To learn the benefits of using Node.js, we first need to recognize and appreciate the back-end side. For the common folk that is only used to seeing websites up and running, web development usually ends at the front-end.  

In reality, when viewing a web page in a browser, we send a special request to another computer on the internet, called a web server, which sends us back that very same web page in the form of a respective response. 

The server uses both client-side and server-side software to show us a web page. The latter is responsible for exchanging, processing, and storing data by using code that helps process your browser’s network requests and interact with databases.  

Node.js allows developers to use JavaScript to create server-side code, even though traditionally, this language has only been used in the browser to develop client-side code. Combining both sides in the same environment makes it easier to create web servers, which is why Node.js popularity as a handy tool for writing server code has skyrocketed.  

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What is Node.js? 

As we’ve mentioned above, Node.js is a platform for handling JavaScript through the V8 engine on a server-side. The V8, in turn, is an open-source JavaScript engine that powers Google Chrome and a few other similar browsers by providing the runtime environment they need. JavaScript operates on a client-side, while Node.js scalable architecture does its magic on a server and allows developers to write full-fledged applications. 

Node.js has everything you need to execute a JS program. This open-source framework can work with numerous external libraries, call commands from JavaScript code, and act as a web server.  

To avoid any confusion, Node.js is not a programming language like Java but a technology that assists an actual programming language, JavaScript, in creating server code. So, let’s now take a short trip back to history lane and learn a bit about Node.js and how it came into existence.  

The platform originated in 2009 through the efforts of engineer Ryan Dahl and later thanks to Joyent’s sponsorship. Being only 12 years old, Node.js has already proved itself a vital instrument in server-side programming. First came its core engine – Chrome V8 JavaScript – which became a part of the platform, along with a low-level non-blocking I/O API model and an event loop. 

The key factors that led to the Node.js development were timing, precision, and innovation. To get there, JavaScript – twice its age – went through numerous upgrades to increase its speed and performance on client and server sides. 

Statistics 

Node.js developers

What better to use for a better understanding of this technology, and to show Node.js popularity than good old-fashioned statistics: 

  • New businesses benefit from using Node.js since it can increase their applications’ efficiency by 50%, reduce development costs by 60%, and lower waiting time by 35%
  • Three years ago, Node.js hit its first billion downloads. 
  • More than 30 million websites utilize this technology, covering approximately 1.6% of all the sites with identifiable web servers. 
  • Quite a few innovative companies, such as Netflix, Amazon, PayPal, are already enjoying the advantages of using Node.js. PayPal, for example, has reported that their responsiveness became 200ms faster
  • This comprehensive report includes the data of US companies mentioning a 68% increase in developer productivity since switching to Node.js. 

What can you do with Node.js? 

Node.js works best for the following projects (with examples): 

  1. Real-time web apps. Online publishing sites like Medium or remote collaboration solutions like Trello are the use cases where Node.js unlocks its potential. 
  2. E-learning websites and apps. Quizlet is an excellent example of how Node.js added extra responsiveness and sped up the platform’s development. 
  3. Online payment tools and e-commerce — both solutions require higher-level functionality, think eBay and PayPal. 
  4. Chats and messaging applications. Such real-time and multi-user applications are perfect for Node.js since they have minimal weight, deal with high traffic, and are data-rich. Here are an example and a tutorial of real-time chat using NodeJS, Socket.io, and ExpressJS. 
  5. Internet of Things devices with loads of requests — sensors or wearable solutions. Here’s a code for a Node.js car-controlling IoT solution using only your smartphone and WiFi. 
  6. Social media. Social media apps can put Node.js to good use because they have to be secure and lightweight yet versatile and continuously updated. The most famous examples are LinkedIn and Twitter. 
  7. Games and virtual emulators, especially multiplayer ones, benefit from the platform’s quick response time since it’s easier to provide communication for a large number of players and execute multiple scenarios. Here are a few examples on Medium. 

When to Use Node.js, based on necessary tasks 

  • To build a collaboration solution with streaming capabilities 
  • If you want your app to handle high traffic and/or intense video buffering 
  • To create various nonconcurrent app functions that don’t need to have connections with CPU 
  • To develop an efficient single-page application, like Gmail 
  • If you require a solution with higher scalability potential 
  • To make video chats or remote presentations 
  • If you want to build and deploy microservices 

Related article: Flutter or React Native: Helping you with a choice

When not using Node.js 

With what you can do with Node.js, there are still a few areas where utilizing it isn’t a great choice: 

  • Heavy-duty processing on the server-side. Building anything too CPU-heavy with Node.js is not the best idea simply because of its non-blocking input/output model that will block your incoming requests. 
  • Already streamlined apps with just a few functions. Technically you can use Node.js, it wouldn’t do any harm, but it wouldn’t do any good either, you’re better off using something simpler. 
  • Applications that call for relational data access. Node.js is not ideal for backend database needs due to its lack of capacity to run proper backend computations. 

Pros and cons of Node.js development

Like any technology, Node.js has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the project, the resources you utilize, and other preferences. To determine if this platform is the right fit for you, consider the list of all possible aspects below. 

Node.js advantages 

The advantages of this backend platform include: 

  • Simplicity and cost-efficiency. One language for both client and server sides minimizes the need to switch back and forth from front-end to back-end, which means you don’t need to hire multiple teams for one project. 
  • Faster development process due to the possibility of shared and reused code, JSON support, various free tools, and the smaller stack of files needed to finish the application.  
  • Scalability is usually mentioned as the №1 Node.js benefit and not without reason — the load balancing and the tool’s capacity to handle multiple parallel connections, plus vertical and horizontal scaling support does wonders for businesses that aim to quickly scale and grow. 
  • Quick synchronization thanks to an event-based model that helps make real-time updates while simultaneously carrying out a series of secondary tasks in the background. 
  • An active community. Not only Node.js but JavaScript as well — which means you’re not alone if you encounter any problems. There’s enough feedback and different internet resources to help you tackle any issue due to a lack of experience. 
  • Higher adaptation rate due to easier and faster learning curve, especially for those familiar with its partner — JavaScript, and better for customizations due to its built-in API. 
  • Decreased loading time is also among Node.js advantages thanks to a direct caching module; 
  • Quicker development of a minimum viable product (MVP) — not a fully-fledged solution, but one with just enough functionality to be well presented on the market. 
  • By utilizing microservices, Node.js helps developers separate their projects into smaller and more manageable sections. It, in turn, helps efficiently distribute tasks among team members. 
  • Helps form a cross-functional team with better internal communication and productivity instead of an average functional team where expertise is strictly defined and function overlap is often frowned upon. 

Disadvantages and possible drawbacks 

Despite numerous benefits of Node.js, there is a small number of drawbacks worth mentioning: 

  1. Lack of proper Application Programming Interface stability. It sometimes forces developers to change accessible codebases to blend with the latest API version when it suddenly changes at rapid intervals and is also backward-incompatible. 
  2. Occasional obstructions of performance flow when dealing with heavy CPU-based computing, having to do with Node.js being single-threaded, and what even special worker threads modules can’t fully fix. 
  3. Node.js asynchronicity causes developers to rely on callbacks, which subsequently causes them to stack on nested structures within other callbacks, making understanding and maintaining the code quite challenging. 
  4. The gap between the current growing demand and the true number of experienced Node.js professionals on the market and the fact that despite popular belief, not every JavaScript developer has initial substantial server-side knowledge to quickly master back-end. 

Judging by the recent trends and market reports, Node.js will only become more popular. A modern Node.js project is about static typing and design patterns, such as dependency injection, etc. As a result, a typical JavaScript project with its simplicity and ease will be successfully replaced by the robustness and simplification of Node development and its support in large projects. 

Over the last couple of years, Node.js has matured significantly. Solid tools for debugging, tracing, and identifying other problems emerged, along with the expertise and growing community. The move toward using microservices is offsetting the lack of static typing by reducing its complexity. 

Currently being one of the most in-demand backend frameworks, Node.js has a bright future. However, it still has lots of room to grow, fewer questions as to why use Node.js in the first place are appearing in the press. 

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Why use Node.js development? 

Knowing when to use Node.js and how to take full advantage of it, this question may no longer be necessary. For example, according to the third annual Node.js User Survey report, the responders mentioned the following impact on their businesses: 

  1. Increased developer productivity 
  2. Improved developer satisfaction 
  3. Reduced development costs 
  4. Increased application performance 
  5. Increased up time 
  6. Helped recruit developers, increase customer satisfaction 
  7. Helped increase customer engagement 

Let’s go through actual companies that implemented Node.js into their routine. 

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Big companies that are currently using Node.js 

Based on lots of benefits from adopting Node.js into a development cycle, it’s no wonder many companies have already done it. 

Netflix 

To modernize their backend development, Netflix added Node.js to their technology list. That sped up the move from the backend to the frontend and significantly decreased their loading time. 

PayPal 

After their regular programming tool, Java, didn’t pair up well with the frontend, PayPal switched to Node.js and afterward upped their performance, built a new application in record time, and reduced loading time. 

LinkedIn 

LinkedIn has traded Ruby on Rails for Node.js and, with its help, managed to build a ten times faster application and dramatically cut down the number of servers. 

Uber 

Node.js helped Uber handle the growing demand and increased traffic by boosting their data processing power and connectivity, minimizing management expenses. 

eBay 

Like PayPal, eBay has also switched from Java to Node.js to upgrade their development process and synchronize any changes to client and server sides. 

Is Node.js also suitable for startups? 

Startups need to choose the right programming platform and the environment from the get-go. This choice has a crucial effect on the project’s success. Choose wisely, taking scalability, speed, community, onboarding, and speed into consideration. 

The platform excels in situations when you need to build scalable and really fast network applications. Node.js speed and performance work best for multi-user real-time data solutions, which is why it’s an excellent choice for startups. 

The availability of resources and learning tutorials make Node.js a better choice for companies that are only beginning their path. It’s relatively easy. Knowing JavaScript and Object-Oriented Programming fundamentals, Node is simply a dozen pages of documentation away from starting to work on your projects. 

Useful info and resources 

Knowing all the pros and cons of Node.js, here are useful links to successfully start working with the platform: 

  • Download the latest Node.js version of source code or a pre-built installer with continuing support for Windows and macOS following this link.  
  • To find out more about the instalment process, click here for an official guide. 
  • All the beginner guides and necessary documentation, including API reference documentation and ES6 features, you can find here
  • The Node Package Manager — essential support components and libraries, available for everyone. An absolute beginner’s guide on using NPM can be found here.  
  • Take a closer look at the following modules and frameworks – Express, Hapi, Connect, Socket.io, Sockjs, Meteor, Sails.js, Redis, etc. 
  • Official community discussions list, as well as Node.js subreddit, tag on StackOverflow, and topic on Quora. 
  • More resources can be found here

Wrapping up 

Node.js is a remarkable piece of technology. Being a fairly mature platform, it has both potential and many existing approaches to solve various issues. Thus, this makes Node.js an excellent candidate to bring most of our new and unusual backend coding ideas to life.  

Using our team’s expertise, we’ve listed numerous Node.js benefits, as well as some of the drawbacks. It will help you form your impression of the platform. If you have a question about your project, click here to fill in a form and book a call.