A month ago, Airbnb, a company we keep a close eye on for design and product inspiration, announced they were sunsetting React Native, a hybrid approach to mobile development. As a primarily native mobile development agency, we found this news to be a fascinating transition. This is big news for a brand to publicly explain why hybrid turned out to be a poor approach to its development during a time of divide between hybrid vs. native. So large enterprises, take note, there can be significant benefits to a native approach. We encourage a robust evaluation of the product’s use case to determine if native development is a better fit.
Hybrid vs. Native for Enterprises
For a quick refresher, there are mainly two approaches to mobile development: Native and Hybrid. A native approach uses Apple libraries, language, frameworks and IDEs built by the tech giant itself. When developers use the language Swift, for example, they are building native applications for iOS and Apple products. While Kotlin is a native language in the Android world and runs on a Java Virtual Machine and compiles natively across Android phones.
Native = Instant Access to New Features
There are numerous benefits to building products natively, and I can only imagine these align with Airbnb’s decision to “focus on making native awesome.” One of the most important things to point out is native apps take full advantage of the software and operating systems’ features because it is built and accepted fully by both Google and Apple. This kind of development offers the best user experience because the features aren’t dependent on a third party to build and integrate.
Every year, when Google I/O and Apple’s WWDC developer conferences are held, you can always count on the tech giants to release an array of innovative new features. If you have natively-built apps, developers will immediately have access to this technology. For example, it is currently – and will likely remain – impossible to build an Apple Watch application with a hybrid platform. Having immediate access to new, innovative features that are developed by the experts themselves can keep your enterprise modern, improve the relationship with users and ensure your software is scalable.
Scalability & Security
Another benefit to Airbnb using native app development over hybrid is the scalability that comes with native code. If you are a big enterprise with long-term roadmaps and the need for future scalability, hybrid apps will never live up to your organization’s demands or expectations, which is another big reason why Airbnb is focusing on native development. Security is another component to highlight. Hybrid applications add a new layer that bridges their non-native code to native features and every layer in an application introduces an opportunity for a new attack.
For Airbnb, security is critical for its platform. The app handles highly-confidential customer information including address, name, birthday, credit card information, and the organization must ensure that its software will not be compromised. When using a hybrid approach, you don’t have that level of insurance – you are trusting a third party to keep its layers secure instead of trusting Apple and Google, who have countless teams and processes in place for security.
Ensuring Long-Term Product Success
Software architecture must be built correctly and securely from the start. Think of developing software like a construction company building a house. You trust the contractor will use tools and frameworks to lay out the house from the ground up in a secure way. You wouldn’t want a builder to use poor tools to build upon it. The architecture of software is the same – if you build natively, you ensure future features you add upon it will be stable, secure and scalable. Building with a hybrid approach could potentially cause crashes, crumbles, hacks and repair, just like a house would if built improperly from the start. Though Airbnb thought React Native would be a good solution for them initially, down the road they’ve come to realize this kind of approach will not help them achieve the technical and organizational standards they strive for. The success of a product like theirs depends on consistently updated features, new and innovative content, and the need to evolve and scale for an undetermined amount of time.
This is a good lesson for enterprises everywhere – if you’re looking for a long-term solution with potential for scalability, native is an obvious choice. It will be costly, and it will take some time, but you will have the most modern, elegant, expert solution. You will always have access to the most innovative technology created by the experts at Apple and Google themselves. You can always count on a great user experience that your users will love. You can ensure better organizational communication, improved operations, and streamlined processes. Don’t be fooled or mislead by hybrid so you don’t find yourself starting over down the road like Airbnb.