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Rajae Robinson
Rajae Robinson

Posted on • Originally published at

Understanding Hydration in Next.js

Next.js is renowned for its robust capabilities in constructing server-side rendered (SSR) and statically generated (SSG) React applications. Central to Next.js's optimization strategies and seamless user experiences is a concept called "hydration."

What is Hydration?

Hydration is the process of transforming pre-rendered server-side content into an interactive user interface on the client side. When a user accesses a pre-rendered page, Next.js promptly sends the fully rendered HTML content to the client's browser, complete with initial data and UI from the server. Then, client-side JavaScript "hydrates" this static content, imbuing it with interactivity to form a fully functional React application.

In contrast to traditional client-side rendered (CSR) React apps, where the browser retrieves an empty HTML page followed by fetching JavaScript bundles for rendering and data acquisition, Next.js's hydration process significantly mitigates initial loading delays.

How does Hydration Work?

Understanding how hydration operates in Next.js involves delineating its sequential steps:

  1. Server-Side Rendering (SSR): Next.js renders React components on the server in response to user requests, incorporating available data at that instance. This yields a fully rendered HTML page inclusive of server-derived state and data.

  2. Send HTML to the Client: Next.js transmits this fully rendered HTML page to the client's browser as the primary response. The HTML content encapsulates the static representation of the page.

  3. Execution of Client-Side JavaScript: Upon receiving the HTML, the client's browser commences executing the JavaScript bundles embedded within the page. These bundles reconstruct React components on the client side utilizing the same virtual DOM employed on the server.

  4. Comparison and Reconciliation: During rehydration, React on the client compares the server-rendered virtual DOM with its client-side counterpart, a process termed "reconciliation." React then synchronizes the client-side virtual DOM with its server-rendered counterpart.

  5. Event Handling and Interactivity: Following completion of the rehydration process, React components on the client side attain full interactivity, facilitating seamless event handling and state transitions akin to CSR React apps.

Advantages of Hydration

Hydration in Next.js yields several instrumental advantages:

  1. Accelerated Time to Interactive (TTI): By curtailing the Time to Interactive (TTI), hydration substantially speeds up page interactivity and responsiveness. Users can promptly engage with content upon receiving pre-rendered HTML, circumventing delays associated with JavaScript bundle loading.

  2. Enhanced SEO and Accessibility: Next.js's support for SSR and SSG bolsters SEO and accessibility by enabling direct access to fully rendered HTML content, thereby enhancing crawlability for search engines and improving accessibility for users with disabilities.

  3. Augmented Performance and User Experience: Hydration fosters improved performance through expedited loading times and seamless interactivity, culminating in superior user experiences and heightened engagement.

  4. Graceful Degradation: In scenarios where JavaScript fails to load or execute, Next.js gracefully reverts to server-rendered content, ensuring uninterrupted accessibility and navigation for users.

  5. Client-Side Optimizations: Despite initial server-side rendering, Next.js incorporates client-side JavaScript bundles to facilitate dynamic updates, code splitting, and other client-side rendering optimizations post-hydration.

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