But what is Node.js used for? Are there any areas where Node.js has demonstrated itself to be the perfect solution? Let’s find out!
Designed to build scalable network applications
There are several features that make Node.js particularly well-suited for building scalable network applications:
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.
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.
Node.js applications never buffer any data thanks to the Stream module, which is an abstract interface for working with streaming data that makes it easy to build objects that implement the stream interface.
What is Node.js used for? – examples
According to a survey made by the Node.js Foundation, whose mission is to enable widespread adoption and help accelerate the development of Node.js, web applications are the top use case, with a share of 85%. But as the examples below illustrate, they are not the only one.
> 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.
> Streaming 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
And with robust IoT and robotics development platforms like Tessel 2, leveraging all the libraries of Node.js to create useful devices in minutes has never been easier.
Conclusion – when to use Node.js?
A list of enterprise-level organizations that have implemented Node.js in recent years has grown considerably in size: Netflix, Paypal, Uber. It is safe to say that Node.js will continue growing at a similar pace even in the future judging by the popularity of Node.js among software developers.
From chat applications that benefit from its asynchronous, event-driven nature to various embedded systems and internet-connected devices, the use cases of Node.js are just as numerous as the developers that love to work with it.
Since it provides lots of advantages, it’s no surprise that there are so many software development companies that use Node.js for web development. Cause it’s just fun!
This article is a part of Handbook:Node JS Development: All You Need to Know
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