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What exactly is Node.js?

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24th Nov, 2022
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What exactly is Node.js?

What is Node.js?

Node.js is an open-source platform created using the JavaScript Engine of Google Chrome. It gained immense popularity with its ability to build fast and expandable network applications using event-driven and non-blocking I/O models, making it efficient and lightweight. Such qualities make it perfect for data-intensive applications running across several distributed devices.

The applications are written in JavaScript and are generally run within Node.js runtime on Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux. It provides a rich library with multiple JavaScript modules enabling the ease of developing efficient applications. The flexibility of Node.js makes it suitable for hybrid mobile applications and desktop applications. Interestingly, programmers can also use it with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Features of Node.js

Important features that distinguish Node.js from the rest and are always the first choice of most software architects include:

  • High speed: 

As node.js has a strongly built foundation on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript, its library has a swift response in code processing, directly linking with the application’s efficiency and speed. The feature is one of the main reasons why most software architects use Node.js.

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  • Event-Driven and asynchronous models:

Every API of the Node.js library is asynchronous, meaning it is non-blocking. It also means the js-based server hardly waits for data to return from an API. The server immediately moves to the succeeding API after calling it. Furthermore, Node.js also offers a notification mechanism for Events of Node.js that helps receive a reply from the preceding API call.

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  • Highly scalable yet single-threaded

Node.js uses a single-threaded model combined with event looping. The event looping mechanism enables the server to respond in a non-blocking manner and makes the server highly scalable. In contrast, traditional servers create limited threads to handle requests making them less scalable and inefficient. The ability of this environment to use a single-threaded program and the same program is capable of providing service to a larger number of requests in contrast to traditional servers.

  • Zero Buffering:

No data is ever buffered by the Node.js application. These applications output the data in simple chunks.

What can Node.js do?

As mentioned above, given the unique features of Node.js, developers can use it for building a wide range of applications. Here are a few applications that can be made using Node.js:

1. Real-time chat applications: 

Real-time chat is one of the most effective online communication tools that allows the live exchange of text, video, and audio messages. Such apps rely on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) technologies or Instant Messaging (IM) technologies. It is capable of both one-to-one and one-to-many chats.

Real-time chat applications are some of the most popular applications one can build using Node.js as it forms a social networking or a commercial interactive element of an application.

Why use Node.js for real-time chat applications?

The Event API in Node.js enables developers to follow an event-driven approach to deploy beck-end push notifications and improve functionality. Thus, making these features an imperative part of real-time chat apps while adding an interactive element to them. 

The event-driven structure of Node.js helps establish collaboration with WebSockets, which supports speed in sharing messages between the client and server-side through an open connection. Installation of WebSockets on the server-side and the client-side can lower latency and fuel a speedy data exchange during messaging.

2. Internet of Things (IoT):

IoT is a network of connected physical devices like sensors and beacons that share information through the internet. The data is generally shared from devices to servers and vice-versa to present the information digitally. Some cases often require a single IoT system consisting of many devices. Hence, the request management and data streams in the IoT system turn very tedious. In such cases, Node.js works the best to tackle private and public IoT system concerns.

Why use Node.js for IoT?

The main reason to choose Node.js for such intricate networks is its innate ability to process various concurrent requests simultaneously. The event-driven architecture enables asynchronous data processing, resulting in the servers of Node.js remaining unblocked and allowing the data to process requests easily.

Node.js also works as an efficient application layer between the databases and the IoT devices that collect the information provided by devices. Moreover, this runtime environment has small memory requirements. Thus, node.js developers can easily combine it with single-board controllers like Raspberry Pi and Arduino. These are generally used to create digital devices consisting of an IoT system.

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3. Streaming Applications: 

Streaming platforms are some of the most popularly used types of on-demand software services. They differ compared to remote server applications in nature. Application streaming needs the user to download only specific parts of the application on-demand, while the other parts can be downloaded as required. It prevents the overloading of the local computer and the server.

The application can also run perfectly without any connection after completely downloading. Streaming apps such as Amazon Prime and Netflix are certainly some of the best applications you can build with Node.js.

Why build streaming apps with Node.js?

A unique feature of Node.js using Stream API makes it a brilliant choice for designing such streaming apps. Furthermore, Node.js also possesses a comprehensive interface of writable or readable streams that can be processed and controlled effectively.

4. Microservice architecture-based applications:

While building an application with a microservices architecture, it must be made as a group of individual modules. Every module plays its part in the application’s functionality and is developed and tested continuously. When all the modules are built, they are integrated to form the complete application. Large enterprise applications benefit significantly from this type of architecture. This is because their development teams are distributed geographically. 

Why use Node.js for microservices architecture?

Native Node.js environments enable you to create some highly versatile microservices modules. When combined with Docker, Node.js includes microservices in its modules in an organized and differentiated manner. However, there is a small chance of microservices hampering one another’s operations and functionalities.

Node.js is lightweight and has very minimal resource requirements. So building microservices with this makes applications easily deployable.

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5. Single-Page Applications (SPAs): 

A single-page application is simply a web application that fits on one page on the browser without reloading an entirely new page. Instead, it rewrites the current page to save time, just like a desktop application. SPAs are most prominently used to create social media applications like Gmail.

Why build SPA with Node.js?

Node.js can handle complicated SPAs as it can effectively manage asynchronous calls and I/O workloads. The event loop enables it to delay concurrent client requests, maintaining a consistent transition and data updates.

Node.js and JavaScript sharing the same language simplify work for programmers as they can use the same language and data structures on the front and back end, improving the maintainability of the SPAs.

6. Real-time collaboration tools:

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Real-time collaboration tools enable simultaneous usage by different users on the same application with many collaboration tools to address software concerns.

Why build real-time collaboration tools with Node.js?

Real-time collaboration applications are similar to real-time chats. Node.js’s event-based architecture provides an edge in building these apps. Its push notifications feature promptly updates the collaboration environment. Thus, it ensures that all the users have a coherent view of the application.

Getting started with Node.js

Transform your career by upskilling yourself with the in-demand skills to have the most successful career in computer science. UpGrad has many online courses, including Node.js in their curriculum. Software development is one of the most lucrative career options for young professionals. If you are already in the industry or looking to make a start, you must enroll in upGrad’s Executive PG Program in Software Development. The program teaches you in-demand skills and the ten highest paying coding languages and tools. You can choose from four specializations, including Blockchain Development, Full Stack Development, DevOps, and Cloud Backend Development. 

Sign up today for special benefits from upGrad to bag some of the highest-paying jobs in the computer science world.


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is node.js used for?

Using Node.js, developers can build dynamic page content and analyze, write, delete, and close files on the server. Node.js can accumulate data while adding, deleting, and modifying data in your database.

2What are the common applications built by Node.js?

Some common applications built by Node.js include Paypal, LinkedIn, Uber, Netflix, and Godaddy.

3What does Node.js do?

Node.js uses single-threaded, non-restrictive, and event looping mechanisms to build fast and scalable network applications.Node.js is efficient and speeds up the development process. Its serverless architecture and event emitters have made it a favorite amongst startups.

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