What is Node.js: in detail

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Gündem 29.12.2022, 22:52
What is Node.js: in detail

What is Node.js: in detail

What is Node.js? How does it work? What are the benefits, and how to use it properly? Check the guide!

Node.js: one of the most popular solutions on the market

Node.js is a Javascript runtime environment that processes data very quickly as well as is easy to scale. In this article, you will learn what you can do with it, why it is enjoying growing popularity, where the strengths lie, and why you may have already had more experience with Node.js than you think. To understand Node.js in its entirety, we also explain some basics of Javascript. Let's get started!

Javascript – the basis of Node.js

If you already have a working website built with Node.js, you are a lucky guy: such platforms are really convenient. But the basis is Javascript. The Javascript programming language allows you to make your website flexible and dynamically adapt content. Classic application examples for this are "sliders" or code snippets, which adapt the size to your customer's device and thus ensure an optimal display. Furthermore, user input can be checked for a specific scheme, for example. This allows you to ensure that the e-mail field may only be sent with valid input. You can control your website with logic and conditions as in any other programming language.

But Javascript can do much more. You can provide your customers with simple applications such as a live ticker and highly complex applications or small 2D/3D games. Google Maps is a very good example of how powerful Javascript is. 

Almost every web developer has already used Javascript to add a different CSS style to an element of the DOM (Document Object Model) or subsequently add content to a list. The DOM is the interface between scripts and the elements of your website. All images, texts, tables, and their styles can be addressed and changed by the DOM. By pressing a button, you can, for example, move the color scheme from light mode to dark mode or dynamically adapt a menu to a device. Your browser executes Javascript on your PC or smartphone after the HTML and CSS have been loaded – so we are generally talking about a code execution on the client side (also called the frontend).

This is how Node.js works

Node.js is a runtime environment for Javascript that does not depend on a host application such as a web browser. This means that you can also run Javascript on the server side (also called a backend) and use it to develop server-side scripts, tools, and web applications. This also makes Javascript attractive for backend developers because, for such areas of application, you otherwise need knowledge of other programming languages, such as PHP, Python, Ruby, or ASP.NET.

With Node.js, one can unify web development and get the opportunity to use a programming language – both in the front and backend. This results in some advantages:

  • Javascript is one of the easier-to-learn languages.

  • You can use the same naming conventions in the front and backend so that you have a tidy and consistent code base.

  • As a developer, you no longer need different tools to develop but can continue to use the tools you already know.

Areas of application of Node.js

While Javascript is mainly used in the frontend for manipulation of the DOM, Node.js is mainly used to receive data in the backend, store it in databases (SQL, MongoDB, ...), and deliver the processed data again.

What do I need backend services for? Many applications on the Internet and apps on your computer or smartphone are pure controls for the customer. The apps themselves communicate with the backend services via an interface and exchange data. The actual work takes place in the backend, on servers in the data center, or in the cloud. There, the data is received, checked for validity, and stored in a database. Other processes are initiated, such as sending e-mails or push messages, and workflows are started depending on what kind of service it is. Your data will be processed and returned to you in some form or displayed in your app.

Advantages of Node.js

What makes Node.js so special? On the one hand, Javascript is one of the easier-to-learn languages and thus represents a minor entry barrier. Furthermore, Node.js is highly scalable and quite fast in processing data. This is partly due to the fact that Node.js can work asynchronously and in parallel. Normal Javascript is actually "single-threaded" and processes data sequentially, which means that only one action can be started at a time – and when this action is edited, the remaining components are waiting for completion. For this purpose, an asynchronous event system is offered that enables parallel work without having to use complex multi-threading architectures. The calling function is notified of the termination of the process using a callback function at Node.js. In the meantime, you can complete other tasks in parallel.

In addition to performance, a package manager (npm – Node Package Manager) is included, which provides you with a huge (if not the largest) number of open-source packages. It is at your leisure and ensures that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. So you can get started directly with the core logic of your services. With the help of npm, modules, including all dependencies, can be searched for, installed, kept up to date, and deleted again. 

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