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Communications of the ACM


React: Facebook's Functional Turn on Writing Javascript

React: Facebook's Functional Turn on Writing Javascript, illustration

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates, based on Facebook React logo

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One of the long-standing ironies of user-friendly JavaScript frontends is that building them typically involved trudging through the DOM (Document Object Model), hardly known for its friendliness to developers. But now developers have a way to avoid directly interacting with the DOM, thanks to Facebook's decision to open source its React library for the construction of user interface components.

React essentially manages to abstract away the DOM, thus simplifying the programming model while also—in a somewhat surprising turn—improving performance. The key to both advances is that components built from standard JavaScript objects serve as the fundamental building blocks for React's internal framework, thus allowing for greatly simplified composability. Once developers manage to get comfortable with building front ends in this way, they typically find they can more readily see what is going on while also enjoying greater flexibility in terms of how they structure and display data.


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