What is diffing algorithm?

Posted by Jessica Taylor | Updated on

What is diffing algorithm?

React needs to use algorithms to find out how to efficiently update the UI to match the most recent tree. The diffing algorithms is generating the minimum number of operations to transform one tree into another. However, the algorithms have a complexity in the order of O(n3) where n is the number of elements in the tree.

In this case, for displaying 1000 elements would require in the order of one billion comparisons. This is far too expensive. Instead, React implements a heuristic O(n) algorithm based on two assumptions:

  1. Two elements of different types will produce different trees.
  2. The developer can hint at which child elements may be stable across different renders with a key prop.

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