In this weekly roundup, we highlight what we believe to be the most thoughtful, helpful, and/or interesting discussion over the past week! Though we are strong believers in healthy and respectful debate, we typically try to choose discussions that are positive and avoid those that are overly contentious.
Any folks whose articles we feature here will be rewarded with our Discussion of the Week badge. ✨
Now that y’all understand the flow, let’s go! 🏃💨
The Discussion of the Week
In this post, Matteo relays their many positive experiences with React — how they got started with it in 2016, when they founded ReactBricks, and all the different people in the community whom they trust. However, they open up about why they’ve been feeling conflicted with React in recent months and pose the following open questions to the community:
- What are your thoughts on the future of React?
- Do you believe it is feasible to have a community-driven framework without a sponsoring company, but with a sort of elected steering committee? How could this independent steering committee be financially supported by the community or corporate users, in order to maintain its independence?
And props to @markerikson who weighed in with a well-thought reply here:
• Edited on
Hi! I’m rather amused to be included on the list at the top of the post.
I’ve been thinking about a lot of these topics lately. I’ve had side discussions, private complaints, interactions with the React team on Twitter, and passed on community feedback to the React DevRels .
I have a number of gripes and concerns about a lot of the development process, communications, docs work, etc.
But I also continue to feel that React as a technology is a solid and reasonable choice.
I think the biggest problem, in posts like yours and Cassidy’s, and all the ricocheting discussion on Twitter and Reddit and elsewhere, is that there isn’t one problem. There’s several dozen overlapping concerns: technical directions, communications mis-steps, framework favoritism, etc.
The result is that there’s a lot of conflation of concerns. “When will the next React version be released?” is a totally different question than “React recommends use of a framework in the docs”, is a different question than “can we still use React on the client side?”, is a different question than “can there be an ‘official’ React framework separate from a company”, is a different question than “can there be a non-corporate React foundation or steering committee”.
I’ve honestly been trying to avoid getting drawn into a lot of the discourse and arguing, both because I just got done with a year-long effort to ship Redux Toolkit 2.0 and am trying to rest and recover from that, but also because I have “real work” that I want to do and getting caught up in the debates isn’t going to help me be productive.
But… given these posts and the recent discussion, I’m starting to feel like it would maybe help if I wrote a giant post just trying to list all the accumulated concerns the React community is debating right now, clearly name them and separate them, and hopefully make it easier for us to collectively discuss these individually. (Frankly I don’t want to spend time writing this post, but I’m also getting frustrated watching the debates go in circles.)
For your specific points:
I agree that the issue of “ownership” is a general point of concern, although tbh it’s always been that way. The community didn’t like it when React was only “owned” and worked on by Facebook/Meta. I agree that Vercel announcing new React features is obfuscatory, and that there’s a lot of concern with Vercel and hypothetical “framework lockin” scenarios. That said, Vercel has also put their money where their mouth is, and is paying several developers (Sebastian, Andrew, Josh, etc) to specifically build these features into both the actual React packages and the Next framework that layers on top of those core reusable packages. The community doesn’t seem happy about that, either. Sort of a no-win scenario. Either it’s just Meta that owns React and there’s complaints, or Vercel and Meta are both heavily involved in React’s development and people complain.
As a fellow library maintainer, and one that’s been impacted by RSC-related build issues, I’m also highly sympathetic to concerns about complexity. Dan and Ricky are right when they say that RSCs are “just extending React’s data flow model to the server, and it’s still just React”. But it’s also true that this introduces tons of mental overhead and complexity for ecosystem maintainers, and for app developers, who now have to figure out how these additional pieces fit together and expand the mental model.
I disagree that all the complexity is brand-new. CRA came out in 2016, and that was in response to how every React tutorial started with “first, let’s spend 20 pages explaining how to set up Babel and Webpack”. The build tooling has always existed in the React ecosystem. There’s more of it now, yes. In some ways it’s simpler to use. In some ways it’s more complex because there’s more layers, and with RSCs that build tooling is now somewhat more visible at the app layer. But it’s always been there.
I’ll also note that the phrase “just React” is interesting and maybe just a bit misleading. Sure, you’ve always been able to use React as a script tag, but in practice it’s always been with a set of build tools. It’s just that there was less opinion in which build tools you used, and that React was limited to the client side. There’s nothing preventing you from doing that today. You can still use React + Vite, or React + CRA5, or React + plain ESBuild, or React + a script tag, or React + your bespoke Webpack config. Nothing about React’s client-side usage patterns has been taken away. I agree that the React team’s emphasis on “frameworks” in the docs (and the way CRA got dropped and Vite got hidden down in a details section with the phrase “we can’t stop you if you want to use this”) has been frustrating. But it literally does not stop you from using React with the build setup and config that you want to use, in exactly the same way that nothing is stopping anyone from still just FTPing an HTML file to their static file host of choice. Yeah, I know – as things change in a technical ecosystem, there’s pressure to keep up, and sometimes options do get taken away from you as tools change. In this case, though, nothing has been taken away at the technical level. (I will also obligatorily note that I am very tired of the phrase “should I use Next or React?”, which is a related issue – the assumption that Next is a different thing than “React” because “React” implies CRA or something.)
A Community Framework
There’s nothing stopping you or anyone else from building new RSC frameworks. Seriously 🙂 Yes, Next.js is the big one, and it’s got corporate backing. Remix got bought out by Shopify, but it did start as a community-driven tool (in the form of Ryan and Michael deciding to build it). But while RSCs are absolutely still under-documented for framework devs, there’s enough explorations out there to A) show how they work and how you’d integrate them into a framework, and B) show that anyone can play with building their own framework.
So, if you want a new framework that makes use of RSCs in a “default” way, the right answer is to create that project, start working on it, and gather fellow contributors (and I would advise doing that rather than trying to set up some kind of a “steering committee” right off the bat).
If someone is concerned about the technical or social directions of the React tooling and the community, by all means, go find a tool and community that works better for you! (That’s not an insult, that’s a genuine “please use what makes you happy” suggestion.)
I’m still very involved in React and the ecosystem, and I have no plans to switch.
I don’t know if I’ll end up writing that “why is everyone upset” blog post. I’d rather be trying to relax or working on Redux tasks. Don’t know if folks would actually find it useful.
So, take that all as you will 🙂
We really appreciate y’all having these types of discussions in our community.
What are your picks?
The DEV Community is particularly special because of the kind, thoughtful, helpful, and entertaining discussions happening between community members. As such, we want to encourage folks to participate in discussions and reward those who are initiating or taking part in conversations across the community. After all, a community is made possible by the people interacting inside it.
There are loads of great discussions floating about in this community. This is just the one we chose to highlight. 🙂
I urge you all to share your favorite discussion of the past week below in the comments. And if you’re up for it, give the author an @mention — it’ll probably make ’em feel good. 💚