The Power Of A Virtual Dom

18th Mar 2016

This article is also on medium

I first got started building with React over a year ago when I was on the labs team at Sainsbury’s. I have to admit when React first came to my attention I dismissed it as another fad because I thought JSX was the point. Whilst I saw some benefits I couldn’t see a game changer in that alone. However a few months after, whilst reading more I realised that the actual game changer with React was the virtual DOM and the immutable approach.

Over my career, I’ve primarily focussed on enterprise CMS builds but at the time I was heavily involved in more creative tech, building on top of WebGL and Canvas, experimenting with games and Leap Motion. It was because of this experience that I could grasp the significance of maintaining a single state which was then used to “render the scene”. This is a game changer because there are so many applications to the underlying separation of:

  1. Application State
  2. using this to build a UI State which is so often a tree like structure
  3. which then can be used to paint or pass that job on to the relevant framework to display

I was super excited about this but at the time it was hard to convince people to risk it with new and non-battle-tested technology.

Fast forward to now and I’ve spent the last couple of days pouring over the React conf 2016 videos, reading about how React is now being used to build applications from websites to smartphones to virtual reality. Because of the core design choices here I’m sure we are going to see much of the segmentation of roles and skills being brought together. We will see smaller tight-knit teams building high quality products. I’m excited to be getting the opportunity to venture back in to this world and see what we can build.