I’m very much in favour of this. A “Discourse Lite” isn’t just a workaround; it also broadens your userbase. The no-js and legacy phone users are a shrinking minority, but we’re still talking about millions of users here. It’s with good reason that Facebook offers a no-js interface for users like these.
Regarding native apps (rant-ish)
Most of this has been covered above already, but I felt the need to collect my own thoughts about it, and I might as well make my musings public, however limited my point of view is.
The caveats of native apps are considerable:
Native apps don’t promote rainbows
Discourse forums are only just starting to differentiate themselves with unique fonts and colors, the baby steps of what will hopefully be a flourishing theme marketplace in the more distant future. Pushing native apps would hinder this trend, because why bother making your forum a unique-looking snowflake when a large percentage of your users are accessing it via a homogenized app anyways.
Discourse Plugins become very difficult to support
Niche plugins with functionality that falls outside of the scope of the native app would be rendered unusable, so there’d be less incentive to take Discourse off the beaten path with whacky experiments, which can be hugely detrimental to ongoing innovation.
Higher maintenance is still a factor
A framework like React does significantly lower the maintenance load (at least on paper - I’m no developer), but that native app you’re putting out is still a completely different beast with its own unique points of failure. Sure, developers gotta develop for different browsers already anyhow, but at least any effort in that area still contributes to WWW convergence in a sense, whereas developing for different native platforms is doing favours for no one besides the respective platforms.
Conclusion: The native app strategy works far better for centralised platforms
If you’re Facebook, React makes a ton of sense. Everything is under your control, you have an established native app story out there already and the room for customisation of a user’s own space is very limited and predictable.
Could the equivalent of a Reddit BaconReader for Discourse forums still be a breakout success? Absolutely. But I’d rather leave that risk&reward free for the taking by another talented bunch of individuals, just not the core Discourse team.