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React Server Components With Next.js

Posted on:June 10, 2023

So as you probably know I recently ran a meetup where I talked about React Server Components. I figured I would try to turn it into a blog post. This is when I thought of a service I had seen called Contenda that converts a video into a blog post. The below is the result with some tweaks from myself.

Let’s jump into the topic of React server components and Next.js. To provide some background, website development began with the Multi-Page Application (MPA) architecture, such as PHP and Rails. In this approach, the server generates HTML and sends it to the browser as a static page without client-side interactivity. This MPA architecture marked the early days of building websites.

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Following the MPA architecture, web development shifted towards Single-Page Applications (SPAs). SPAs moved the rendering from the server to the client side, but this approach often resulted in an empty div tag which negatively impacted SEO. As an example, a root div would lack content, relying on JavaScript for content injection.

To address this issue, developers transitioned to Server-Side Rendering (SSR). With SSR, HTML is rendered on the server, eliminating the empty div tag issue. The server sends the full page to the browser, which then hydrates the document with JavaScript for event listeners and other interactive elements.

Embracing the Future of Web Development with React Server Components

A new paradigm in web development is React server components, which allows for continuous rendering of components on the server. Unlike SSR, which only helps with the initial page load by generating and sending HTML to the client, React server components can stream content over time, providing features like loading skeletons. This approach represents a shift from the SPA environment, which typically doesn’t involve a server. React server components reintroduce the server and offer a different approach to web development. So, why choose React server components? Let’s explore further.

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React server components offer a seamless blend of server-side and client-side rendering, combining the smooth page transitions of SPAs with the server-first architecture of MPAs. This approach extends React beyond a client-side only framework, enabling server components to have direct access to data sources like databases or file systems.

By using JavaScript on both the client and server, you eliminate the need for an API in the middle. React server components also allow for shipping less client-side JavaScript to the browser, resulting in faster initial page loads and better user experiences. An example of this is a markdown parser. The server can send the final result to the browser without transferring large amounts of JavaScript.

React server components also enable better code sharing between server and client sides, ensuring type safety across boundaries. This quick rundown covers some of the key benefits of React server components.

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Next.js is currently the primary way to use React server components, although other frameworks may adopt them in the future. To start a new Next.js app, you can use the following command:

npx create-next-app rsc-next-movies

This command scaffolds a new app with TypeScript, ESLint, and Tailwind CSS. The folder structure mainly revolves around the app directory, where you generate routes, loading states, error boundaries, and more. The rest of the structure should look familiar, including .env, .eslintrc, and package.json files.

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Exploring File-Based Routing and Folder Structure in Next.js

One notable feature of Next.js compared to Create React App is its file-based routing. In a Next.js app, folders map to URL segments. For example, a movies folder would be linked to the URL localhost:3000/movies. The page.tsx file is a special file path used to render pages in the app. There are other files like error.tsx, loading.tsx, and various layouts, but the page.tsx file is the essential component for a basic Next.js app. Here’s an example of a React component for a movies page:

import React from "react";

const MoviesPage = () => {
  return (
      {/* Your movies page content */}

export default MoviesPage;

This TypeScript component represents a movies page in a Next.js app using file-based routing.

Nested routing in Next.js can be achieved using layout files, such as layout.tsx, which apply to all route segments within their scope. This allows you to create hierarchical structures in your application.

The new folder structure in Next.js allows you to co-locate your components and module CSS directly within their respective folders, such as the movies folder in this case. This is different from previous Next.js versions, where you might have used a separate components directory.

One downside to this approach is that you might end up with multiple files named page.tsx. This can make searching for a specific file in your code editor more challenging, as you’ll need to search by the folder name rather than the file name. Overall, though, this new folder structure offers better organization and modularity.

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Embracing Server-First Rendering: React Server Components in Next.js

Next.js supports React server components, which require a mental shift from the typical client-first approach. By default, every component in Next.js is a server component, and nothing is sent to the client. This design choice is made because the entry point of your app always starts at the server. However, server components can’t use hooks or browser APIs, which are reserved for client components. To create a client component, you need to use use client at the top of the file.

There are a few security considerations when using React server components. Be cautious when passing sensitive information between server and client components. Server components render on the initial load and only redraw when a form action sends a request back to the server.

Overall, React server components in Next.js offer a new way to build web applications, focusing on server-first rendering while maintaining the benefits of client components. This approach results in better performance and user experience, although it requires a different mindset and adherence to certain conventions.

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Fetching data is a crucial aspect when working with React server components. With a client-based approach, you would typically use a useEffect hook or a library like React Query. Consider the following example:

import React, { useEffect, useState } from "react";
import { getTrending } from "../api";
import styles from "../styles/Home.module.css";

export default function Movies() {
  const [trendingMovies, setTrendingMovies] = useState([]);

  useEffect(() => {
    async function getData() {
      const data = await getTrending();

  }, []);

  return (
    <main className={styles.main}>
      <pre>{JSON.stringify(trendingMovies, null, 2)}</pre>

In this example, we have an array of trending movies as state, and a useEffect hook that runs on mount. The hook calls a function to fetch trending movies and then updates the state. This approach, however, involves a considerable amount of boilerplate code just to fetch and render movie data. The key point here is the need for a more efficient way to fetch data, such as using React server components.

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React server components greatly simplify data fetching, as shown in this example:

import { getTrending } from "../api";
export default async function Movies() {
  const data = await getTrending();

In this case, the component is an async function that awaits the data directly. Since this is a server component by default, getTrending can query the database or make a fetch call. The need for a useEffect hook is eliminated, resulting in a more concise and straightforward code.

However, this approach doesn’t handle loading or error states directly. In Next.js, you can use a error.tsx file in the movies folder, which the framework automatically wraps as an error boundary. Additionally, you can utilize React Suspense for handling loading states.

Overall, React server components provide a more efficient and concise way to fetch data, with the server handling the process before sending the results to the client.

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Utilizing React Server Components for Streamlined Data Mutations and Improved Efficiency

Before React server components, processing data often required setting up an API endpoint, handling onClick events, and managing state variables for input fields. Here’s an example of how this would be done:

export default function onClickSubmitToAPIEndpoint() {
  fetch("", {
    method: "POST",
    headers: {
      "Content-Type": "application/json",
    body: JSON.stringify(stateVars),
    .then((response) => {
      if (!response.ok) {
        throw new Error("Network error");
      return response.json();
    .then((data) => console.log(data))
    .catch((error) => console.error(error));
export default function InteractiveElement() {
  const [title, setTitle] = useState("");
  const [review, setReview] = useState("");

  const onChangeTitle = (e) => setTitle(;
  const onChangeReview = (e) => setReview(;

  const onSubmit = () => onClickSubmitToAPIEndpoint();

  return (
      <input type="text" name="name" value={title} onChange={onChangeTitle} />
      <button onClick={onSubmit}>Add Trending Review Title</button>

This code creates a form with input fields and a submit button that sends data to an API endpoint. The useState hook is used to manage the state of each input field. However, with React server components, you no longer need to set up API endpoints and can directly call functions, reducing boilerplate code and simplifying data processing.

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With React server components, you can create a server action by using the special use server notation. For example:

"use server";

export async function addTrending(formData) {
  const title = formData.get("title");

In this case, the addTrending async function receives formData, and you can access its title field using the get method. Server actions, such as this one, are still in their alpha stage and not recommended for production use. However, the React team envisions data mutations to be achieved through server actions, simplifying the process of exporting server functions.

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To use a server action, such as the addTrending function, simply pass it to the form’s action. This allows the function to run on the server, streamlining the process of handling data mutations and reducing the need for a separate API route. Here’s an example of how to incorporate the addTrending function into a form:

import { addTrending } from "./actions";
import styles from "./movies.module.css";

export default function Movies() {
  return (
    <main className={styles.main}>
      <h1>RSC Next Movies</h1>
      <form action={addTrending}>
        <input type="text" name="title" />
        <button>Add Trending Movie Title</button>

In this example, the server action is capable of saving data to a database or performing other tasks typically handled by API routes. By passing the server action directly to the form, you significantly simplify your code and improve efficiency.

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Another way to use server actions is by calling them directly from a client component. For example, you can have a button with an onClick event that triggers the server action:

In this scenario, even though the onClick event comes from the client, all the logic is executed on the server, similar to a remote procedure call (RPC). This approach simplifies the code and allows for seamless interaction between client and server components.

When using server actions in React components, it’s essential to be cautious with sensitive data. For instance, if you have a secret key in a server component and it’s used within a server action, the key might be serialized and exposed when transferring data between the server and the client. This blurring of client and server boundaries can lead to security concerns.

Comparig React Server Components to Other Frameworks

Comparing React server components to other frameworks like Remix, we can see some similarities and differences. Remix has the concept of loaders and actions, which serve a similar purpose as server actions in Next.js.

In Remix, you would use an async function loader and the useLoaderData hook to fetch data. While both approaches allow for handling data, React server components offer more composability by allowing multiple action functions and loaders further down the component tree. Remix, on the other hand, hoists data fetching at the top page level, which can be beneficial in some cases.

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Remix has chosen not to adopt server components yet, as it’s easy to create a waterfall of data fetching.

Comparing React server components to other frameworks like Astro, which is more tailored for content-first websites, we can notice some similarities and differences.

Astro has a concept called “islands,” which resemble React server components in some ways. For instance, you can place an await statement directly in the front matter of Astro components:

Astro supports multiple frameworks, including React, Vue, and Svelte. You can embed React components in Astro and use a directive like client:load to control interactivity. This directive is similar to the use client directive in React server components.

  <h1>RSC Next Movies</h1>
  <MyReactComponent client:load />

Though Astro is gaining popularity, it doesn’t have an equivalent server action API like React server components, which highlights the unique features of each framework and how they approach data handling and component interaction.

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React’s development journey has come full circle - it started on the server, moved to the client, and now is heading back to the server. This shift can be attributed to factors such as improved performance and the reduced cost of server resources.

However, there has been some controversy regarding the React documentation not prominently featuring Vite, a build tool and development server that primarily supports single-page applications (SPAs). The new React docs are heavily focused on server-centric solutions like Next.js and Remix.

As React continues to evolve, improvements in data mutations and server components are expected. However, the ecosystem will need to adapt to this new pattern of using use client. Developers may need to wrap third-party packages in use client if they don’t support React server components yet, which has led to some pushback from the community.

It will be interesting to see how the ecosystem evolves and whether more frameworks adopt React server components, expanding the available options beyond Next.js.

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A recommended resource for understanding React’s journey towards server-side rendering is Dan Abramov’s talk at RemixConf, titled “React from Another Dimension.” In this talk, he describes how React would have evolved had it started with a server-side approach before moving towards the client-side.

Additionally, the Next.js router documentation is an excellent resource for learning more about server-side rendering with React.

These resources provide valuable insights into React’s evolution, its server-side rendering capabilities, and the future of the framework.