Bringing React Server Components to React Native

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React Server Components are new topic in community, bunch of frameworks are implementing them, people are discussing around this topic. But what if we could use React Server Components in React Native? And bring all optimisation features that RSC allows to mobile apps? In this talk I would present what we are able to do with RSC in React Native!

Szymon Rybczak
Szymon Rybczak
29 min
08 Dec, 2023

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Video Summary and Transcription

React Server Components (RSC) offer a more accessible approach within the React model, addressing challenges like big initial bundle size and unnecessary data over the network. RSC can benefit React Native development by adding a new server layer and enabling faster requests. They also allow for faster publishing of changes in mobile apps and can be integrated into federated super apps. However, implementing RSC in mobile apps requires careful consideration of offline-first apps, caching, and Apple's review process.

1. Introduction to React Server Components

Short description:

Hello everyone, hello Berlin. I'm really excited to present React server components and discuss their relevance in React Native development. Let's explore the challenges of networking in app development and how React Server Components can address them. Dona Bramov introduced this idea, aiming to solve problems like big initial bundle size and sending unnecessary data over the network. With the production-ready implementation of Next.js and solutions like Relay and GraphQL, React Server Components offer a more accessible approach within the React model.

Hello everyone, hello Berlin. It's really nice to be here today. I'm really excited and also a little bit stressed because it's my first talk before the big stage. But today I've got a really interesting topic to present, React server components. But I would like to expand this topic to React Native part. And does it make sense to have RST on mobile? And what possibly should we do to upstream them to the production apps?

But first, a few words about me. My name is Szumon Rybczak and I'm 17 years old, React native developer at Callstack. On a daily basis, I work in a technology team where I support our R&D and open source initiatives. I'm also maintaining React Native Community CLI and I'm the youngest ever React Native contributor. You can find me on Twitter or on GitHub under Szumon Rybczak handle. I'm trying to post there very often stuff that you are cooking at Callstack.

So in software development, there is this principle that you can make something that is good, something that is fast, and something that is cheap. But you can only pick two. So you can make something that is good, something that is fast, but not relatively cheap to make. Or either you can make something that is cheap, something that is fast, but not really good. Or lastly, you can make something that is good, something that is cheap to make, but not fast. That's how Dona Bramov started a talk presenting an idea of React Server Components. Data fetching with React Server Components is a new idea in the ecosystem. And maybe React Server Components will solve our problems that we are encouraging when developing apps. And we have a bunch of problems, but the two ones that come with networking is big initial bundle size and sending unnecessary data over the network.

This video was published already three years ago, so a lot of things changed in the meantime. Dona and Laura were presenting the idea. Right now, we have production-ready implementation, for example, with Next.js. At Meta, they solved the problem of sending unnecessary data with Relay and GraphQL. Relay is a tool for receiving the GraphQL data for React. But, you know, it's not an easy task to implement GraphQL in a huge backend code basis. And with that, the entry barrier is really high. But the core team wanted a solution that would be easy enough to implement and would just work within the React model. So, how does React Server Components work? So right now, when developing React app, when the user hits the domain, the bundle is downloaded and executed on the client. The bundle is evaluated and that's where the magic happens.

2. React Server Components and React Native

Short description:

With React Server Components (RSC), we add a new server layer and stream only the necessary parts to the client. This format, specific to RSC, allows access to server resources and enables faster requests. React Native can also benefit from RSC, as they were initially developed for server-driven technologies on Native. The logic for RSC is contained in the React Client and React Server packages, with custom logic implemented through config files. While mobile apps may not prioritize bundle size, RSC can still be valuable, especially for online and offline-first apps.

But with RSC model, we are adding a new layer. We are adding a new server layer. So, this is the most important moment. We are executing React Components on the server. And then, we are streaming by chunks to the client. And by streaming, we are only streaming parts that will be displayed. So, we are not streaming unnecessary data, unnecessary props, or parts of the components.

Thanks to this, that we are executing on the server, we can access files on the server, we can access database, or we can make some smart move with cache to speed up our request. And it's all thanks to this format that is, as I said, streamed from a server. It looks like a JSON, but it's not. It's React Server Components specific format that is consumed on the client side. It contains things that should be displayed reference to the components, et cetera.

So, how does React Native fit to this whole image? And how even we can implement a server part inside React Native? So, everyone is talking about React Server Components in context of web, because that's where we have production ready implementation. But actually, in fact, server components were initially founded at Meta because of the promise they were showing when using server driven technologies on Native. And that's a nice plot twist. A lot of people think about RSC only in web context, but maybe they make some sense on mobile. But what architecture and what cost would it take to implement it?

So, React is on the repo, and two packages that are most important for us today are React Client and React Server. They contain logic for React Server Components, but only unified logic. So, the same logic will be applied for any bundler and any renderer. The custom logic is implemented through the config files. So, as we can see here, for example, for TurboPack, we have one config file, and for Webpack, we have another. And that's where we can possibly add a config file for React Native renderer and for Metro, which is a default bundler for React Native.

The main argument for React Server Components, as I mentioned, is reducing initial bundle size. So, the first chunk of the application will be shown really, really fast. But in mobile, we don't care that much about bundle size. We are downloading up once from the app store, and then app just exists there. Every time user visits the app, bundle is just there. And thanks to Hermes, the JavaScript engine designed for React Native purposes, the startup time for the application is pretty much the same for the application that has bundled 10 megabytes or 100. There are various apps, but I strongly believe that there's a space for RST on mobile. There are online first app and there are offline first app.

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