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Implementation notes on react's scheduling model as of (shortly before) 16.8.0

Implementation notes on react's scheduling model as of (shortly before) 16.8.0

While the public API intended for users to use is the scheduler package, the reconciler currently does not use scheduler's priority classes internally.

ReactFiberScheduler has its own internal "mini-scheduler" that uses the scheduler package indirectly for its deadline-capable scheduleCallback.

This is kind of a documentation of implementation details that I suppose will be gone by the end of the year, but what can you do.


ReactFiberScheduler keeps a list of pending batches of updates, which it internally calls "work". Each individual fiber in the tree is a "unit" on which a "unit of work" will be "performed".

Updates caused from inside a React render, lifecycle method/hook, or React-controlled event handler belong to an implicit batch.

Updates triggered from outside React are effectively a single-update batch unless it's inside the scope of one of the batching method wrappers, shown later.

Any update on any fiber traverses the entire tree mounted on the root (ReactDOM.render or createRoot) where the update happened. React is very good at bailing out of fibers that are not the subject of the update.

Priority classes

ReactFiberScheduler has its own priority classes that are independent from the priority classes in the scheduler package.

In non-ConcurrentMode, any and all updates are sync no matter what. The only difference is whether they are batched or not.

When the fiber where an update is triggered is in ConcurrentMode, there are 3 possible priority classes:

  • deferred (equivalent to scheduler.NormalPriority):
    • 5000ms deadline, async
    • This is the default priority for any update that does not otherwise have its own priority or deadline.
  • interactive (roughly equivalent to scheduler.UserBlockingPriority):
    • 150ms deadline, async
    • in development builds it's 500ms to make slow interactions feel worse
    • At most one interactive priority work may be scheduled.
  • sync (equivalent to scheduler.ImmediatePriority but "more immediate"):
    • sync (duh)
      • unlike ImmediatePriority this won't involve the scheduler at all and just immediately start work.
    • a sync update will skip over any pending non-sync update, even if it has expired
    • is the default (instead of deferred) for updates triggered in the commit phase
      • componentDid{Mount,Update} and useLayoutEffect run effectively in a single batch belonging to this priority. Any updates they trigger will be sync.

Any update triggered directly during a render phase inherits the deadline of the current render phase. However, because any one fiber's update is atomic, this part of the processing is synchronous per fiber even in ConcurrentMode.

In class components, this means any update caused in a lifecycle that runs before render itself; this includes setStates called in the UNSAFE_ family and the lifecycles that derive state, which are processed like a setState call with function argument. All state updates are accumulated while the lifecycle is invoked and then applied synchronously after each lifecyle method returns. Calling setState inside render itself is either a guaranteed noop or a guaranteed infinite loop, unless your render is impure.

In function components, all state updates (i.e. invoking dispatchers from useState or useReducer) that happen during the render function are accumulated into a queue during the render pass. If the queue is non-empty, the component re-renders, and useState / useReducer apply their respective queued updates from the previous pass as they are reached; until a render pass produces no further queued updates. The number of re-renders is currently limited to 50.

NOTE: this is not in any alpha but will be in 16.8.0: any function component that invokes any hook will be double-rendered in StrictMode, and this is outside the render pass loop described above. Both the hooks and the components themselves must be pure. This also means that, whenever useMemo or useState would invoke their callbacks, they will always be double-invoked. On mount, the first useRef object will always be discarded, and only the one from the second invocation will persist.

useEffect are all collected into a single independent batch, called the "passive effects", and run inside a scheduler.scheduleCallback with no deadline, queued right before the commit phase ends. However, should any further React update happens, regardless of priority class or deadline, the schedule will be canceled and all pending useEffects for the entire previous commit will be invoked synchronously before any work starts. This happens even when calling setState or a useState / useReducer dispatcher. If the value is a callback, the previous commit's pending useEffects will all have been processed by the time the callback is invoked.

Any interactive update forces the previous interactive update, as well as any other outstanding updates with a shorter remaining deadline than that to commit synchronously first before the new interactive update itself is calculated.

In other words, it converts the previous interactive update, as well as all work that should have expired by the time it expired into a single sync batch.

These are the only cases I found where a non-sync update may be, effectively, upgraded to sync by the reconciler.

Batch wrappers, or how to request a priority level

It seems to be intended that user generic code uses priority classes and the methods from the scheduler package instead of these.

However, sometimes it is needed to interact with React specifically, so ReactDOM exposes these (mostly prefixed with unstable_, just like scheduler exports).

  • batchedUpdates causes all updates triggered inside it to share the same deadline. In other words, they will all belong to the same unit of work, and will all be rendered and committed together.
    • batchedUpdates does not have its own priority class, instead the callback inherits the current one.
    • batchedUpdates can be nested; this merely merges the updates inside it with the outermost batch (batches are flattened).
    • Other batching methods are not implemented as, but behave as if their callbacks were themselves wrapped in batchedUpdates.
    • If batchedUpdates does not otherwise inherit a specific priority class, it defaults to deferred.
  • interactiveUpdates is a batch that has interactive priority. React synthetic event handlers run as an interactiveUpdates batch.
    • Remember again that at most one interactive priority work may be scheduled. Should another interactive batch be queued, the previous interactive work is synchronously committed.
  • syncUpdates is a batch that has sync priority. React will immediately render and commit all updates inside this batch, before the syncUpdates function returns.
    • In non-ConcurrentMode any kind of batching just behaves like this one.
    • Explicitly requesting sync priority during render or a lifecycle method/hook (except useEffect specifically) is an assertion error. The only implicit batches where you are allowed to request sync priority are useEffect (not useLayoutEffect) and in an event handler, which is just an interactiveUpdates batch.

If any useEffect callback or destructor triggers a sync update through either being in a non-ConcurrentMode tree, or by using syncUpdates as mentioned above, there will be a sync commit done before any new update can even begin evaluation.

If any work being processed that's not yet in the commit phase, be it interactive or deferred, is interrupted by a higher priority work, all progress done so far is completely thrown out.

Anything done in the commit phase is always sync or belongs to a cascading sync batch so the commit phase can never be interrupted.

After React commits the higher priority (shorter deadline) work, it will start or restart the next higher priority work on top of the freshly committed state. This will typically be interactive batches before deferred batches, but if a particular deferred batch has fallen too far behind (i.e. its deadline is too close to expiry) it will run ahead of interactive.

This means that any lifecycle or render method (function component body) not in the commit phase can potentially be called multiple times per render. StrictMode ensures that is always done at least twice per render during development mode.

The only things called by React that are guaranteed to only be invoked once per React update are the commit phase lifecycles (componentWillUnmount, componentDidMount, componentDidUpdate, useLayoutEffect), passive effects (useEffect) and, for completeness, event handlers.

There is a non-ConcurrentMode hack to only invoke class component constructors once if the component or another child or sibling sharing the same Suspense boundary suspends when the class is being mounted. This does not apply to ConcurrentMode and classes are also subject to multiple construction if the update where they are being first mounted is interrupted by a higher priority update.

These instances, regardless of mode, will be discarded without invoking componentDidMount or componentWillUnmount if they are never part of a finished commit.

Note that that any update caused inside a scheduler.scheduleCallback does not count as a batch unless the update is itself wrapped in batchedUpdates, interactiveUpdates or syncUpdates. React currently is not aware of scheduler tasks and only uses it as a requestIdleCallback with a timeout.

Work loop and consequences

This also means that the behavior of state updates is different in subtler ways than I thought in ConcurrentMode than in non-ConcurrentMode.

I will use the traditional setState to represent an update but calls to ReactDOM.render, ReactRoot#render, updates to useState or useReducer values also cause updates.

In non-ConcurrentMode, a non-batched setState will always commit synchronously no matter what. Any batching of them will also commit synchronously, but as a single update that is computed on top of the result of all of the setStates combined.

In ConcurrentMode, non-batched setStates may or may not form incidental mini-batches, depending on how busy the renderer is and on whether their deadlines get exceeded.

If the deadlines are not exceeded, the renderer will render and commit them one-by-one, stopping whenever it is going to exceed its frame time budget which it receives from scheduler. This can happen even in the middle of processing a single batch. There is a cooperative yield point after processing each individual fiber.

If there is an incomplete work, or any non-sync batch is still remaining after the renderer yields, another scheduler.scheduleCallback is queued with the deadline of the batch that is closest to expire. It normally uses a requestIdleCallback-like mechanism, but if the batch is already expired it will immediately queue a macrotask.

In other words, as long as nothing has expired, only the singular work, or batch with the deadline closest to expiration is worked on in a particular render + commit loop. This is why batching is important: it ensures the requested work shares the same deadline and thus belong to the same render + commit loop.

When the work loop is resumed, if there was another work queued with a shorter deadline than the current work, all non-committed work done so far is thrown out. The higher priority work skips ahead of the queue and is done in its own commit.

If the work loop is resumed because any pending work's deadlines got exceeded, similarly all non-committed work done so far is thrown out, but all work with expired deadlines is done together in a single batch. The renderer will still yield when it exceeds its frame time budget, but because it has already expired it will be immediately resumed[^1].

This can be catastrophic if there are a significant number of pending updates with deadlines spaced together just enough that none of them can finish in time before the next one. Each time the partial work is thrown out there will be even more work to do for this single deadline expiration batch. Probably just one of the reasons why it's not considered ready for release.

This continues until React exhausts the work queue, and then it's up to user interactions or other application code to cause updates.

Any sync batch ignores the scheduling. Any partial, non-committed work will be thrown out and the loop will process and commit all sync updates while ignoring everything else, even expired non-sync work. If this interrupted a partial update, it will then start over on top of the new tree when the loop resumes as was originally scheduled.

React will protect you against infinite recursion of sync updates in the commit phase by counting how many times you caused a cascading update. Currently this limit is 50.

However, there is currently nothing to protect you against infinite async updates, other than the max limit of a single queued interactive update.


Yielding is intended to let the browser at least render a frame before continuing, but if we are already rendering an expired task, this will continuously synchronously drain the queue as long as there are expired tasks, even the freshly inserted already-expired continuation callback.

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