As we bid farewell to another fast-paced year in the world of technology, it's time to reflect on the dynamic landscape of React Native in the year 2023. In this article, Ivan guides you through all the interesting changes, updates and releases in the platform over the last 12 months.

photo by Rahul Mishra, source: Unsplash

React Native Year in Review 2023


Over the past year, the React Native ecosystem has witnessed a whirlwind of innovation, collaboration, and growth.
Starting with the React native platform itself, there were considerable improvements to the underlying architecture. There were considerable improvements to the new native module system Turbo Modules and the new native renderer Fabric, you can follow the development working group discussions here.


But the most significant change to the React Native platform is yet to come, and that is the introduction of the "Static Hermes Engine" (engine optimised for react native), which will enable direct compilation of Javascript code into native code, offering significantly increased performance on par with the C/C++. If you want to learn more about the static Hermes engine, I encourage you to watch this excellent presentation.


Expo


Next up is probably the most valuable platform in the React Native development ecosystem, Expo. Here at Morrow, we are big fans and partners of the Expo.dev platform, so we carefully monitor all development in and around the Expo platform.

The platform had three major releases this year. We will talk about the latest version (version 50 released at the end of 2023) since that was one of the biggest and most exciting releases in recent years.

Want to learn more about Expo SDK 50? Read: "What’s New in Expo SDK 50: A Sneak Peek of Expo's Upcoming New Features and Updates."

Expo Router

The most significant change was an update to the Expo router, enabling file-based routing similar to major web frameworks like Next.js.

With the new Expo router, every file in the app directory automatically becomes a route in your mobile navigation, making it easier to maintain and scale your project.


API Routes

Taking a cue from the web frameworks, Expo in version 50 has introduced a new experimental feature with great potential for how we write part of the logic for mobile apps. This new feature is called API Routes.

API Routes are functions executed when a route is matched. They can be used to handle sensitive data, such as API keys securely, or implement custom server logic.


Expo Rollouts

Next up, for their EAS update service (hosted service for shipping OTA bug fixes in between app store submissions), there is a new feature called EAS update rollouts. This new feature enables us to ship new updates only to a small percentage of users. This is especially useful when testing a new feature to the app to minimise the risk of introducing bugs.


Expo Rollbacks

You can now guide your live applications to revert to their original embedded update during the next update check. This proves beneficial in situations where a regression mistakenly went live as the initial update for a new build. Instead of attempting to fix the issue with another update, you have the option to return to the stable embedded state seamlessly.

More info on the rollback can be found in the official Expo documentation.


Expo Orbit

In late 2023, Expo Orbit was launched for macOS. It's a little program that sits in your menu bar, making it faster and easier to install and run builds from EAS or elsewhere and run Snack projects on simulators and physical devices.

Read: "Expo SDK Updates: Why keeping your project's Expo SDK updated is crucial and where to find the updates".


The best React Native conferences in 2023


2023 was a good year for React Native conferences worldwide. There were too many to list here, so I will only give you a few.


App.js Conf

App.js Conf is probably the most important conference for React Native in Europe. It is held in Krakow, Poland, and is a go-to conference for all things React Native and Expo. You can check out the after-movie to see last year's event.

I would especially like to highlight this talk from Fernando Rojo from Solito about What React Native should look like in 2030.

You can find the playlist of all the talks on YouTube.

The co-founder of Morrow, Charles Killer, with William Candillon at the App.js Conf in 2022.


Another important conference in Europe is React Summit. The focus of this conference is the whole React ecosystem, which makes it the biggest conference in Europe. I'd like to single out one particular talk from Misko Hevery: Speeding Up Your React App With Less Javascript. You can see the whole playlist on YouTube.

In the United States, Chain React is the place to be, and you can watch the videos of the latest events here.


React Native Library releases in 2023


Many libraries emerged onto the React Native scene throughout 2023, each bringing its unique contribution to the ever-expanding toolkit for developers. Rather than attempting an exhaustive list, I'll focus on some key releases that stood out for their impact and relevance to the evolving needs of the developer community.


React Native Web

React Native for Web Library is an accessible implementation of React Native's Components and APIs that is interoperable with React DOM. With over 21K stars on GitHub, it has grown considerably and is one of the most popular packages in the react-native world. One of the notable updates to the library in 2023 is the support for React V18.


Solito

Solito library is a powerful library that enables us to use React Native with Next.js to build powerful cross-platform apps. It has seen V4 being released in 2023, and it has one huge change: the ability to use React Native with the new Next.js app router.


Skia

React Native Skia brings the Skia Graphics Library to React Native. Skia is a powerful graphics engine that also powers Google Chrome and Chrome OS, Android, Flutter, Mozilla Firefox, Firefox OS, and many other products. It is available in React-Native, and the good folks of Shopify actively maintain it. This library has fixed a lot of bugs in 2023 and has gained a lot of popularity. It has become a go-to tool for advanced animations.

See our Open-Source page.


Other notable mentions


Although React Native is almost exclusively used for making mobile applications for Android and iOS, other projects are attempting to bring React Native to other platforms and form factors. 

One of them is the React Native Windows framework, which has seen considerable updates in 2023. For those unfamiliar with the project, it enables you to build native apps for Windows, Xbox, Surface Tables, and MacOS. The concept is very powerful, and Microsoft is using it extensively in their internal projects and some user-facing experiences on Xbox.

Microsoft developer advocates are starting to promote this project heavily, so it will be interesting to see what happens going into 2024.

The year 2023 has also seen the release of Apple's highly anticipated mixed reality headset Apple Vision Pro, and the accompanying operating system Apple Vision OS.

Now, there is a saying that "any application that can be written in JavaScript will eventually be written in JavaScript", so obviously, it was just a matter of time before somebody tried to write an app in JavaScript React Native for the Vision OS. And that is precisely what happened. The project is in the early stages of development, but you can watch a short video about it here.


2023 was an exciting year for React Native. The platform is changing fast, and it's hard to keep up with all the updates in React, React Native, and JavaScript, so I hope you found this article helpful. I am eager to see what new tools and ideas 2024 will bring to the React Native platform.

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