At AppFolio we use open source software to build parts of our product. As we spend time fine-tuning the performance of our products, we also end up finding possible improvements in the open source packages that we use. By contributing the improvements back to the projects, we are able to have others in the open source community benefit from the work that we do, everybody profits.
In this post I’ll focus on one of such contributions: the migration of Reactstrap from using Webpack 1 to using Rollup. Reactstrap is an implementation of the Bootstrap 4 components in React.
The migration of Reactstrap from Webpack 1 to Rollup has two major effects: it reduces the bundle size of the library significantly and allows for publishing a distribution that preserves ES2015 "import" and "export" statements. The module-based version is great for applications that depend on Reactstrap because it enables tree-shaking. Tree-shaking is a feature of Rollup and of Webpack 2+ that removes unused dependencies from your bundle. So if you use 3 components from Reactstrap, you will only ship 3 components to your users instead of all 72 components.
Bundling for CommonJS
The “main” entry in your package.json file defines the entry point of your module. The entry point is loaded when a user depends on your package.
For a release, Reactstrap would transpile the source code file for file into ES5-compatible code, without bundling them into a single file. For example, the component "src/Button.js" will now be available in ES5 as "lib/Button.js". No bundler would be involved. It then set the entry point to "lib/index.js" and left the bundling up to whatever the consumer of Reactstrap wanted to do.
As a lot of the non-interactive components in Reactstrap are very small, it could add as much as 35% to the file size to individual components. Take for example "lib/CardDeck.js", it’s 1.62kB. The helpers here include "_extends", "_interopRequireDefault" and "_objectWithoutProperties". They add up together to 577 bytes of the overall size of the file.
The first step in solving this is to set the entry point of Reactstrap to point at a bundled version of the source code. This bundle still depends on the same dependencies but now has been transformed by Rollup into a single flat file. This is the same approach that gave React 16 a 10% reduction in bundle size and a 9% boost in startup speed. (source)
The next step is to configure our bundler to handle the helpers correctly. For this we can use the external helpers Babel plugin to prevent the helpers from being added to each file. The Babel plugin for Rollup will take care of injecting the helpers as a single block at the top of the bundle.
A nice touch by Rich Harris is that the Babel plugin for Rollup will warn you if you forget to use the external helpers Babel plugin.
Since Reactstrap currently contains 72 components, we have just saved around 36kB by deduplicating the helpers and have improved performance by shipping a flat bundle.
The UMD build
Reactstrap also includes a UMD build for consumers that reference the code directly via a script tag from their HTML page. The UMD build of Reactstrap 4.3.0 is 295kB. That’s big!
If we sum up all the unminified transpiled component sizes, we get to 213kB. So how is it possible that a minified and bundled version is even bigger than that?
By looking at the generated treemap, the cause of the file size is easy to spot: both React and React DOM are included, contributing 140kB to the file size. Both React and React DOM are marked as external in the Reactstrap Webpack configuration but it looks like it was slightly misconfigured, causing both React and React DOM to be bundled inside Reactstrap too!
We corrected this in the Rollup config, saving another 140kB.
Bonus: Replacing big dependencies
While observing the source map, we also noticed that the package lodash.omit takes up 9.29kB. That’s a lot of space for a utility function. It looks like the unminified lodash.omit v3 was 2.31kB but it jumped to 37.76kB in lodash.omit v4. After looking at how it was used inside Reactstrap, we were able to write our own function that minifies to just 105 bytes, saving another 9kB.
On a side note, we also experimented with trying to import the lodash functions directly from the lodash package and have tree-shaking remove the ones we don’t use. This did not reduce the bundle size (PR). This is due to Rollup having to be conservative in which parts of code it removes (see Rollup wiki for more info).
Configuring your bundler is easy to get wrong. An incorrectly configured bundler might be difficult to spot because your tests can still pass and your users can still be happy.
In the case of Reactstrap, once correctly configured, we managed to reduce the bundle size from 295kB to 84kB. That being said, the biggest benefit for most people will actually be the module based build which will allow them to cherry-pick only the components they need into their own bundle!
Thanks to Chris LaRose, Gary Thomas and Damon Valenzona for giving feedback on the article.