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How to Talk Tech: What Is Node.js?

Sure, you may have mastered the difference between Java and JavaScript, but suddenly your back-end software engineers are throwing around the term “Node.js” like it’s that popular new kid in town who everyone wants to be friends with but who you’ve never met because you were at band camp over the summer.

So why’s everyone so wild about Node.js? And what the heck is it, anyway?

Opening up JavaScript’s world

Node.js is a server-side platform for building fast and efficient web applications. It was created in 2009 by programmer Ryan Dahl with the goal of making it easier for developers to build scalable network applications, taking V8, the Chrome engine that interprets JavaScript, and making it run outside the browser on the server side. Node.js allows developers to write server-side code in JavaScript, the same language used for front-end development.

Node.js operates on what’s called an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model, which makes it efficient in handling multiple simultaneous connections. This makes it ideal for real-time web applications, such as chat applications, online games, and streaming services.

Node.js also opened up a whole new world to JavaScript developers, who have wholeheartedly embraced it. It has expanded the usability of JavaScript by allowing it to be used for server-side programming. This has had a profound impact on the developer world, as it has allowed for the full-stack development of web applications using just one language. This has made the development process more streamlined and efficient, as developers no longer need to switch between different languages for front-end and back-end development.

Everyone loves Node.js

Node.js has also made it possible to build real-time, scalable applications with ease, which has led to its widespread adoption by companies and organizations of all sizes. Some of the biggest companies that use Node.js include Netflix, Walmart, PayPal, Uber and LinkedIn, who lean into its ability to handle large amounts of data, its high performance and its ease of use. 

With such an enthusiastic following, Node.js has developed a robust ecosystem through the Node.js package manager, or npm, which also made it easier for developers to add functionality to their applications and collaborate with others. These modules and packages can be easily integrated into projects, saving time and effort for developers.

So now that you know what Node.js is and why it’s great, you’re ready to introduce yourself to the latest, greatest thing in JavaScript and back-end development and make a new best friend. 

In recent years, other JavaScript interpreters have also emerged, such as Deno, by the same creator of Node but written in Rust, and Bun, written in Zig. These initiatives are interesting because they offer more interpreter options, but for now they’re just experimental options and Node remains the reliable solution.

And don’t worry, Node.js totally thinks band camp is cool.


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