A quick intro to reactive programming: what is it and why should you know it?

Lately anyone interested in programming has been hearing the term “reactive programming”. It’s a promising and growing cross-technology trend that deserves the attention, because it brings together a whole package of new options and possibilities in some ways of application development. What is reactive programming? What is the difference between reactive and imperative programming? What are the pros and cons of reactive programming in back-end development? We’ll look into all that and more in the first part of our article series.

Introduction to reactive programming

The term describes creation asynchronous and event-based programs with the help of observable sequences. IO-bound tasks are being called asynchronously, keeping your threads available for other important tasks. Ultimately, this leads to a much more efficient utilization of CPU, making your applications less heavy and demanding.

Systems that are built as reactive are

· Highly responsive

· Have better scalability

· More reliable

· Event-driven

Reactive vs. Imperative

In most non-JS programming languages, imperative programming is the applied standard. In short, imperative programming lies in pulling an event from a queue, while reactive programming is based on creating a callback and there needs to be a framework in place to call the given callback in the appropriate way. While imperative programming must rely on activities such as clicks or hovers, reactive programming isn’t restrained to that and can make anything a stream to work with.

Advantages of reactive programming

1. Once you get a hold of it, it is fairly simple to compose streams of data for your application. A value, error or a completed signal can be emitted by the stream, and the emits are then asynchronously captured and functions are built to react whenever the signal is emitted. This allows developers to build very flexible and powerful applications.

2. The real-time reactivity also leads to a heavily improved user experience.

3. And finally, you can easily avoid the dreaded “callback hell” of having loads of nested callbacks all over the place, because of the asynchronous data streams that reactive programming works with.

Disadvantages of reactive programming

1. It is a way of programming that does go against the usual conventions, because your regular code doesn’t require everything to be a stream.

2. Learning it can be quite challenging, especially if you’re a junior. Good news is that the number of available resources is growing, so there’s plenty of information to work with.

3. From the more technical point of view, reactive has higher memory requirements, however it’s a massive improvement compared to the callback hell.

In conclusion, implementing reactive programming can help your application increase efficiency in many ways. It’s good to keep in mind that it’s not a universal skeleton key for all issues your application might be facing, but it can become a substantial tool in its improvement.

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