folks (an iOS dev, an Android dev, and a web developer) who then need to work out the nuances of implementing a feature in each setting.

Links Mentioned:

  • Product Pains – a result of GitHub’s inability to prioritize issues, the React Native team turned to this tool to prioritize their issues. If an issue is on the front page of Product Pains, then the team is working on it.
  • React Native Playground – The Plunkr or CodePen for React Native. The Playground allowed reduced friction within the RN community, allowing users to easily share little snippets of code and examples.
  • The React Native newsletter that Brent publishes.