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React Conf 2018 was held on October 25-26 in Henderson, Nevada USA. In this conference, the React team introduced Hooks, that allows you to use React without classes. On the second day, they spoke about time slicing, code-splitting, and introduced the React Cache and Scheduler APIs that we will see in the coming releases.

Day 1: Unveiling Hooks

React conf 2018 was kick-started by Sophie Alpert, Engineering Manager at Facebook. She highlighted that many big companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google are using React and that there has been a huge increase in npm downloads.

React’s primary mission is to allow web developers to create great UIs. This is enabled by these three properties of React:

  • Simplifying things that are difficult
  • Focusing on performance
  • Developer tooling

But there are still few limitations in React that need to be addressed to achieve the mission React aims for. It doesn’t provide a stateful primitive that is simpler than class component. One of the earlier solutions to this was Mixins, but it has come to be known for introducing more problems than solving the problems. Here are the three limitations that were discussed in the talk:

  • Reusing logic between multiple components: In React, sharing code is enabled by two mechanisms, which are higher-order components and render props. But to use them you will need to restructure your component hierarchy.
  • Giant components: There are many cases when the components are simple but grow into an unmanageable mess of stateful logic and side effects. Also, very often we see the lifecycle methods ending up with a mix of unrelated logic. This makes it quite difficult to break these components into smaller ones because the stateful logic is all over the place.
  • Confusing classes: Understanding classes in JavaScript is quite difficult. Classes in JavaScript work very differently from how they work in most languages. You have to remember to bind the event handlers. Also, classes make it difficult to implement hot-reloading reliably.

In order to solve these problems in React, Dan Abramov introduced Hooks, followed by Ryan Florence demonstrating how to refactor an application to use them. Hooks allows you to “hook into” or use React state and other React features from function components. The biggest advantage is that Hooks don’t work inside classes and let you use React without classes.

Day 2: Concurrent rendering in React

On day 2 of the React Conf, Andrew Clark spoke about concurrent rendering in React. Concurrent rendering allows developers to invest less time thinking about code, and focus more on the user experience.

But, what exactly is concurrent rendering?

Concurrent rendering can work on multiple tasks at a time, switching between them according to their priority. With concurrent rendering, you can partially render a tree without committing the result to the DOM. It does not block the main thread and is designed to solve real-world problems commonly faced by UI developers.

Concurrent rendering in React is enabled by the following:

Time Slicing

The basic idea of time slicing is to build a generic way to ensure that high-priority updates don’t get blocked by a low-priority update. With time slicing the rendered screen is always consistent and we don’t see visual artifacts of slow rendering causing a poor user experience.

These are the advantages time slicing comes with:

  • Rendering is non-blocking
  • Coordinate multiple updates at different priorities
  • Prerender content in the background without slowing down visible content

Code-splitting and lazy loading with lazy() and Suspense

You can now render a dynamic import as a regular component with the React.lazy() function.  Currently, React.lazy only supports default exports. You can create an intermediate module to re-export a module that uses named exports. This ensures that tree-shaking keeps working and that you don’t pull in unused components.

By the time a component renders, we must show some fallback content to the user, for example, a loading indicator. This is done using the Suspense component. It is a way for components to suspend rendering while they load async data. It allows you to pause any state update until the data is ready, and you can add async loading to any component deep in the tree without plumbing all the props and state through your app and hoisting the logic.

The latest React 16.6 comes with these two features, that is, lazy and Suspense. Hooks was recently released with React 16.7-alpha. In the coming releases, we will see two new APIs called React Cache and Scheduler.

You can watch the amazing demos by the React developers, to understand these new concepts in more detail.

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