It’s a great language for beginners and a must-know for anyone interested in UI or front-end development. Node.js can be more elusive to wrap your head around. And guess what: it’s not even a programming language!
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Unlike other server-side platforms, like the Apache HTTP server, Node.js is a single-thread server, meaning it just has one thread of execution versus multiple (read more about single vs multi-threaded processing here). It is also, however, completely asynchronous. All of Node.js’s associated libraries are also asynchronous. It’s based on an event strategy. A call to an API is made, but execution continues instead of pausing the thread until the response comes back. Instead, a notification event is issued when the API’s response is received, allowing other code to be executed in the meantime.
Just because the Node.js processing is single-threaded does not mean you can’t take advantage of your environment’s multiple processing cores. Child processes can be spawned using Node.js’s child_process.fork() API. Node.js is an open-source platform that is used by a lot of big tech companies, meaning that it is actively developed, a lot of documentation exists, and most questions are answered on popular software development forums.
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Having two separate languages for the client-side and server-side can be frustrating, as there’s added complexity and expertise needed to develop and maintain the system.
If your application falls into the category of data-intensive real-time applications (DIRTs) or requires a lot of I/O interactions, Node.js will perform significantly better due to its asynchronous and Event-driven nature. I/O, or input/output, refers to when your program interacts with the outside world. This could be the input from a user’s keyboard or saving some data to a database.
These I/O interactions are typically handled by sending a request and waiting for a response. With Node.js’s events, the request to save data can be sent off, the execution of the main process can continue without waiting on the response. When the response returns, it will be handled. This is significant because your main thread of execution isn’t waiting around and can get other things done.
Python is significantly more advanced when it comes to mathematical computations and machine learning. When it comes to large-scale development applications, Golang might also be a better option than Node for performance reasons.
Ultimately, it’s easier to get a job at startups if you can cover more of the tech stack. If you’re a whiz at frontend design and the customer experience all the way down to optimizing database queries and API integration, there’s nothing that can stop you. For that reason, it makes sense to broaden your skillset, particularly across both the front- and back-end if you want to work at smaller companies.
Someone with knowledge of Node.js could look into more of a full-stack development position. These jobs cover more of the development stack, and though you still need to keep in mind UX design and the customer’s experience, you’ll be responsible for the integration of the application’s different layers.
These tasks can often be more complex, and the pay reflects it. In the U.S., the average base pay for a full stack developer is $100K and can range up to $160K. Do be aware, however, you’ll need to be more knowledgeable about APIs, databases, and more complex backend systems. If you’re interested in this kind of role, it’s best to beef up your skills to include a more traditional backend language like Python, C#, C++, or Java.