Facebook: We don't hate the Web

But for the time being Facebook is sticking to native development for mobile apps and open-sourcing its React Native technology

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Facebook does not hate the Web -- as in Web development -- but the social network giant does prefer native development when it comes to prominent device platforms, at least for the time being. 

During a presentation on Facebook's React JavaScript development technology Thursday afternoon, Tom Occhino, Facebook engineering manager for product infrastructure, expressed a pragmatic view of Web development versus native development.

"Facebook does not hate the Web. But we're realists. We just can't use the Web right now to build the types of user experiences that we want," Occhino said at the company's F8 developer conference.  But he expressed hope that the day would come when Web development would be good enough to use at Facebook.

While Web development via JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS can enable easier access to multiple devices, it has often been considered inferior, performance-wise and for feature access, to native development. Facebook, of course, gained notoriety in 2012 when it moved its iOS app from Web to native development, citing performance concerns.

Occhino, meanwhile, sang the praises of React, which provides a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. "React forces us to describe our views and break our applications down into components. And these components serve as the fundamental building blocks of these apps," he said.

With React Native, which was open-sourced on Thursday, Facebook is bringing its React technology to the mobile world -- specifically, to iOS at this time. With React Native, an embedded instance of JavaScriptCore is rendered to high-level, platform-specific components like view and text rather than running in the browser, Occhino explained. "We want feedback on it and we want help making this as good as we possibly can. That's why we open-sourced it," Occhino said. React Native for Android is due soon.

The open-sourcing of React Native followed another open source move by Facebook. On Wednesday, the ComponentKit framework for building UIs for iOS, was open-sourced. Facebook on Thursday also introduced Fresco, an open source library for Android used on Facebook for managing images and memory. The technology eliminates the need for developers to worry about memory management, a Facebook representative said.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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