If you’re considering a career in web development, you’ve probably already heard a lot of people discussing how important it is to learn React. As the most popular coding library in the world, the demand for React expertise is certainly very high. But what exactly is React? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is React? 

React is an open-source JavaScript library used to build user interface (UI) components on single-page applications. It was originally created by a software engineer at Facebook to streamline the company’s app, improve its performance, and simplify code maintenance. React was first used on Facebook’s News Feed in 2011 then added to Instagram after Facebook purchased the app in 2012. It was released to the public under an open-source license just a year later in 2013 and has steadily gained in popularity ever since. React is currently the most widely used code library among Web Developers, with more than 40% of those surveyed by Stack Overflow reporting extensive use in the past year.

Why Is React So Popular? 

If you ask a Web Developer why they use React, you’ll likely receive a long list of reasons in return—far too many to explain them all here. To help you better understand what drives the popularity of React, here are some of its most important features and benefits.

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Components are the core building blocks of React; the UI of every application built with React can be broken down into individual pieces called components that are independent of one another. Each of these components has its own logic and can be edited separately before being merged together in the final UI, which makes the task of creating an application’s UI simpler and easier to manage. Components can also be reused on other pages and applications, which saves a considerable amount of time on coding.

The Virtual DOM

The DOM (Document Object Model) is a tree-like model that represents how user interface (UI) objects on a website are organized. Prior to React, the DOM had to be re-rendered every time there was a change to an application’s UI, which hindered site responsiveness. 

One of the most useful features of React is its ability to change components on a website without having to update the entire DOM. This is accomplished through the virtual DOM, which is a virtual representation or copy of the DOM. Whenever a user takes action, like clicking a button, React updates the virtual DOM, compares the update to the previous version, detects the differences, then only updates the affected objects instead of refreshing the entire DOM. This makes the site faster, more responsive, and improves its performance. 


JSX, which stands for JavaScript XML, is a syntax extension of JavaScript that allows programmers to structure components using language similar to HTML embedded within JavaScript code. JSX is typically used to describe what a site’s UI should look like, which React then transforms into DOM elements. While JSX is not required to create React applications, it does speed up programming by simplifying the coding language.

One-Way Data Binding

React includes a JavaScript architecture called Flux that uses a centralized dispatcher to direct data in one direction whenever a UI event occurs; this is called one-way data binding. The primary benefit of one-way data binding is its ability to synchronize data and modify an application quickly and easily, especially when compared to the two-way data binding process that’s commonly found in frameworks like Angular.js. This method is especially useful on complicated applications, making them both easier to debug, maintain, and grow over time.

Additional Reasons for React’s Popularity

The popularity of React is mostly due to its ability to simplify the creation and management of an application’s UI and improve overall site performance but there are additional factors that have contributed to its growth. The success of React can also be attributed in large part to its creator: Facebook. React was only engineered out of necessity to help streamline Facebook’s UI and make the app easier to manage as it grew. Once React was made open source, it had an immediate audience due to Facebook’s status as the largest social media platform in the world. 

After React was released to the public, it took several years for the popularity of the library to build momentum. Thankfully, developers soon discovered that React was easier to learn and implement compared to alternatives and they began using it more consistently. A thriving community quickly built up which has contributed to the expansion of React. The developer community continues to provide valuable support through sites like Stack Overflow and Github, helping each other to resolve any React-related problems.

With the power of Facebook behind it and a thriving community supporting it, React soon caught the eye of some pretty big players; front end developers at Airbnb, Netflix, Shopify, Salesforce, Walmart, and Amazon began using React to create the UI on their companies’ apps, which only served to boost the library’s popularity even more. React has now surpassed the popularity of jQuery with more than 40% of developers regularly using React.

How to Learn React

There are a variety of ways to learn React. While some may prefer to learn by figuring it out for themselves, others enjoy the structure and feedback provided by online or in-person classes. There is no right choice; it’s simply a matter of figuring out which method works best for you.

Prerequisites for Learning React 

Before you try your hand at learning React, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of web development including foundational languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Attempting to learn React without acquiring these skills first would be pointless; you’d only end up confused and frustrated. You’ll also need to understand how to use essential front end development tools like Git and Node Package Manager (npm). 

React Educational Resources

If you do a quick search for tutorials on React, you’ll soon find there are quite a lot of free resources available online. This is a great option for those who love to work things out by themselves without any outside guidance from others. 

If this sounds like your preferred learning method, then the best place to start would be on the official React website. There you can find the official documentation plus numerous React tutorials to help you learn all of the library’s ins and outs. If you find yourself getting stuck, just head over to Stack Overflow, where you can find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about React.

React Classes 

While it may be possible to acquire React skills through self-directed education, most people learn better in a structured training environment where immediate feedback is provided. For those people, the best way to learn React is through React bootcamps. Bootcamps are concentrated courses meant to provide a thorough education in a relatively short amount of time. 

Of course, you should already know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript before enrolling in a React bootcamp. You can acquire those skills by completing a few core web development classes. Depending upon where you live, you should be able to find several options for web development courses in your area. In-person learning options can sometimes be limited, however; thankfully, there are plenty of live online web development classes available to choose from.