What Is Node.js?

Node.js is a cross-platform, open-source runtime environment and framework for executing web applications outside the client‘s browser.

Versatile Server-Side Language

It is a server-side programming language primarily used for event-driven servers, such as standard websites and back-end API services.

While its initial intention was to develop a real-time, push-based architecture, it has found widespread use in various applications.

Each browser has its own JavaScript (JS) engine, and Node.js is one of them. It utilizes the V8 JavaScript engine from Google Chrome to power its functionality.

It may sound a bit complicated, but let’s simplify it.

Simplifying Web Development

In simple terms, Node.js enables running entire websites on a single “stack,” allowing developers to focus on achieving the project’s business goals rather than getting entangled in development and maintenance complexities.

Being open source, Node.js is free to use and continually benefits from updates and enhancements from a global community of developers.

It’s important to understand that Node.js is not strictly a framework or library like traditional application software. It functions as a runtime environment.

A runtime environment, an RTE, provides developers with web APIs to build code and a JavaScript engine that parses that code.

Node.js’s lightweight and versatile nature of Node.js makes it easy to deploy, optimize, and speed up your application projects.

The Basic Node.js Architecture

Node.js’ architecture is one of the reasons it is trendy among programmers.

Unlike many other runtime environments that utilize multi-threaded processing models, Node.js operates within a single thread.

In multi-threaded processing configurations, servers have limited access to a thread pool.

When a server receives a request, it selects a thread from the pool to handle the processing for that request.

The synchronous and sequential processing allows only one operation at a time.

The Drawbacks of Multiple-Thread Processing

With multiple-thread processing, a thread is assigned to each request until all threads are used.

The server must wait for an available thread at that point, resulting in potentially slow and inefficient applications.

This can negatively impact customer experience and lead conversions, especially when handling numerous concurrent client requests.

In contrast, Node.js operates on a single thread.

The distinction lies in utilizing event loops to handle blocking Input/Output activities in a non-blocking manner. If these terms are unfamiliar, don’t worry.

A single-thread design allows faster and more efficient operation and scalability than multi-thread configurations.

This was precisely what Ryan Dahl envisioned when creating Node.js, and it has become one of the reasons why web app developers highly favor it.

Examples of Applications Developed Using Node.js

To further understand the real-world and commercial applications of Node.js

Here are some in-depth case studies:

  • Netflix: Netflix, the world’s most popular streaming media and video-on-demand service, relies on extensive A/B testing to provide a rich experience to its 195+ million global subscribers. Node.js proved beneficial for handling conditional dependencies and app scalability, resulting in a remarkable 70% decrease in loading time.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn, the largest business and employment-oriented social networking site, transitioned its mobile app backend from Ruby on Rails to Node.js. Despite Node.js being relatively new then, it was a wise decision. The new app was 2-10 times faster, lightweight, and had a shorter development time.
  • NASA: NASA also utilizes Node.js. In this case, technology plays a crucial role in keeping astronauts safe during space missions. NASA had to consolidate data related to EVA spacesuits into a single cloud database to minimize access times after a near-fatal accident caused by inefficient data stored in multiple locations. The new Node.js-based system reduced the process steps from 28 to 7.
  • Walmart: Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, embraced Node.js for its foray into e-commerce. Despite the risks associated with adopting a relatively new and trending technology, Walmart leveraged Node.js’s asynchronous I/O and single-threaded event loop architecture to handle multiple concurrent queries efficiently, enhancing their mobile app’s functionality.