React JS Vs JavaScript: Which Is Better In 2024

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If you’re an upcoming developer, you may be interested in the main distinctions between JavaScript and React JS. Although they have different uses, both are vital technologies for front-end web development. This extensive guide will explain when to utilize ordinary JavaScript versus React, and it also includes a detailed comparison of features.

You will have a complete knowledge of each technology’s applications, benefits, and challenges by the end of this article. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to choose the best option for your upcoming project.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is a scripting programming language used for the integration of complex applications into web pages. While working as a developer at Netscape in 1995, Brendan Eich built it.

JavaScript

JavaScript code can be inserted almost anywhere on a webpage using script tags. It enables you to make web pages interactive and dynamic by accessing and modifying page content, reacting to user actions, and communicating with servers.

Some key things JavaScript is used for:

  • Dynamically updating HTML, CSS, and images
  • Responding to clicks and other user interactions
  • Animating elements on a page
  • Validating form data
  • Making asynchronous requests to external APIs

JavaScript is interpreted by your web browser and requires no additional frameworks or libraries. It gives web developers flexibility to enhance user experiences. Almost every interactive website today utilizes JavaScript in some capacity.

What is React JS?

React is an open-source front-end JavaScript library developed by Facebook in 2011. It’s used for developing complex, interactive UI in web and mobile applications.

React code is made up of reusable components – small, isolated pieces of code that manage a particular section of the UI. For example, you may have a component for the site header, sidebar, content area, etc.

Components receive input data and render it into the DOM (Document Object Model). When the data changes, React efficiently updates the component UI without needing to reload the entire page.

Some benefits of React include:

  • Faster performance with virtual DOM diffing
  • Modular components for better code organization
  • Server-side rendering for improved SEO
  • Easy to integrate with other libraries/frameworks
  • Huge ecosystem of third-party packages

Unlike vanilla JS, React requires some setups like Node.js and a module bundler to get started. It also has a steeper learning curve. However, React provides powerful tools for crafting complex interfaces.

Key Differences at a View

Before diving deeper, let’s summarize the main differences between React and vanilla JS:

  • React is a JavaScript library, while JavaScript is a programming language.
  • React requires JavaScript knowledge, while JavaScript can be used alone.
  • React is used for views and UI logic, JavaScript handles all application logic.
  • React abstracts the DOM from you, JavaScript allows direct DOM manipulation.
  • React is primarily for web apps, JavaScript can be used for web, mobile, game dev, etc.
  • React’s component architecture encourages modularity, JavaScript is more freeform.

These distinctions illustrate why the two are not directly comparable, but rather complement each other. Now let’s analyze some key factors in detail.

Comparing React JS and JavaScript

Now that you understand what each technology does, let’s analyze their key differences:

React JS and JavaScript

Learning Curve

JavaScript has a relatively gentle learning curve. The syntax is easy to pick up and you can start adding interactivity to web pages after learning just a few basics. Resources like MDN Web Docs provide excellent documentation for JavaScript beginners.

React’s learning curve is steeper. Before diving into React, you need a solid grasp of ES6 JavaScript syntax. You also have to get familiar with foundational React concepts like JSX, components, props, state, hooks, etc. Expect a longer ramp-up period before gaining confidence with React.

Performance

In terms of raw speed, JavaScript is faster for basic UI updates. Manipulating the DOM directly with vanilla JS avoids the overhead of React’s virtual DOM diffing.

However, as an application grows in complexity, React’s performance optimizations help it overtake vanilla JS. The virtual DOM minimizes expensive DOM operations. The component architecture also forces best practices like preventing unnecessary re-renders.

For most real-world use cases, React enables smoother UI interactions than plain JavaScript as an app scales.

Code Organization

JavaScript code can easily become messy in large codebases. Spaghetti code with tangled dependencies is common without strict organization. React’s component model makes it easier to break complex UIs into separate, reusable pieces. The modular nature forces you to think about the separation of concerns.

React code is more predictable and maintainable. Components encapsulate related logic and CSS styling in one place. The uni-directional data flow and one-way binding also prevent tangled state issues.

Portability

One major benefit of JavaScript is its portability. You can use the same JavaScript code on both the frontend and backend with Node.js. JavaScript skills transfer nicely between web development, mobile development, game development, and other domains.

React is specialized for frontend web development. The knowledge you gain from React doesn’t directly translate if you switch to something like React Native or Node.js. Of course, the core JavaScript skills still apply. However, the React API and component architecture don’t carry over to other platforms.

Security

React comes with some inherent security risks. The extensive use of third-party packages requires trust in open-source developers. Vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting (XSS) can occur if you don’t follow security best practices.

JavaScript is a simpler language with fewer dependencies. The native DOM APIs have gone through rigorous browser security testing. While vulnerabilities still occur, JavaScript has generally stronger security foundations than a community-driven library like React.

Popularity

According to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, JavaScript has consistently ranked as the most commonly used programming language for over a decade. Nearly 70% of developers reported using JavaScript in 2022.

React adoption has grown exponentially but is still far behind vanilla JavaScript usage. In 2022, React ranked as the 3rd most loved framework/library behind TensorFlow and Tailwind CSS. About half as many developers use React compared to JavaScript.

React vs regular JavaScript

When Should You Use Each One?

Now for the question, you may be wondering – when should you actually use React vs regular JavaScript?

For simple, static web pages with minimal interactivity, JavaScript is likely sufficient. Adding some basic DOM manipulation and event handling may be all you need. No need to introduce React overhead.

For complex, data-driven web applications with frequently changing UIs, React will likely be the better choice. The virtual DOM, declarative rendering, and component architecture help manage complexity as an app grows.

As a rule of thumb, consider using React for web apps with these qualities:

  • Frequent state changes and UI updates
  • Highly interactive interfaces
  • Data flowing in multiple directions
  • Complex user experiences
  • Reusable UI elements
  • Reliance on external data sources

If your app is basically a static site with a few interactive flourishes added via JavaScript, React may be overkill. But most non-trivial web apps can benefit from the structure and performance of React.

Conclusion

JavaScript and React JS represent very different solutions for front-end programming. JavaScript is a flexible scripting language that can enhance websites with dynamic behavior. React is a robust library for building complex, reactive user interfaces using components.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • JavaScript has a shallower learning curve compared to React
  • React provides better scalability and performance for large apps
  • React’s component model organizes code more cleanly
  • JavaScript is more portable across platforms/domains
  • React requires more security diligence than vanilla JS
  • JavaScript has much higher overall usage than React

Assess your specific project needs to determine if React or plain JavaScript is the more appropriate tool. For most non-trivial web applications, React helps manage complexity by encouraging modularity, separation of concerns, and maintainable code.

Hopefully, this guide has shed some light on when React JS vs JavaScript is the best choice. You may choose the right technology with confidence for your upcoming online project if you have a thorough awareness of their distinctions.

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