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What is Node.js?

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment. Sounds great, but what does that mean? How does that work?

09 Mar, 21 by Susith Nonis 6 min Read

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In the world of software development, there are many programming languages and while some offer different ways to carry out the same function, there are also ones that are unique and are made to write software for a certain purpose.

When we think of JavaScript, we think of front-end web development and execution within a web browser. This has been true for a long time before the original developers of JavaScript it from code that could only run within a browser to a language that can be used to create standalone applications that could run on your computer without using a web browser.

This expansion gave birth to Node.js and allowed developers to do much more with JavaScript than simply make interactive websites. The language now has the ability to carry out tasks that other scripting languages like Python do. Today we will discuss all there is to know about Node.js. Let’s get right into it.

 

Node.js is a cross-platform JavaScript run-time environment that can execute JavaScript code outside of a browser. Node.js is open-source software that unifies web application development on a single programming language that focuses on both server and client-side scripts. Node.js uses JavaScript to do things other scripting languages (e.g. Python) do and is no longer limited to just making websites interactive. Even though .js is the standard filename extension for JavaScript, Node.js doesn’t refer to a particular file but merely the name of the product.

The Node run-time environment includes everything you need to execute a program written in JavaScript. Both JavaScript and Node.js run on the V8 JavaScript runtime engine which converts the code into machine code. Node.js optimizes throughput and scalability in web applications with many input/output operations, as well as for real-time Web applications.

One of the main functionalities of Node.js is that it allows the creation of web servers and networking tools using JavaScript and a collection of modules that handles various core functionalities. The modules are used for file system I/O, networking, cryptography functions, and other core functions. Node.js is supported by almost all operating systems. For example, Windows VPSLinux VPS, FreeBSD, macOS, OpenBSD are officially being supported by Node.js while the provided source code is modified in order to be supported by other systems.

 

Here are some of the features that make Node.js so popular among JavaScript developers.

Non-blocking and Event-driven

All APIs of the Node.js library are asynchronous, meaning a Node.js-based server never waits for an API to return data. Instead, the server moves to the next API after calling it and a notification mechanism of Events of Node.js helps the server to get a response from the previous API call.

Fast code execution

Node.js is built on the favorite of the masses, Google Chrome. To be exact, it is built on Chrome’s V8 JavaScript Engine, giving it very short code execution times.

No buffering

Applications built using Node.js do not buffer any data but simply output it in chunks.

Single-threaded but Scalable

Node.js uses a single-threaded model with event looping. The event mechanism helps the server to respond in a non-blocking way and makes the server highly scalable as opposed to traditional servers which create limited threads to handle requests.

 

Easy to learn

As JavaScript is one of the most popular programming languages with which most front-end developers are familiar, it’s easier to start using Node.js at the backend. Node.js is easier to learn and consumes less time to work with it.

Easy scalability

The applications can be scaled in a horizontal manner by the addition of additional nodes to the existing system. This also offers you the option of adding extra resources to the single nodes during the vertical scaling of the application.

Used as a single programming language

Node.js allows writing both front-end and back-end web applications in JavaScript using a runtime environment without the need for any other server-side programming language.

Offers high performance

As mentioned earlier the JavaScript code is run on the V8 JavaScript engine and this compiles the JavaScript into machine code. This makes it easier and faster to implement the code in an effective manner while the speed of code execution increases as it supports the non-blocking I/O operation.

Support of a large and active community

JS has a very large and active community of developers who keep a continuous contribution of solutions which helps its further development and improvement.

 

Application Programming Interface (API) is not stable

One of the main drawbacks of Node.js is that the API keeps on changing at frequent intervals and does not remain stable.

Node.js doesn’t have a strong library support system

In comparison to other programming languages, Node.js is not equipped with a robust library system which results in users being forced to take support from common libraries when executing tasks like image processing, handling database operations, XML parsing, etc.

 

There are certain types of applications that benefit greatly from Node.js’s features. Here are a few use cases:

  • Data Streaming Applications
  • Single Page Applications
  • I/O bound Applications
  • Data-Intensive Real-time Applications (DIRT)
  • Single Page Applications

Do keep in mind, however, that these are not limits, but suggestions. Therefore, there are many more scenarios where Node.js can come in handy. If there is one thing we certainly do not recommend is using Node.js for CPU-intensive applications.

 

In today’s article, we introduced Node.js and its functions. We also discussed some attractive features of the runtime environment as well as its advantages and disadvantages. Lastly, we gave some examples of application types that would be optimal to be built using Node.js.

We hope you found this information useful and if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section down below.

Susith Nonis

I'm fascinated by the IT world and how the 1's and 0's work. While I veture into the world of Technology I try to share what I know in the simplest way possible. Not a fan of coffee, a sweet addict and a self accredited 'master chef'.