14 May, 2021

5 min.

What Is Node.js Used For? 5 Top Implementations

It provides a lot of benefits but there are a few use cases when it's especially helpful. Here's when to use Node.js.

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Introduction

You may already know that Node.js is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine that uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model to achieve efficiency while remaining lightweight.

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:

V8

Initially built for Google Chrome, V8 is an open-source JavaScript engine developed by the Chromium Project for Google Chrome and Chromium web browsers. It compiles JavaScript directly to native machine code before executing it, allowing it to achieve fantastic runtime performance.

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.

Unified API

Because Node.js adopted popular server-side development patterns, it can be readily combined with a browser or database that supports JSON for a unified JavaScript development stack.

Data streams

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.

The ability to easily output data in chunks gives Node.js developers the power of composability in their code and makes the JavaScript runtime particularly suited for building scalable network applications.

What is Node.js used for? – examples

Node.js has proved itself useful for developing applications that make use of the ability to run JavaScript both on the client as well as on the server side.

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.

Learn what in Node.js used for by discovering how to create a great chat application with Node.

> 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

In the world of JavaScript development, command-line applications don’t get much attention. However, the reality is that most larger organizations use at least some custom-made command-line tools.

Thanks to libraries such as commander, yargs, and oclif, creating command-line applications with Node.js is simple, fast, and extremely cost-effective. As such, Node.js empowers developers who are not familiar with traditional backend languages to use JavaScript outside the web and develop various work automation solutions.

Learn what is Node.js used for by discovering all about browser games that can be build with it.

> 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

The idea of using JavaScript to program microcontrollers and prototype internet of things devices may sound strange, but hardware programming is quickly emerging as a major use case of Node.js. There is now even a port of Node.js with far lower system requirements, called low.js, which allows Node.js to run on cheap, power-efficient microcontroller boards based on the ESP32-WROVER module.

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.

Node.js is an extremely versatile JavaScript run-time environment that executes JavaScript code outside of a browser.

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!