Node.js was designed to run as a standalone program, as opposed to directly out of a browser. Node.js can, therefore, be used to write server-side applications with access to the operating system, file system, and anything else required to build fully functional applications.
So what is Node.js used for specifically? How can I use it?
The most useful application of Node.js is for real-time web applications, in contrast to the stateless applications that require the client to initiate communication and thus facilitate usage. Instead, Node.js plays a critical role for many major technology companies by allowing programmers to build fast, scalable network applications. This is possible largely because Node is capable of handling a huge number of simultaneous connections with high throughput, which allows for major scalability (an easy way to save time, money, and future development hours).
In addition to the broad/general uses and functions of Node, here are just a few of the specific things you can do with it:
- Chat - Because of the variety of connections and variables as well as the importance of user experience, Node.js is particularly well-designed for creating and maintaining chat rooms on websites for customer service, community, or other functions.
- Queued Inputs - For companies and apps that manage large amounts of data, which can quickly bottleneck with less-streamlined processes, Node.js offers an elegant solution to avoid taxing a database.
- Data Streaming - Node.js offers the ability to process files as they upload/download, which saves time (and is important for video or audio encoding).
- Proxy Server - Node is easily usable as a server-side proxy that can handle a large amount of simultaneous connections in a non-blocking manner. This functionality is especially useful for proxying different services with different response times, or collecting data from multiple source points.
- Application/System Monitoring Dashboards - Essential for any web business or app owner, Node.js offers solutions for analyzing real-time traffic and tracking visitor data. For companies attempting to compile this information for sales and targeting purposes, this is an invaluable tool.
So why should I learn Node.js?
Additionally, Node is also rapidly becoming a key part of the tech stacks of major companies around the world - companies that not only hire, but influence others looking for successful best practices to use on a smaller scale. As demand only continues to grow as a result of this process, Node.js is an invaluable library to add to your developer toolkit to make you an invaluable resource to work on real-time web applications.