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A Dive into Node.js: Pros and Cons, Examples of Use

Business development
Anzhelika Danielkievich
| 13 min read
node.js pros and cons
node.js pros and cons

Why use Node JS? To answer this question, we will consider the words of Ken Williamson, a Node.js engineer and architect:

MEAN stands for MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS, and Node.js. Many industry experts believe the MEAN stack will be a dominant web development platform in coming years.

Indeed, a great part of software projects is based on these technologies. They all represent the JavaScript tech stack. To understand what makes them so special, let’s have a look at one of the four giants — Node.js. This article will reveal Node.js pros and cons and explain what pitfalls it hides.

Node.js Overview

To be brief, Node.js is a free open-source server-side JavaScript environment that runs on the Google V8 engine. Node.js allows JavaScript programmers to convert JavaScript to machine code, which makes JavaScript a multipurpose language. If you hear about Node.js for the first time, check out the video below.

Interestingly, the first attempts to create a server-side JavaScript environment were made by Netscape in 1996. Their technology was called LiveWire Pro Web, and it didn’t go viral. 13 years later, Ryan Dahl launched Node.js, which was supported on Mac OS X and Linux. Ryans’ decision to write Node.js was determined by his dissatisfaction with Apache HTTP Server, one of the most popular web servers of those times. Dahl criticized the inability of the server to handle multiple concurrent connections.

Node.js was designed for scalable web development. Below, you can see the results of the study conducted by Kai Lei 5 years after Node.js was created. In his research, Lei compared the ability of Node.js, Python, and PHP to handle multiple connections based on the “hello world” example. He concluded that at the same number of users, Node JS performance is much better compared to the two others.

node.js vs php vs python performance

When a new connection appears, Node.js fires a callback. When there are no connections, Node.js sleeps. This model is more effective than thread-based networking, which is also less efficient and more complicated to use.

Node.js is based on non-blocking execution, meaning that one block of code runs independently of another. It makes this environment asynchronous — a perfect choice for building scalable web applications. An event loop in Node.js is presented as a runtime environment. When Node.js finishes executing the input, it enters the event loop instead of using a specific start-the-event-loop call.

Node.js and “JavaScript Everywhere”

To better understand the pros and cons of Node JS, let’s review the “JavaScript” paradigm first. JavaScript is the most popular programming language. Almost 70% of professional developers prefer JavaScript because of the simple syntax, dedicated open-source community, and great ecosystem. No wonder, JavaScript is everywhere, and this is what the paradigm implies.

The “JavaScript everywhere” idea presupposes that it soon be impossible for a web developer not to come across this language. Using JavaScript, developers build web, mobile, and desktop apps, Node JS APIs. Node.js is a part of the paradigm and one of the “big three “of JavaScript. React Native is used for mobile development, Electron — for desktop development, and Node.js — for server side programming.

Node.js Usage

Node.js is the number one choice when it comes to web development. It is used by at least 20 million websites worldwide. It powers nearly 1.6% of websites globally. When you look at the historical trend of Node.js usage, you will see stable growth. Compared to November 2020, November 2021 shows the rise of demand.

the tendency of node.js usage

Here are some quick facts that explain such a positive tendency:

An interesting tendency can also be seen in the graph below. The industry of Computers Electronics and Technology stands for 7.11% of Node.js use. Meantime, other industries, such as retail, ecommerce, education, logistics, etc. are using Node.js at the 83.85% rate.

top industries for node.js

What Node.js Is Used for?

Node.js is usually used for building solutions that need a continuous server-browser connection. Here are the most common cases of its use:

  • Real-time applications, tools, and chats 

Node.js is used for building real-time apps of any complexity. With its help, JS developers easily implement server-side operations and push notifications.

  • SPAs

Complex single-page apps (SPAs) are frequently built with Node.js as it gives software professionals the chance to combine dynamic content with the delivery of static files.

  • Node.js microservices architecture

This technology allows software developers to create a service-oriented Node.js architecture. With this technology, they can build performant applications constructed with a combination of unique APIs.

  • IoT apps

One of the advantages of Node JS is that it does not require a lot of memory and resources on server-side. Thus, software experts use it for IoT development to enable concurrence connections across multiple devices.

Node.js in Practice: Some Famous Examples

Many world-known websites run on Node.js. Let’s check some of these:

Netflix

Netflix is a recognized American streaming service. Netflix’s website offers its users access to a big library of films and television series. A great part of the context is produced by Netflix itself. The company used Node.js for building a user interface (UI). The Netflix team analyzed the Node.js advantages and disadvantages and found out that it allows for modularity and speed. With Node.js implementation, the Netflix website has become nearly two times faster.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a world-known social network for business communication and professional connections. With its help, people build better careers and find new job opportunities. In 2011, LinkedIn decided to move from Ruby on Rails to Node.js with the aim of website optimization. The initial decision was to partially optimize a mobile version of the website. Now, however, the mobile LinkedIn app runs entirely on Node.js.

PayPal

PayPal is one of the most secure platforms that enable users to make electronic transactions. PayPal financial technology operates in the majority of countries and is treated as an alternative to traditional paper methods. PayPal also uses Node.js for user-side content. Indeed, Node.js allows developers to build both client-side and server-side with a single programming language. It simplifies the development process and saves money.

NASA

As you probably know, NASA is a US-based department that explores space and conducts research on space-related questions. The company uses Node JS microservices — the approach to software development in which the software is presented as a group of services. It allows for higher flexibility. With Node, Nasa easily moved to the cloud-based solution.

This is only a small part of the list. A lot of other business giants recognize the power of Node.js and use it for enterprise purposes.

famous companies using node js

Node.js Pros and Cons

Now, we will reveal what benefits Node.js offers and what drawbacks it hides.

Node.js Benefits

So why are all the mentioned companies using Node.js services and what stands behind Node.js popularity? It seems that every technology has its strong and weak sides and ensures speed and performance under particular circumstances. However, when it comes to Node.js, its efficiency and speed are facilitated by flexibility. It allows Node.js developers to reach high performance regardless of the project peculiarities and tech conditions.

Node.js is a part of the powerful ecosystem

Node.js is a part of the JavaScript ecosystem. Before Dahl created this runtime, the JavaScript programming language was mainly used for performing UI manipulations and creating animations. The development of Node.js gave a start to the formation of the complex JavaScript stack.

A Node.js primary package manager, npm, comprises more than 800 000 libraries and reusable templates. Every week, nearly 10 000 new libraries are published, which also facilitates the technology. In 2015, Node.js supporters and sponsors created the Node.js Foundation. The most famous members include PayPal, Microsoft, SAP, and IBM.

Node.js is highly scalable

Talking about the benefits of using Node JS, we have to mention its scalability. This runtime can handle multiple connections, prioritizing the requests with a slower response time. It generally speeds up the Node.js performance and the development of a software solution. The event-based and non-blocking nature of Node.js allows for an unlimited number of nods that can be added to the main programming function.

event loop in node js

This technology allows developers to scale their solutions both vertically and horizontally. From the business perspective, it will allow you to expand the functionality of your software, enriching it with additional resources and adding new capability paths. Moreover, Node.js powerfully caches data, increasing the efficiency of your solution.

Node.js has a vibrant open-source community

The open-source community appreciates the opportunity to access a wide range of free tools in just a few clicks. This is why they regularly make their contribution to improving the technology. Node.js developers make use of various tools and means of increasing the development speed.

Node.js community includes thousands of developers across the globe helping each other and sharing reusable JavaScript code. By hiring a Node.js software developer, you reduce the development time. Node.js also enjoys the support of the leading corporations, which we talked about earlier.

Node.js keeps things simple

Node.js is a lightweight runtime environment. The latest version of Node.js 17.0.1, which includes 8.1.0 nmp, will take only 25.4 MB of space for Windows. Node JS web app development allows software experts to build the same functionality with less effort.

Secondly, this runtime is easily learned by software engineers who have already mastered JavaScript. Node.js discussions are popular on GitHub, so they easily find answers to their questions. Node.js allows developers to use one language for the front-end and back-end. Hiring an experienced Node.js partner, you make sure that both the client-side and server-side of your web app will work well.

Node.js is a viable option for performant web development

Node.js uses JSON without converting between binary models. The runtime applies JavaScript for JSON, which forms the ground for seamless communication. Effective data transfer, in turn, leads to many other benefits of Node JS, including fast performance and speed, responsiveness, flexibility, and efficiency.
The study by Chaniotis, Kyriakou, and Tselikas tested the viability of Node.js in the social era of fast-performing and modern solutions. As the result shows, not only is Node.js viable, but it also significantly outperforms its competitors. Node JS demonstrates effective resource utilization and an ability to handle dynamic content.

Why Node.js Is Bad

Here is the other side of the coin. Let’s check the drawbacks and risks of using Node.js.

Nested callback issue

While working with Node.js, developers have to avoid running multiple queued tasks in the background. Otherwise, they will face the risk of falling into callback hell. A callback is a function that runs when Node.js finishes some task in a queue. If there are too many callbacks in the background, they get nested too deep and lead to the so-called callback hell. Such a situation makes code difficult to understand and maintain.

This is because of the asynchronicity of Node.js. However, callback hell happens mostly because a developer uses unclean code or lacks experience. Thus, the best way to avoid such situations is to hire a Node.js development partner who works only with a clean code and knows how to simplify or refactor it.

Processing CPU-intensive requests

When it comes to intensive computation tasks, Node.js doesn’t perform that well. We have talked about the principles under which Node.js prioritizes requests. Yet, the described effectiveness does not refer to CPU-bound requests.

When Node.js receives an intensive computation task, it immediately gives it a number-one priority. Being heavy in nature, CPU-intensive tasks slow down the work of the runtime. This is why Node.js is not the best choice for the solutions requiring heavy computations.

Yet, in 2018, the so-called worker threads module was introduced. It allows for multithreading in Node.js, enabling the runtime environment to carry heavy CPU tasks. The module enables executing JavaScript in parallel.

Duplication of the ecosystem effort

In terms of the ecosystem contributions, there is much quantity and not that much quality. Node.js developers often struggle with choosing the best package among the thousands of options available. Moreover, not all of the presented packages are of high quality.

Do not worry about the quality of the basic Node.js — it is maintained by its creators. When it comes to the quality of additional tools and components, they frequently do not meet the code quality standards. However, this disadvantage will not affect your web application if you choose a reliable Node.js development company with year-long experience and knowledge of the best practices.

Is Node.js the Right Choice for Your Project?

In this article, we have analyzed Node.js pros and cons to check whether this technology may help your business. As you see, there are numerous benefits of Node.js web app development but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Yet, it is the best choice for building scalable and fast-performing software products.

If your project is targeted at a wide audience and you are going to scale your business up, this technology will help you reach your goals. Moreover, if you expect your potential solution to process multiple requests at the same time, you should also choose Node.js. With a reliable software development partner, you will prevent situations when your website is down and you lose clients.

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