How to run multiple versions of React side-by-side using Single Spa

This seems like it should be easy right? Single-spa is a micro-frontend framework designed to handle running multiple SPA frameworks side-by-side. It’s pretty straightforward in all the other frameworks… but not so in React. Let’s dig into why that is.

What’s the problem?

In order to use React you always have to install two packages:

  1. react - The main runtime for React
  2. Some other package that handles the rendering (i.e., react-dom/react-canvas/react-native/react-pdf/etc.)

This allows developers to plug multiple renderers into the React runtime and magically grants everyone who knows React the ability to write JSX code that works in a bunch of random places.

Sounds magical! Why is this a problem again?

The problem only comes when we’re trying to work with single-spa. Let’s setup a quick project to show how this works:

  1. I create a root config
  2. I create a React project running React 17, setting up my webpack externals to look like: { react: 'react-17', ['react-dom']: 'react-dom-17' }
  3. I create another React project running React 18, setting up my webpack externals to look like { react: 'react-18', ['react-dom']: 'react-dom-18 }
  4. I add import maps for react-17, react-dom-17, react-18, react-dom-18 all pointing to their various urls.

We boot up the site and we get a nice fat error message: Unable to resolve bare specifier 'react' from

The reason we get this error message is that react-dom was bundled with a dependency on react. So, even though we have our application code swapping out every react import with either a react-17 or a react-18 import and we’re doing the same for where our application code references react-dom we can’t do anything about the code inside the react-dom library that is looking for a module named react-dom.

It’s a problem unique to React because of it’s two package delivery system. If they shipped it as one package like Angular/Vue/etc. then we wouldn’t be having this problem.

The solution

We’re going to re-bundle up our own distribution of the react-dom libraries. Running it through webpack first. That way we can tell react-dom-17 to import react-17 and we can tell react-dom-18 to import react-18.

What’s the easiest way to do that?

Let’s use npx create-single-spa to spin out two utility modules:

  1. One to re-export react-dom@17 and have it’s webpack externals set to: { react: 'react-17' }
  2. One to re-export react-dom@18 and have it’s webpack externals set to: { react: 'react-18' }

The only file in both projects will look like this:

import ReactDOM from "react-dom";
export default ReactDOM;
export * from "react-dom";

Now in our import maps we reference our own utility module versions of react-dom instead of the ones hosted on and things just work!

If you want to check out the working code, I’ve got a sample repository on Github.

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