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Summary:

Sometimes, the geeks come out of the shadows and hit the mainstream consciousness. Remember the early ’00s and the rush of publicity for Ruby and Ajax as they became the calling cards of Web 2.0? Node.js looks like the next candidate for such mainstream elevation.

Jason Hoffman

Sometimes, the geeks come out of the shadows and hit the mainstream consciousness. Remember the early ’00s and the rush of publicity for Ruby and Ajax as they became the calling cards of Web 2.0? Or in 2008, when Hadoop, the open-source version of Google’s MapReduce, started percolating up to the mainstream media, highlighting the new era of big data analytics? Well, Node.js looks like the next candidate for such elevation to the mainstream.

Behind the computer science chatter about event-driven access to web servers as opposed to thread-based access and figuring out why JavaScript engines are so hot, here are some basic reasons why Node.js is hot and what it allows programmers to do.

It’s easier. It’s built to run in JavaScript, which has a huge developer base and has a warm and fuzzy community. Never underestimate the power of familiarity and friendliness.

It’s faster. We’re impatient people, as Facebook’s continued efforts to shave microseconds off load times illustrates. So, in addition to all the hardware used to speed up our servers, we’re optimizing our code not just in the application, but at the server to make things load that much faster. Much like Ajax offered a better browsing experience, Node.js offers a better web-serving experience.

It’s scalable. If you’re building a successful consumer-facing business, you’re going to eventually need a lot of servers (or a cloud provider with a lot of servers), and so whatever you plan to run on those has to be able to handle a massively distributed environment. Node.js does, which gives it an edge.

So why should non-programmer folks care about Node.js? For end-users, it’s just another weapon in the arsenal of technology being deployed to make the web faster and more responsive in a manner that’s cheaper to deploy and operate. That means your Facebook habits, YouTube viewing parties and other services are cheap or free.

As an added bonus, here’s a video of me interviewing Jason Hoffman, Joyent co-founder and chief scientist, about the popular development framework. Joyent is a huge supporter of Node.js, and its creator Ryan Dahl works there.

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  1. rabah vincent Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Hi,

    I have written several blog post in French about node.js, fill free to read them here :

    http://www.it-wars.com/categorie8/dev

    Regards,

  2. Not so sure. Unless Google buys them. Its not that huge and it seems network oriented … no?

  3. Thank you for introducing node.js. Isn’t it open source?

  4. What Beaker up there in the video doesn’t tell you is that async programming is full of serious problems. If you thought multithreaded programming was hard, asynchronous programming is at least 50 times harder. You now have to keep track of not only the state between the client and the server, but between the server and itself. Also, Node.js doesn’t take advantage of multiple cores so it’s pretty useless for heavy server code.

    1. Node.js is tuned for a single core. If you have multiple cores, run multiple instances. If you are tracking the state of the server and itself, either your architecture is flawed or you’ve chosen the wrong tool for job.

      Node solves a very specific use case and certainly isn’t for every project. When you need highly efficient non-blocking I/O, Node.js is an excellent choice.

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