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What is Node.js?


Before interpreting the concept of Node.js, it is important to have some fundamental understanding of JavaScript. JavaScript is commonly used as a part of web pages whose implementations allow client-side script to interact with the user and make dynamic pages. The execution of JavaScript files is done via an engine which is developed by the JavaScript developers and these engines are different for every browser, for e.g. Google Chrome has a V8 Engine that takes any JavaScript file and executes the command present in the file.


Now, these engines can only access the DOM (Document Object Model) elements of the web page and are restricted to other contexts like the file system, memory, network, etc. To make more use of the JavaScript language, some developers extracted the V8 engine from Google Chrome and provided the access to the context elements. The access to the V8 engine makes JavaScript to work or behave like a C or Java language.

Thus, node.js is a block that contains the V8 engine with the availability and accessibility of all the API in it (with the help of Node.js we can run the JavaScript outside the browser).


Node.js is an open-source, JavaScript runtime environment that is built on Google Chrome's V8 engine that can run web applications outside the client browser. It is used on the server and effortlessly develop fast and scalable web applications. It utilizes an event-driven, data-intensive, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight, efficient and excellent for real-time applications that run across shared devices.


Features of Node.js

  • Asynchronous and Event Driven − All APIs of the Node.js library are non-blocking which essentially means a Node.js-based server never waits for an API to return data. The server moves to another event and starts executing it while the previous API when returns data automatically deals with it at that point of time after completing the current event.

  • Fast Execution − Node.js is built on Google Chrome's V8 JavaScript Engine and has a library which is very fast in code execution.

  • Single-Threaded but Highly Scalable − Node.js uses a single-threaded model with an event loop which means that when a user makes a network call to the server it does not wait for the request to return instead it executes the next event and after the network call is done, it adds it in the queue. The event mechanism helps the server to respond in a non-blocking way and makes the server highly scalable.

  • No Buffering − Node.js applications never buffer any data. They essentially yield the data in pieces.

Working


When a client makes a request to the server which can either be intensive work (calculative work) or I/O intensive, then if the request is for the I/O intensive, the server might have to communicate with another server, file system or database which might take a few seconds to get the response which eventually makes the thread unavailable for another request. If there are 10 clients, then each gets a delay of let's just say 3 seconds, and to respond to the 10th client, it will take 30 seconds.

Node.js server has only one thread to communicate with the client which makes it unreliable in nature. It uses the concept of asynchronous and non-blocking I/O, in which when a client makes a request to the Node.js server, the single thread will send that request to the first worker which is a part of the Node.js server, then the Node.js make a request to the worker to fetch the result from the server/file system/database which makes the current thread free. If another client makes another request then again it will send that request to the second worker and again the thread gets free. When the response from the server is received while the second client request is still getting processed then the Node.js server uses a callback function which then goes into the event loop and gets added into the event queue.


Who Are the Workers that are Accepting the Request? Node.js uses the concept of Libuv which is a special library built for node.js but can be used as other applications as well. In Node.js, only one thread is used but behind the scene, the kernel is implementing multiple threads which are the workers themselves.

Use Case

  • Netflix - Netflix, the world's leading Internet television network with over 117 million users, is one of those top companies that trusted their servers to Node.js (the whole user interface on Netflix.com is built with Node). The engineers decided to use Node.js in order to deliver a blazing-fast, modular, and lightweight application. Accordingly, Netflix’s web app load time has been reduced by 70%.

  • WALMART - Walmart is the world’s largest retailer with approximately $481.32 billion global net sales in 2017. The development team especially appreciated Node.js' famous asynchronous I/O and its single-threaded event loop models that can efficiently handle concurrent requests.

  • UBER - Uber is an American multinational ride-hailing company offering services that include peer-to-peer ride-sharing, ride service hailing, and food delivery considerable challenge of ensuring a reliably excellent experience for its customers and drivers at a quickly-growing scale, Uber has built its massive matching system on Node.js.

  • PayPal - PayPal is an American company operating a worldwide online payments system that supports online money transfers and serves as an electronic alternative to traditional paper methods like checks and money orders. Originally PayPal shifted from Java to JavaScript by experimenting and developing two Java and Node.js applications at the same time. After two apps with the same functionalities, they were tested and compared, and here what the engineers learned: Node.js app was built almost twice as fast with fewer people, they were written in 33% fewer lines of code while developing in Node, and the app was constructed with 40% fewer files.

  • Medium - Medium is a popular online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams and launched in August 2012. Medium is a data-driven platform that evolves along with the users and their behavior. Node.js is particularly useful when it comes to running A/B tests to get a better comprehension of product changes and experiment with new ideas.

List of Node.js Alternatives

1. ELIXIR - It is a dynamic and functional language used in building scalable and maintainable applications. It is an Open Source and Compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux.

Features of Elixir:

  • Scalability

  • Functional Programming

  • built on top of the Erlang VM

  • It has Ruby-like syntax

  • It has dynamic typing

2. PERL – Perl is a stable, cross platform programming language. It is used for mission critical projects in the public and private sectors.


Features of Perl:

  • Mission critical

  • Object-oriented, procedural and functional

  • Easily expandable

  • Text manipulation

  • Unicode support

  • C/C++ library interface

3. ASP.NET - Either it is web-based applications, complex APIs, real-time development, or even Microservices, ASP.NET is a once such complete package. That makes it one of the top qualifying contenders and an alternative to Node.js.


Features of ASP.NET:

  • Server Controls

  • Master Pages

  • Working with data

  • Membership

  • Client Script and Client Frameworks

  • Routing

  • State Management

  • Security

  • Performance

  • Error Handling

4. CEYLON – It is a programming language that has a similar syntax to C# and Java. Few key highlights that define Ceylon are it being an imperative, statically typed, blocked structure, and object-oriented in behavior.


Features of Ceylon:

  • Cross platform execution

  • Modularity

  • Powerful type system

  • Type inference, flow-sensitive typing, and typesafe null

  • Typesafe metaprogramming

5. REBOL - Rebol is a cross-platform language developed for effective data exchange with the multi-paradigm approach. With Network communication being the prime purpose behind its functionality it is also suitable for the small, optimized domains – the specific language for coding data.


Features of Rebol:

  • Hierarchical graphical compositing

  • Visual interface dialect (VID)

  • Graphical effects and image processing operations

  • Multiple window support

  • Flexible event system

  • Standard image formats

  • Animation and timing

  • Launch and browse functions

Conclusion


Node.js came up with the idea of event-driven single-threaded server programming which is achieved by the callback concept. With the growing demand and popularity of JavaScript, server-side programming is really appreciable as it increases a lot of scope for JS developers, also there is no need to learn any extra language as it is totally based on JavaScript. Node.js gives developers a variety of options to choose from the NPM (Node Package Manager) which makes it more useful for developers to code without any hassle. But at the moment, if we say that Node.js is strong enough to replace PHP, Java, or .NET, it will be an overstatement.


References

  • https://www.tutorialspoint.com/nodejs/nodejs_introduction.htm

  • https://www.simform.com/what-is-node-js/

  • https://www.w3schools.com/nodejs/nodejs_intro.asp

  • https://www.simplytechnologies.net/blog/2018/4/18/8-top-companies-that-rely-on-nodejs

  • https://www.perl.org/about.html

  • https://www.educba.com/node-dot-js-alternatives/

  • http://www.rebol.com/rebol-view.html#:~:text=REBOL%2FView%20includes%20a%20fast,%2C%20emboss%2C%20and%20much%20more.

  • https://serokell.io/blog/introduction-to-elixir

  • https://www.simform.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/node.js-architecture.png

  • https://www.simform.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/traditional-vs-node.js-server-thread.png

Keywords: Computer Science, Programming Language, Node.js, Computer Language, Java, PHP, ASP.NET, JavaScript


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