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Every company has an app these days – Apple's App Store lists 1.96 million apps available; the Google Play Store, 2.87 million apps. The demand for developers to build those apps is higher than ever, but with the tech industry struggling with a skill shortage, there's a huge demand for tools to make software development more efficient.
That's a big part of how React Native, created by a Facebook engineer in 2015, has emerged as one of the premier technologies for app developers. According to Appfigures, 11% of the apps in Google Play and Apple's App Store utilize React Native.
React Native, or RN, is a JavaScript framework for building Android and iOS apps – allowing a company to build on two different operating systems using a single platform. Companies who have adopted RN applaud the framework for helping them build mobile apps that are faster, smoother, and more dependable, with less development time. Its momentum only grew when Microsoft recently rolled out React Native for Windows and macOS.
RedMonk principal analyst Stephen O'Grady says that firms with mobile apps have two choices, he said: build and staff two separate teams for Android and iOS mobile apps, or create a single React Native team. "Throw in the fact that JavaScript/React skills are ubiquitous these days, and the value proposition only goes up," O'Grady said. "Hence companies like Bloomberg, Microsoft, Shopify, Walmart, et al using it."

Indeed, React Native was dubbed "the future of mobile at Shopify" in 2020, used by e-commerce firm Mercari to completely rewrite their iOS and Android apps, and even used by Insider to support a totally redesigned mobile app.
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That prominence has led to a boom in demand for engineers familiar with the framework. There's a whopping 22,315 results for React Native on LinkedIn's job search tool, compared to other mobile app development technologies like the Kotlin programming language (12,209 results), Apple's Swift language (15,326 results), or the Unity graphics engine (13,278 results). Today, a React Native developer could earn an average annual salary of $117,000, according to ZipRecruiter.
"React Native is a groundbreaking reimagining of the developer side of building applications for users," Theo Browne, UI engineer and founder at T3 Tools, a creator tools company, told Insider. "Before RN, every platform required dedicated expertise, often in the forms of platform-specific hires or teams."
React Native has its origins at the React project, a similarly popular JavaScript library that Facebook open-sourced in 2013. React was valuable to developers because it applied a "divide and conquer" approach to web development, helping break down complex applications into separate components, according to Facebook developer advocate Dmitry Vinnik.

Mercari said in a blog post that it's been able to reuse more than 95% of its React Native codebase across iOS and Android. Similarly, Tableau, the Salesforce-owned data visualization company, recently posted that with React Native, it can share around 90% of its code between mobile platforms.
"If your company needs a new app and no code is written, React Native will get you there as quickly and effectively as possible," Browne said.
Adopting React Native is a contentious debate among developers, with critics saying that utilizing the framework is more effort than it's worth.
Ben Sandofsky, an app developer and former early Twitter employee who worked on Spectre – selected by Apple as the 2019 iPhone app of the year – argues that "there's a very big gap between React Native's hype and execution."
"React Native may find a niche among folks who wish to use web technology everywhere," Sandofsky said. "If it makes your small team happy, and you fully understand its tradeoffs, go for it. For large, complex, and critical projects? I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole."

Sandofsky also said it's hard to find experts in either Android or iOS, so finding an expert who can debug both platforms, in addition, to React Native itself, is like "hunting for unicorns."
When it comes to the critics, Facebook's Vinnik said every solution has its pros and cons, and developers should respect that.
"The technology industry is complex, and we believe there is space for all of us and for various frameworks, whether cross-platform or native mobile development," Vinnik said. "Ultimately, the goal is to find the best fit for each use case and every team out there, and we believe more technologies and more people innovating in the space are better for everyone."

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