A decade has passed since its initial release, and Node JS has already secured its place in the open source hall of fame. Used by everyone from Microsoft to PayPal to Netflix, the list of enterprise-level organizations that have implemented Node JS in recent years has grown considerably in size, and it is safe to say that it will continue growing at a similar pace even in the future judging by the popularity of Node JS among software developers.
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Designed to build scalable network applications
There are several features that make Node JS particularly well-suited for building scalable network applications:
- Asynchronous: When a PHP web server is asked to open a file and return its content, it can not handle other requests until it returns the content. Unlike PHP, Node JS is asynchronous, so requests can be handled without having any dependency on one another, which improves efficiency and throughput. This design pattern is known as non-blocking code execution.
- Single-threaded: Using the single threaded event loop model, Node JS is able to handle multiple concurrent clients without creating multiple threads. This removes the performance cost of thread context switching and prevents errors arising from incorrect thread synchronization, which can be extremely hard to troubleshoot.
What is Node JS used for? – Examples
> Chat applications
Node JS is commonly used to develop real-time applications, also known as RTAs. Its asynchronous, event-driven nature, allows it to handle heavy input-output operations, which makes it much easier for Node JS developers to achieve the level of performance users have come to expect from modern real-time applications. When building chat applications with Node JS, it’s common to take advantage of the Socket.IO library, which enables real-time, bidirectional, and event-based communication between the browser and the server. With Socket.IO, it’s possible to build a group-chat application in less than 30 lines of code.
> Steaming applications
Being one of the largest media-services providers in the world is not easy, especially when your job is to offer streaming content over 150 million users around the world, which is why Netflix moved half of its API to Node JS in 2018. Thanks to Node JS, Netflix finally has a common language for both server-side and browser side, and it benefits from the asynchronous non-blocking I/O capabilities that make real-time and streaming operations with Node JS so easy and efficient.
> Command-line applications
> Browser games
Node JS can also be used for game development in combination with technologies such as HTML5 and Socket.IO to create single and multiplayer games that work directly in the browser without the need to install any third-party plugins. Node JS provides game developers with several tools that make it easier to manage the complexity of multiplayer games, including EventEmitter, which can be used to raise and handle custom events. What’s more, Node JS allows developers to share a lot of code between the client and the server.
> Embedded systems