What is Node Js Server Side JavaScript?

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment that works on the back-end. It is the most popular tool for projects that involve you running JavaScript outside the web browser. Node.js is a framework used for server-side JavaScript programming, otherwise known as back-end development. 

Understanding Backend Development

Fullstack applications usually have two sides– the front-end and back-end. An application or website’s front-end consists of the parts of the website that are visible to the user and on which they operate. 

You will create the front-end of a website using HTML (for structure), CSS (for styling), and JavaScript (for behavior). The HTML, CSS, and JS code runs on the client’s web browser; the reason it’s called client-side development.

The back-end of an application or website consists of things that run on the server-side of that application. In other words, back-end code doesn’t run on the client’s browser like front-end code but the server. In some cases, the result of the back-end processes will reflect on the website’s front-end.

For example, when you visit a website that shows live sports scores, the front-end will have a basic structure, styling, and behavior. However, you’ll observe that the scores are constantly updated automatically; the developer does not manually carry out these updates. Instead, it is the result of preset logic on the back-end to get the live scores and send those results as updates to the front-end.

The back-end of every application must have a server; this server is a computer or program dedicated to serving the application with the website’s business logic. Databases and APIs are two other essential components you’ll regularly find on the back-end.

You can use several options for server-side programming; languages like PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby-on-Rails, Java, and (in this case) Node.js.

JavaScript For Back-end?

When you write JavaScript for front-end purposes like DOM manipulation, its execution is limited to the browser. JavaScript written for the front-end cannot access a user’s computer. In fact, the original reason for JavaScript’s creation was to be a scripting language that runs on the browser to add functionality to websites.

It is also a good idea that random websites cannot reach into a user’s computer and access the file system, networks or processes. Granting such access could lead to attacks by malicious websites and hackers planting viruses and bugs on users’ computers.

However, there are cases where such access to a computer is necessary. For instance, you might need to create a website that runs JavaScript code on a web server (which is your web host’s computer). Node.js allows you to take JavaScript from the browser to interact directly with the computer’s hardware and send the results back to the browser. 

Node.js was written initially by Ryan Dahl in 2009, about thirteen years after the introduction of the first server-side JavaScript environment, Netscape’s LiveWire Pro Web. The initial release supported only Linux and Mac OS X.


How To Install Node.js

To use Node.js on your system, you need to install the software; to do so, follow the steps below:

  • Open the Node.js download page and download the LTS or stable version on your browser. 
    The website will automatically detect your Operating System. However, if you want to download the installer for another OS, select it on the list shown.
Node.js installer download
Node.js installer download
  • Open the installer and accept the default settings (except you want some custom settings).
  • Once the installation is complete, you can confirm if it was successful by running the following command in your CLI:
node -v

Advantages Of Node.js

With the existence of many server-side programming languages these days, here are some features that make many developers choose Node.js:

1. Asynchronous Or Non-blocking

Node.js uses the asynchronous or non-blocking programming technique. Asynchronous programming enables your program not to wait for a particular task to complete before it goes to the next. For instance, if the server is waiting for a response from an API, it moves to the next task, and it only returns to the former API after an Event notification that the previous API call is complete.

2. One Language For All Web Development Needs

Most web developers already know JavaScript, and since Node.js is a JavaScript framework, it makes learning it easy. If you know JavaScript, using Node.js removes the learning curve of learning a new language’s syntax and operation. When you factor in the ability to use React or Vue for front-end development, you realize JavaScript is all you need for a full-stack development career.

3. Speed

The fact that Node is asynchronous takes away potential delay in application speed. However, building the framework on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript Engine is another reason it is swift.

4. Scalable Servers

Many tech startups don’t know how big they’ll eventually become when they begin; the last thing you want is to build the next Facebook and have to rewrite your whole codebase because your server isn’t scalable. Node.js uses a single-threaded model with event looping, unlike traditional servers like Apache HTTP Server, which creates limited threads to handle requests. You can therefore scale servers built with Node.js as your website grows.

5. Community Of Developers

Because it is one of the most popular languages for back-end web development, Node.js has an actively thriving community of developers. An active community means regular updates and bug fixes and more answers to the issues you run into on forums like Stackoverflow.

An excellent show of the community strength of Node is the Node Package Manager (NPM). NPM is a package manager where you can download already-built Node packages for free; these packages make it easier to carry out many processes on Node, thereby reducing your development time. 

6. Demand For Developers

Almost every developer tries to learn a language or framework for the opportunities to earn. Node.js’s popularity is extremely high and will only continue to rise as PHP drops in popularity. Examples of giant companies that use Node.js for their back-end needs are LinkedIn, Twitter, PayPal, Tello, and Walmart.

7. Free Of Charge

Node.js is released under the MIT license, meaning that it is free to reuse, redistribute and do whatever you want with it.

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