Last Updated on June 13, 2022

When it comes to web development, JavaScript is dominating the industry since its launch in 1995. However, JavaScript remained helpful in client-side scripting in the web browsers, with more than 97% of the websites using JavaScript for client-side development. Hence, developers had to use different languages for the front-end and back-end development, further complicating the application development. Thanks to the launch of Node.js in 2009, JavaScript can be used for server-side application development.

Let us know all about Node.js, the back-end, cross-platform, and open-source JavaScript runtime environment. Starting with its definition, need to use, architecture, and detailed work. Then, we’ll mention the key features of Node.js, its different parts, and its rising popularity of Node.js. Next, we’ll cover the critical applications of Node.js, Node.js files, Express servers, creating servers using express, etc. The widespread use cases of Node.js, NPM package installation, creating a simple program in Node.js, etc., make it easy for the developers to start using it. Let us begin with a quick definition of Node.js.

What Is Node.js?

Node.js is a free and open-source server environment that can run on different platforms like Mac OS X, Unix, Linux, Windows, etc. It uses JavaScript on the server and is a runtime environment. Developers use Node.js to add, delete, or manipulate data in the databases, collect form data, and generate the dynamic page content. Further, Node.js can perform different functions on servers like closing, opening, creating, reading, writing, or deleting multiple files. Let us know why developers prefer to use Node.js.

Why Node.js?

Node.JS

Node.js quickly eliminates the wait time and processes continue requests, unlike ASP or PHP. It runs on asynchronous programming, non-blocking, and runs on a single-threaded way. Hence, Node.js is famous as the open-source Chrome’s JavaScript runtime environment that helps create scalable web applications. Node.js can be used for both front-end and back-end development. Some of the main reasons that Node.js is used by developers globally include

1. High performance

The high efficiency of Nodes.js is due to the direct compiling of JavaScript code into the machine code. Google has invested a lot in improving the search engine’s performance, while Node.js is highly resource-efficient and accelerates application performance.

2. Increased development speed

The application development speed is accelerated using varied and lightweight tools. NPM package offers a set of libraries, modules, and solutions to create powerful applications without looking for different platforms. Hence, the time to market of application gets significantly reduced.

3. Single programming language

Node.js uses JavaScript for front-end and back-end development. Hence, the overall application development remains robust and seamless. The developers can stay productive and profitable while saving on money, resources, and technical skills.

4. Rich ecosystem

NPM takes charge of the rich ecosystem associated with Node.js. The ever-growing NPM library offers the developers much-needed help and ensures that Node.js remains a close aid in application development.

5. Full-stack & MEAN stack compatibility

JavaScript can bring multiple benefits to the different technological stacks like a full-stack, MEAN stack, etc. With the JSON module library, developers are using Node.js for other technical stacks.

6. Multiple application development

The developers can create cross-platform applications using Node.js. developers can create applications for desktop, mobile, Linux, Mac, Windows, etc., using popular frameworks like NW.js, Electron, etc. 

7. Broad community support

Node.js Foundation has a set of professionals from SAP, Fidelity, Microsoft, IBM, etc. Hence, the developers are never alone while using Node.js, which is further supported on Github to offer dedicated framework support.

8. Scalable

All Node.js applications are vertically and horizontally scalable. Hence, developers can add more resources to the current nodes in vertical scalability while the new nodes can be added in horizontal scalability. Startups and small businesses can go for Node.js due to the limited use of blocks in application development.

Node.js Architecture & How It Works?

It is easy for the developers to start using Node.js by understanding the architecture and working. Node.js works on the “Single Threaded Event Loop” architecture while maintaining different clients simultaneously. Before jumping to the single thread, it is essential to understand the multiple thread approach. In this, various clients send requests to the server, which are processed, and the responses are sent back accordingly. The multiple threads can process concurrent calls and are defined thread pools. Thus, a specific thread is assigned to a particular request.

Node.js uses limited threads. Hence, the request execution is faster as it utilizes the memory or resources to optimum limits. Overall, the multi-threaded architecture is ideal for data-intensive tasks, while Node.js prefers to go for the single-threaded event loop. 

Node.js’ working can be understood with the help of the following steps:

  • All the requests are served using the limited thread pool maintained by Node.js.
  • All incoming requests are placed in a queue by Node.js.
  • The single-threaded event loop waits for the request indefinitely.
  • This loop picks up the incoming request from the queue and confirms the need for blocking input/ output (I/O) operation. The loop accordingly sends the response.
  • If there is a need to block input/ output (I/O) operation, the event loop assigns a thread from the internal thread pool for processing the request. The group of auxiliary threads is called the worker group, and there are limited threads available in the system.
  • After processing the blocking task, the event loop tracks the blocking request and places them in the queue. Hence, the non-blocking nature of the loop is maintained.
Node.js Architecture

Features Of Node.js

Once you’re clear with the architecture, it becomes easy to understand the popularity of Node.js based on the main features. The key features of Node.js include the following:

1. Easy

Many newbie developers go for Node.js as it is an easy-to-use technology. Further, it comes with solid support from a large community and several tutorials, making it easy for the developers to solve their queries whenever they are stuck.

2. Scalable

Node.js is single-threaded, and hence it can handle a large number of continuous connections with high throughput. Therefore, it is highly scalable for creating multiple applications.

3. Speed

Node.js has superior speed and efficiency due to non-blocking thread execution.

4. Packages

The range of packages available in the NPM ecosystem ensures that developers don’t have to look beyond. All these packages are open-source and hence can be used by any developer from any location globally.

5. Robust backend

Node.js uses C++ and C. Hence, it becomes easy to add networking support and speedy application development.

6. Multi-platform

The multi-platform support from Node.js ensures that it is easy for the developers to create mobile applications, desktop applications, and SaaS websites.

7. Maintainable

It is easy to manage the front-end and backend using JavaScript as the single programming language in Node.js.

Understanding The Popularity Of Node.js

The popularity of Node.js can be estimated from the quick list of the top companies using it, including GoDaddy, LinkedIn, Reddit, eBay, Spotify, and Twitter. In the year 2018, only Node.js downloads had hit the one billion mark. It is easy for businesses to use Node.js due to the following key reasons:

Tierney cyren: Nodejs surpassed 1 trillion downloads
  • Node JS is proven to improve business productivity. After using Node JS, the top users, including PayPal and Netflix, saw a record rise in results and performance.
  • Node JS reduces the number of servers required to reach the client. It is observed that Node JS helps reduce the loading time by 50-60%
  • When it comes to the global use of Node JS, it is used in more than 85 countries and is available in more than 45 different native languages. Further, the total number of Node JS developers is set to cross 27.7 million by 2023.
  • Usage statistics of Node.js
Usage statistics of Node.js
w3techs: Usage statistics of Node.js

Parts Of Node.js

If any developer is awed by the popularity of Node.js, it is time to start using Node.js after understanding its main parts. These include

Parts of Node.js

1. Modules

These can be considered the JavaScript libraries used in the Node.js applications to include a set of functions. The “require ()” function is used to include the module in any Node.js application, where the name of the module is written in the parenthesis. Some of the popularly used modules in Node.js are:

// CREATING A WEB SERVER
// Include modules var http = require('http'); var server = http.createServer(function(req, res){
//write your code here
});
server.listen(2000);

Sr. No.Name of moduleDescription
utilIt contains utility functions for the developers.
2fsIt contains methods, classes, and events to manage I/O operations on different files.
3querystringIt contains methods to use query string.
4zlibIt contains methods to decompress or compress multiple files.
5httpIt contains events, methods, and classes to create Node.js http server.
6urlIt contains methods for URL parsing.
7streamIt contains methods for streaming data management.

2. Console

It is the dedicated module that offers a way to debug as the internet browsers provide to the JavaScript console. It helps print messages to stdout and stderr. 

// WRITING "Hello world" to console
console.log("hello world");

3. Cluster

It is the module that offers multi-threading by creating child processes. These run simultaneously and share the same server port. It makes the single-threaded architecture quickly to the multi-threaded.

  • Including cluster module in the application
var cluster = require('cluster');

if(cluster.isWorker){
console.log('Child thread');
} else {
console.log ('Parent thread');
cluster.fork();
cluster.fork();
  • Creating child thread by using fork() method

4. Global

All global objects like strings, modules, and functions are available in different modules. Some of the widely used global objects include:

Sr. No.Global objectsDescription
__filenameIt defines the filename of the code.
2exportsIt is a reference to the module. exports and is shorter for the developers to type.
3requireIt is used to import JSON, local files, and modules.
4moduleIt is a reference to the current module.
5__dirnameIt defines the name of the directory having the application code.

5. Error Handling

Error Handling
Node.js applications experience four types of errors.

Node.js applications may develop four different types of errors, including standard JavaScript errors, system errors, user-specific errors, and assertion errors. The common JavaScript errors are due to coding issues; the system errors are like file doesn’t exist, closed sockets, etc. The user-specific errors include errors entered by the users, while the assertion errors are logic violation errors. All these errors are handled through exceptions. 

try {
var = 1;
var n = 1/O
}
catch (err) {
// Handling the error here.
}

6. Streaming

It is easy to read or write data simultaneously in stream objects. Based on the functions, streaming can be readable, writable, duplex (both readable and writable), or transform (which can manipulate data while reading or writing).

7. Buffer

It is the module offering streams handling having binary data only. The empty Buffer of “10” length can be created using “ varbuf = Buffer.alloc (10);

var buf = Buffer.alloc(10);

8. Domain

It intercepts the unhandled errors in the system. The essential methods used for intercepting errors are internal binding and external binding. In the internal binding, the error emitter executes the code inside the run method. In contrast, the external binding technique explicitly adds the error emitter to the domain using the add method.

9. DNS

It allows name resolution and connects the Node.js to the DNS server. Hence, the DNS module can perform name resolution without reliable network communication. 

  • DNS resolve
Dns.resolve()
  • DNS lookup
dns,lookup()

10. Debugger

The debugger utility in Node.js can be accessed using the in-built debugging client. It supports simple code inspection. It is easy to use the debugger in the terminal by adding the “inspect” keyword at the start of the JavaScript file name.

$node inspect myscript.js

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Applications Of Node.js

After knowing the Node.js parts, it comes down to the critical applications. The essential applications of Node.js which are making it a success in the global development industry, are not limited to the following:

1. Real-time chats

Node.js allows streamlined real-time communications. It is highly scalable and is used to build chatbots. It has single-threaded asynchronous nature, which offers simple addition of chat features like push notifications, multi-person chat, etc.

2. Internet of Things

Node.js can handle multiple requests quickly and hence can be used for internet of things (IoT) technology. It consists of various sensors which can send small data chunks and pile up them in a large number of requests. 

3.  Data streaming

With data streaming gaining worldwide attention, leading companies like Netflix use Node.js for data streaming. It comes with a native streaming API and is lightweight and fast for multiple users’ platforms. The data can be directly streamed to the final destination by piping different requests from the streamers.

4. Complex single-page applications (SPAs)

The single-page applications need to load the whole application on a single page which hints at the multiple requests. Hence, a number of requests are made in the background for a number of components which is ideally managed by the Node.js’s event loop. It processes the requests in a non-blocking fashion and hence is ideal for complex single-page applications (SPAs).

5. REST API-based applications

It is easy for the servers to communicate with the frontend using REST APIs, which work on Node.js. As JavaScript is ideal for both frontend and backend of website applications, the in-built packages like Koa, Express.js, etc., facilitate the developers to create REST API-based applications.

What Is Node Used For?

After going through the quick applications of Node.js, it is easy to understand the primary uses of Node. Developers have used Node since its launch in 2009 to write JavaScript codes. These codes run directly on the system than on the browser, and hence server-side applications use Node. It allows complete access to the file system, operating system, and other functions needed to create detailed applications.

Node is written in JavaScript, C++, and C and is created on the open-source V8 JavaScript engine. These engines power JS in leading browsers like Google Chrome. V8 being a support to the new features is incorporated into the Node. Hence, Node.js is an open-source server environment and helps developers to run JavaScript on the server.

What Is A Node.Js File?

A Node.js file has the extension “.js.” These files are initiated on the server before starting any effect. These files have all the tasks used to execute events of trying to access any port on the server. Hence, a built-in Node.js file helps store, access, and manage data on the operating system. It is available as an “fs” core module in every Node.js project without the specific need to install it. Some of the commonly used features of Node.js files include

  • fs. appendFile to append data to a file,
  • fs. watchFile to get notified of the changes,
  • fs. readFile to read data from the files.

Node.js Express Framework

The express framework is the flexible Node.js web application framework that offers a range of features used to create mobile and web applications. Node.js express framework is used to design hybrid, multi-pages, and single-page web applications. It offers middleware setups to help applications respond to HTTP requests. The routing tables used to perform different actions on URL and HTTP methods are defined by the Node.js express framework. Further, it establishes the HTML pages to pass arguments to the templates through dynamically rendering. 

var express = require('express');
var app = express();

app.get("/", function(req,res){
res.send('Hello World');
})
var server = app.listen(8081,function (){
var host = server.adress().adress
var port = server.adress().port

console.log("Example app listening at http://%s:%s",host,port)
})

Creating Server Using Express

The server takes client requests through different software like Nginx or Apache, performs the assigned tasks, and sends the responses back to clients. Express is the framework that is used to create a server in Node. Express.js comes as a highly flexible and minimal Node.js web application framework that offers a set of dedicated features for mobile and web applications. Express.js is used to set up middleware in the applications and add route tables. It is easy to install Express using the following command:

Step 1: Open your terminal

Step 2: Create a file named index.js:

touch index.js

Step 3: Add this JavaScript code to it:

// import express (after npm install express)
const express = require('express');

// create new express app and save it as "app"
const app = express();

// server configuration
const PORT = 8080;

// create a route for the app
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  res.send('Hello World');
});

// make the server listen to requests
app.listen(PORT, () => {
  console.log(`Server running at: http://localhost:${PORT}/`);
});

Note: This simple server has only one working route (/). If you want to learn more about Routing

Run it from the terminal

Step 4: Run it

node index.js

Final Step: Result

Server running at: http://localhost:8080/

Now you can click on the link and reach your created server.

Node.js Use Cases

Some of the famous Node.js use cases include leading names which are not limited to the following:

1. Uber

Uber

It is the leading American multinational ride-hailing company that offers a range of services, including food delivery, ride service hailing, peer-to-peer ridesharing, etc. Uber’s top reasons for using Node.js include quick iterations, an active open source community, and asynchronous input and output.

uber website

2. NASA

NASA

It is the independent agency under the United States Federal Government which takes care of the aerospace research, aeronautics, and civilian space program. The organization’s IT team uses Node.js to keep the server active throughout the week, manage data-intensive tasks, and reduce the access time. 

NASA website

3. Paypal

It is a known name in worldwide online payments. This American entity is into online money transfers, electronic solutions to traditional paper methods like checks, money orders, etc. Paypal is using Node.js due to multiple reasons, including handling large data amounts, fewer lines of code, and quick build times.

Paypal website

4. Medium

Medium

It is a popular online publishing platform launched in August 2012. The company uses Node.js to simplify server maintenance, run A/B tests, and use data-driven applications.

Medium website

How To Install Node.js?

Node JS can be installed on different systems easily. 

1. macOS

macOS
  • Bash or Homebrew can be used to install Node JS on macOS.
  • Download the macOS Installer directly from the nodejs.org website.
  • If you want to download the package with bash:
curl "https://nodejs.org/dist/latest/node-${VERSION:-$(wget -qO- https://nodejs.org/dist/latest/ | sed -nE 's|.*>node-(.*)\.pkg</a>.*|\1|p')}.pkg" > "$HOME/Downloads/node-latest.pkg" && sudo installer -store -pkg "$HOME/Downloads/node-latest.pkg" -target "/"

Alternatives

  • Using Homebrew:
brew install node
  • Using MacPorts:
port install nodejs<major version>

# Example
port install nodejs7
  • Using pkgsrc:
  • Install the binary package:
pkgin -y install nodejs
  • Or build manually from pkgsrc:
cd pkgsrc/lang/nodejs && bmake install

2. Windows

Windows

All Windows users can directly download the Windows Installer from the node.js website. 

Download the Windows Installer directly from the nodejs.org website.

Alternative methods to install Node.js

  • Using Winget:
winget install OpenJS.NodeJS
# or for LTS
winget install OpenJS.NodeJS.LTS

After running one of the two commands above, it may be necessary to restart the terminal emulator before the node CLI command becomes available.

  • Using Chocolatey:
cinst nodejs
# or for full install with npm
cinst nodejs.install
  • Using Scoop:
scoop install nodejs

3. Linux

Linux

It is easy to install node JS on Ubuntu 18.04+ version using the following two commands:

“sudo apt update
sudo apt install nodejs.”

To Install on the following Linux Check the guide by nodejs.org

  • Alpine Linux
  • Arch Linux
  • CentOS, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Debian and Ubuntu-based Linux distributions\
  • Void Linux

How To Check The Version Of Node.js Installed

It is easy to check the version of the Node JS using node – v or node - - versioncommands. It helps determine the Node JS version, which may be like v14.16.0.

node -v

You can also check it via the longer flag

node --version

You should see an output similar to this. Though the version number might vary.

v14.16.0

What Is Node Package Manager (NPM)?

Node Package Manager or NPM is the package ecosystem of Node JS. It has more than one million packages and is still adding its list of open-source libraries globally. All the additions to NPM are created by open source developers globally and are free to use for all professionals. In addition, it comes with a command-line utility that can be searched from the NPM website. 

It is easy to choose from the list of the packages and install them using a single command. Moreover, the command-line utility can manage the NPM’s version, set up custom scripts in the projects, review dependencies, etc. Further, the excellent package support of the NPM attracts multiple developers globally.

Installing NPM Packages Via CLI

While installing Node JS, NPM is installed automatically along with it. The command for installing the package with NPM is

npm install <package - name> 

Multiple packages can be installed using the below command:

npm install <pkg - 1><pkg - 2><pkg - 3>

It is easy to specify “-g” or global flag if the package needs to be installed worldwide. Hence, it is easy to use the package anywhere on the device. While initializing a new application, a “package.json” file is created by the NPM, which contains different NPM packages. It is easy to define custom scripts, dependencies, and versions according to the requirements. It is easy to use various NPM commands like “run,” “audit,” “publish,” etc. The process of using these commands can be verified using the “npm help” command.

npm install (with no args, in package dir)
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<tag>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<version>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<version range>
npm install <alias>@npm:<name>
npm install <git-host>:<git-user>/<repo-name>
npm install <git repo url>
npm install <tarball file>
npm install <tarball url>
npm install <folder>

aliases: npm i, npm add
common options: [-P|--save-prod|-D|--save-dev|-O|--save-optional] [-E|--save-exact] [-B|--save-bundle] [--no-save] [--dry-run]

Popular Packages In The Node JS

Some of the popular packages used by the modern developers in the Node JS include:

1. Express

Express

Popularly called Express.js, it is the Sinatra-inspired web development framework for Node JS. Almost all of the Node JS applications are using Express packages.

2. MongoDB

It is a popular API for running MongoDB object databases in Node JS.

3. Socket.io

Socket.io

It offers streamlines communication using event-based, bidirectional, and real-time communication.

4. Lodash

Lodash

It is used to eliminate the issues of working with strings, objects, numbers, and arrays in Node JS.

5. Moment

Moment

It is a dedicated JavaScript library used for formatting, manipulating, validating, and parsing dates.

6. Commander.js

Commander.js

All the command-line interfaces in Node JS can be worked and created using commander.js.

7. Forever

Forever

It allows the script to run forever in Node JS. It is a CLI tool that keeps the Node JS process running in production in the event of any unexpected issues.

8. Async

Async

It becomes easy to work with asynchronous JavaScript and offers multiple functions that offer straightforward use of Node JS. It is a utility module used by various developers.

9. Redis

Redis

It is a widely used client library that offers dedicated support to Redis database integration.

10. Mocha

MOCHA

It is a test framework used for browsers and Node JS with its clean and flexible features.

11. Passport

Passport

It makes it easy to authenticate requests and offers dedicated authentication for Node JS.

Hello World in Node.js

It is easy to start creating the basic “Hello World” program in Node JS. It is one of the primary programs designed using a server in Node JS and returns the “Hello World” output as the server request. It is easy to start using a text editor.

// server.js
const http = require('http');

const hostname = '127.0.0.1';
const port = 3000;

const server = http.createServer((req, res) => {
  res.statusCode = 200;
  res.setHeader('Content-Type', 'text/plain');
  res.end('Hello World! Welcome to Node.js');
});

server.listen(port, hostname, () => {
  console.log(`Server running at http://${hostname}:${port}/`);
});

Now, run your web server using node app.js. Visit http://localhost:3000 and you will see a message saying “Hello World”.

node server.js
Hello World! Welcome to Node.js

Explanation Of Hello World Server

Let us go through a quick explanation of the Hello World server. It starts with the HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol and allows the Node JS to transfer data over it. Hence, in the “Hello World” program HTTP module is loaded in the program. Then, the createServer method is used to accept a request and return the response using a status code. The first defined port listens, and hence the first server is created in Node JS. 

Conclusion

With more than 30 million websites using Node JS, it is the perfect time to start understanding all about this JavaScript run-time environment. It is easy to understand the Node JS definition and the top reasons to go for it. It is easy to understand the working of Node JS architecture and go through its key features. Multiple statistics help understand the popularity of Node JS. Finally, it is easy to go through the parts of Node JS and appreciate its different applications.

The next line is the understanding of Node JS files, Node JS servers, and creating servers using Express. Some of the famous Node JS use cases make it easy to install Node JS and easy to check the version of installed Node JS. It is crucial to understand Node Package Manager and install it using CLI. Some of the popular packages using Hello World in Node JS help understand the explanation of servers. A quick list of the top questions related to Node JS makes it easy to start using it for different applications.

Frequently Asked Questions on Node.Js

What is Node JS in simple terms? 

Node JS is used to execute JavaScript code on the server-side, and it is an open-source development platform. It is used to create applications that require a consistent connection between the browser and the server. Hence, some popular applications created using Node JS include web push notifications, news feeds, and chat.

Is Node JS and JavaScript the same?

No, node JS and JavaScript are not the same. JavaScript is a programming language used for writing website scripts, while Node JS is the JavaScript runtime environment. JavaScript is used on the client-side or front-end development, while Node JS is used in server-side development. Further, JavaScript runs in the browsers, while it is possible to run JavaScript outside browsers using Node JS.

Does Google use Node JS?

Yes, Google uses node JS and is the Platinum member of the Node.js foundation. Multiple projects are running on Node JS. Further, Google has a good relationship with Node.js and the V8 JavaScript Engine communities. Numerous employees are working on Node from Google and JavaScript.

What are the skills required for a Node JS developer?

The skills required for a node JS developer are knowledge of front-end technologies like HTML5, CSS3, etc. Further, the developer must have extensive knowledge of frameworks, libraries, web stacks, and JavaScript. Additionally, a developer with an academic background in computer sciences feels it easy to understand the world of node JS.

Can I use Node JS instead of PHP?

PHP is the synchronous programming language, while node JS is asynchronous, non-blocking, and event-driven. Hence, Node JS can be used instead of PHP to create browser-based multiplayer gaming or chat applications. Further, all server-side PHP can be replaced with server-side JavaScript.

Which is better: Python or Node JS?

Python and Node JS are both popular when it comes to application development. However, Node JS is fast and widely used for real-time applications over Python. Python uses CPython as an interpreter, while Node JS uses JavaScript. Python is ideal for back-end applications, machine learning, and numerical computations when asked for specific uses, while Node JS is ideal for further website development and web applications.

Is Node.js Frontend Or Backend?

Node.js can be used for frontend or backend applications. Hence, based on the requirements, developers use Node.js for frontend or backend applications.

Is Node.js A Programming Language?

Node.js is not a programming language, but it is a runtime environment. Hence, Node.js allows running JavaScript outside the browser.

Author

I am an eCommerce consultant, a member of the Forbes technology council with a decade of experience in the ecommerce development segment. My expertise can make your business overcome any obstacles while you are dealing with the Magento ecommerce platform!