Node.js and your App Build

Back in the early history of the internet and online computing, JavaScript was invented to provide a way to run software within browsers – which turned out to be quite a popular way to do things, as it changed the internet from being just words and pictures to, well, what it is today. But just running software inside a browser can be quite restrictive; after all, a browser on its own can’t update according to changes in the wider world, or make use of outside databases, or call on clouds or networks or anything else that might be of use. So JavaScript developed, and that’s where Node.js comes in.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is a server-side platform for running JavaScript applications. In a way, it’s an intermediate translation between what happens on a screen and what happens in the guts of a computer – but it does this particularly well, and particularly quickly, even when it’s part of a big network. But what’s that got to do with apps? App development has changed drastically in the last five years. Until relatively recently, issues like bandwidth and network speeds were an almost-insurmountable obstacle to being able to create truly networked applications. Sure, you might have a database that updates every second, or even every half a second, and a program that can update as quickly as that can be useful in a lot of situations. But with the speed networks and hardware is capable of these days, customers are used to almost-instantaneous levels of response time, and anything less just won’t cut the mustard.

Safety in numbers

Node.js is open source, and is built on Google Chrome’s JavaScript runtime engine; this means it’s already got a solid and reliable community to keep it up-to-date and reliable. It has several advantages going for it: it’s very fast, as it’s single-threaded (meaning that it runs one event at a time, but can loop them rapidly to perform more complex functions), and also because it never buffers any data – it simply outputs data in chunks as it needs. This reduces response latency significantly, to the level where network performance is often the limiting factor. It also runs asynchronously, which means that it doesn’t have to wait for the results of one event to run the next one.

These streamlining characteristics make Node.js perfect for apps using data streaming, intensive real-time data, and in/out based programs. They can be somewhat limiting with CPU-intensive applications, but for transferring information rapidly between server and browser (or other networked locations) Node.js works extremely well. Think communication, market data, even some gaming solutions – Node.js might be just what you need.

The community around Node.js is another major part of its success. With a huge library, Node Package Manager, provided as part of the program, many of the most usual problems will already have solutions to them – and adjustments and adaptations are easy to come across.

If you’re looking to build an app that will rely on rapid communication and throughput of data, between servers, users, or any combination of the two, Node.js may well be the solution you’re looking for.

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