Wednesday, September 1, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

On the Shift From Imperative to Declarative UI

Peter Steinberger (tweet):

The trend of declarative UI on mobile began in 2013 with React Native, which started as a Facebook hackathon project. The goal was to improve the developer experience by bringing everything people loved about the web—rapid development, instant reload, platform agnosticism—to mobile. The first major declarative UI framework, React Native offered a way to build cross-platform apps with very little platform-specific code.

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Today, React Native is a polarizing framework. Some companies are dropping it (like Airbnb), while others are doubling down (like Coinbase).

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Google had similar ambitions to bring web development concepts to mobile, although it took a different approach. Flutter started as a fork of Chrome animated by the question, “How fast could we go if we dropped all that backward compatibility from the web?” […] This didn’t always work out—especially on iOS, where the infamous “jank” problem (choppy animations on first render) hurt the experience, though a recent release has resolved the issue.

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With this in mind, Apple and Google created their own “first-party” solutions, SwiftUI and Jetpack Compose. Both were announced in 2019 and are now becoming production ready.

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Despite their structural similarities, Jetpack Compose tends to be easier to adopt than SwiftUI. Whereas Google distributes Compose as a library that works on every Android version down to 5.0 (released in 2014), most apps that adopt SwiftUI need to target iOS 14 (released in 2020) or later.

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