React truly revolutionized modern UI development. Instead of imperially mutating the View based on the newly arrived data, React enables us to declare the View as a function of state V = f(state). In React terms, we call those functions components and thanks to the nature of functions, we are able to compose them and eventually structure our complex UI as a Tree. Additionally, we can do neat things such as high order functions on our components (remember, components are functions!!), react-redux’s connect is a perfect example.


React claims itself to be a library but not a framework. I agree with this claim as all it does is providing an unopinionated API so that we can declare our View as as a function of State. However, it also comes with a state management API setState which, in my opinion, is an opinionated way of managing the application state.

It is totally feasible to build a relatively complex application without a state management library in React.

Let’s say we are making a task management application. We have a list of users and each user has a list of tasks. Using the above approach, we will store the entire state (root state) in the root component. Then, we pass the lists of tasks along with users to User components. Afterwards, we pass each individual task data to Task components. Task components will be the leaf nodes in our UI tree in this case.

There are a few problems with this approach. First of all, due to React’s functional nature, data flows in one direction. The root component needs to pass mutation functions down to their children. This will result in boilerplate and obfuscated code. Most importantly, the shape of your state tree has to match the shape of your UI tree. This constraint makes it difficult to model your application state. But our state is not always a tree, it is most likely a graph in real life. As for our task management application, let’s say we want to introduce an admin user who can delete other users’ tasks. We want to render a x next to a task if the current signed-in user is an admin. With React’s state management API, you will end up passing isAdmin down to every single Task component!


The biggest problem Redux (and many Flux libraries) solved is that you can model your application state tree independently from your UI tree. With mapStateToProps and selectors, you can connect a node or multiple nodes of the state tree to a node on your UI tree. In addition to that, Redux enforces a few rules which introduces a bunch of boilerplate but makes your app easier to reason about. To name a few,

  • Managed mutations: All mutations must be requested and it is applied one at a time. -> consistent

  • Reducers: New state is produced by a pure factory function. -> Predictable state -> no invalid state.

  • Immutability -> cool development tools


Redux is cool but it does not provide a solution to handle the data fetching/caching layer. Developers usually have to develop a custom solution. It is pretty fun to check out how different people implement data fetching with React and Redux.

Graphql not only enables us to write descriptive queries but also unlocks the ability to compose smaller queries (through fragments). This allows individual components to declare the data it needs and Relay will automatically aggregate them into a single query so that we can fetch the data with one single network request. This seems to be unrelated to the state management problems Redux is trying to solve. But if you look at it closely, Relay allows us to not declare our state data tree explicitly. Relay is gonna figure out what does your state tree look like according to the queries declared by each of your components. That is pretty neat!


Single page apps make our users happy but our lives hard. I hope you enjoyed my two cents on the React ecosystem in 2017. Currently, I am fiddling with Datomic and om-next. IMO om-next’s query language is much simpler than Graphql (familiar data structure vs a DSL). I am planning to build a side project using those two technologies and hopefully I will be able to write a blog article about them in the near future.