Node.js vs. React.js comparison

node and react

In this article, we will compare Node.js and React.js, review their history, analyze their applications, and say some words about their usage in modern web development.

What is Node.js

Node.js is an event-driven cross-platform environment to build the back end of applications (server-side) using a JavaScript runtime environment.

Built on Google’s V8 Engine, Node.js is a go-to environment for developers already specializing in JavaScript because, with that knowledge, they don’t have to learn a new technology or a new programming language to use it. 

Simply put, we can say that Node.js is JavaScript outside your browser.

Node.js history

In 2009, Ryan Dahl took Google Chrome’s V8 engine, usually confined to a browser, added an event loop, package manager, and a low-level I/O API embedded inside a C++ program, and ran it on his computer.

 Node.js opened a whole new world of what JavaScript could do: access the files, listen to network traffic and HTTP requests, access databases directly, etc.

Node.js allows JavaScript to do anything one could with PHP, Ruby on Rails, or Python.

Who uses Node.js

Node js is used to write server-side scripting, create command-line tools, and produce dynamic web pages. Moreover, Nodejs provides an event-driven architecture that can perform I/O operations asynchronously.

In 2022, Node.js is being used by more than 15 famous companies, such as Netflix, Uber, NASA, Paypal, Twitter, Yahoo, GoDaddy,eBay, Medium and Trello, and several other clients.
Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey results are out, and Node.js is continuing to stay at the top with a 51.9% stake as the most popular web framework for Web app development. It is also the second most popular project on GitHub, with over 89,000 stars. Surprisingly, Node.js popularity and the demand of developers has surpassed that of PHP developers – the oldest, most widespread web technology.

Speedtest.net, a popular tool for benchmarking internet speed, uses Node.js. Among many others, the top reasons why companies use node js apps are better developer productivity, lower development cost, and higher app performance.

Node.js key features 

Following are some of the most important features that make Node.js the first choice for software architects.

Open-source

Node.js is a free and open-source framework.

The Node community is enormous, and the number of permissive open-source projects available to help you save time is mind-boggling. These libraries range from simple helpers and charts to full-blown frameworks.

Efficient

Node.js is designed for high-performance networking applications. The performance of Node.js applications comes from two main factors: single-threaded event looping and non-blocking I/O API. 

Being built on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript Engine, the Node.js library is very fast in code execution, so developers can perform non-blocking operations, enhancing web app performance.

node react development

Implemented in JavaScript

Node.js is written in JavaScript, one of the world’s most used software languages. Most programmers are already well-versed in JavaScript, its principles, and other basic and advanced concepts. This makes Node.js easy to understand and learn. Additionally, JavaScript is also used in the tech stack for front-end development, and using Node.js, developers can make full working web projects by only knowing JavaScript.

Open for unit testing

Unit testing is a software testing method in which individual pieces of code (usually the smallest piece of code that can be logically isolated in a system) are tested in isolation. Unit tests should be isolated so that there are no external dependencies.

It can be used to test that individual units in an application are working correctly, as opposed to integration tests focusing on verifying interfaces between components. The problem with testing JavaScript code is that it runs in a browser or node.js environment where there isn’t access to anything other than what’s already there.

Node.js unit testing helps you to ensure the quality of your product.

No buffering

Node.js applications never buffer any data. These applications simply output the data in chunks.

Built-in APIs

Node has built-in APIs. Consequently, Node.js allows developers to create different robust and efficient servers like DNS servers, TCP servers, HTTP servers, and more.

Scalability

Node.js uses a single-threaded model with event looping. The event mechanism helps the server to respond in a non-blocking way and makes the server highly scalable as opposed to traditional servers, which create limited threads to handle requests. Node.js uses a single-threaded program, which can provide service to a much larger number of requests than traditional servers like Apache HTTP Server.

The majority of companies want applications that are highly scalable and robust. Node.js can handle concurrent requests effectively while balancing all active CPU cores. This feature of Node.js makes it very favorable for developers to use. Furthermore, the different versions of Node.js cater to the various aspect of the client hence making with highly customizable.

Cross-platform

Node.js is compatible with several platforms, such as Unix, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, etc.

Node Package Manager (NPM)

NPM is another excellent feature of Node.js. It is the world’s largest online repository. NPM helps manage the local dependencies of a project. It has around 50000 to 80000 packages in its public online repository.

node js programmer at work

Node.js programming example 

Here is a simple example of how to build a server on this computer using Node.js:

var http = require(‘http’);

// Creating a server object

http.createServer(function (req, res) {

  res.write(‘Hello Lemonians!’);

   // End the response

   res.end();

}).listen(4000);

The output will be as follows: 

Hello Lemonians!

Node.js frameworks comparison

There are many trendy technologies in the world of web development. Choosing one Node.js framework matching your requirements and the needs of your web app is challenging. Different factors may influence your decision.

However, considering the criteria such as scalability, ecosystem, and functionality of a specific framework simplifies the task. So, we recommend:

  1.  Analyzing whether the framework doesn’t limit you in any way in implementing the project.
  2. Choosing a framework with an active community and extra educational materials.
  3. Functionality is a subjective factor that may vary for different projects.

Here are the top Node.js frameworks which you should know about:

  • Express.js: the most popular among others;
  • Nest.js: a framework for building streamlined and scalable backend apps;
  • Next.js: a framework for building superfast and user-friendly apps;
  • Nuxt.js: a framework for building single-page and universal apps easily;
  • Fastify: a framework with the least overhead costs.

Pros and cons of Node.js

A sluggish and unresponsive application can ruin a business. Node.js, however, has been a knight in shining armor, ready to step in and save the day the web and mobile apps with its powerful and flexible principles. 

So, here is a brief list of Node.js’ pros:

  1. High performance for real-time applications;
  2. Easy scalability for modern applications;
  3. Cost-effectiveness with Fullstack JS;
  4. Community support to simplify development;
  5. Adaptability and simplicity for developers new to this technology;
  6. Help with building cross-functional teams;
  7. Improved app response time and improved performance;
  8. Reduced time-to-market for your applications;
  9. Extensibility to meet custom requirements;
  10. Reduced loading time with quick caching;
  11. Help with building cross-platform applications;
  12. Own package manager.

Following are the areas where Node.js is proving itself as a perfect technology partner:

  • I/O bound Applications
  • Data Streaming Applications
  • Data Intensive Real-time Applications (DIRT)
  • JSON APIs-based Applications
  • Single-Page Applications

To be unbiased, let’s now present core Node.js disadvantages.

  1. Reduces performance when handling heavy computing tasks;
  2. Node.js is prone to multiple code changes due to unstable API;
  3. Node.js asynchronous programming model makes it difficult to maintain code;
  4. Lack of library support;
  5. High demand with a few experienced Node.js developers;
  6. The callbacks are nested;
  7. Works for web servers only;
  8. Troubleshooting relational database problems;
  9. It is not advisable to use Node.js for CPU-intensive applications.

What is React.js?

React, or React.js, is a front-end open-source JavaScript library. It was created by Jordan Walke and was initially released in 2013. Nowadays, it is maintained by Meta (formerly Facebook) and a community of individual developers and companies.

One can use React.js in the development of user interfaces. React can be used to develop the front end of both web and mobile applications. 

It’s incredibly flexible, and its API has no dependencies on jQuery or other libraries — contrary to most JavaScript frameworks.

However, React is only focused on state management and rendering that state to the DOM, so creating React applications usually requires additional libraries for routing and certain client-side functionality.

Who uses React.js

Many developers learn React because it can be easily used to create aesthetically pleasing and interactive user experiences while increasing developer productivity. React.js allows you to package website components, while React Native focuses more on mobile app development. Using this component-based coding approach, you can eliminate code repetition and increase web application speed.

React is used for creating interfaces that are fast and versatile. It is one of the most widely used JavaScript frameworks. Many top websites in a variety of industries are built with React. The most famous companies that use React include Meta (i.e., Facebook and Instagram), Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, and The New York Times.

Famous companies that use React

React.js main features

Virtual DOM 

React uses Virtual DOM (document object model) to enhance the performance of applications.

 It is the most crucial part of the web as it splits into modules and executes the code. Usually, JavaScript Frameworks update the whole DOM at once, which makes the web application slow. But React uses virtual DOM, an exact copy of real DOM. The whole virtual DOM is first updated whenever a web application is modified, and the difference between real DOM and Virtual DOM is found. Once it finds the difference, DOM updates only the recently changed part, and everything remains the same. 

JSX (JavaScript Syntax Extension) 

JavaScript XML of JSX helps developers to write the building blocks. JSX is a combination of HTML and JavaScript. You can embed JavaScript objects inside the HTML elements. JSX is not supported by the browsers; as a result, the Babel compiler transcompile the code into JavaScript. JSX simplifies the code and makes it understandable. It is easy to learn if you know HTML and JavaScript.

Easy maintenance 

React is easy to maintain because its virtual DOM is rendered automatically due to a render() function. React makes it so you don’t have to worry about updating all the elements after your data changes, which can be tricky in other frameworks.

Simplicity 

React.js is component-based, making the code reusable, and React.js uses JSX, a combination of HTML and JavaScript. This makes code easy to understand and easy to debug.

Developer toolset

In addition to its size and speed, one of the biggest differences between React and other frameworks is that it is essentially a developer toolset as much as it is a development framework.

Performance

As we discussed earlier, react uses virtual DOM and updates only the modified parts. So, this helps the DOM to run faster. DOM executes in memory, so we can create separate components which allow the DOM to run faster.

Stable code

React guarantees code stability and better app performance using only downward data flow.  

Extension

React has many extensions that we can use to create full-fledged UI applications. It supports mobile app development and provides server-side rendering. React is extended with Flux, Redux, React Native, etc., which helps us to create a good-looking UI.

Component-based architecture

React.js divides the web page into multiple components as it is component-based. Each component is a part of the UI design, which has its own logic and design, as shown in the below image. So, the component logic, written in JavaScript, makes it easy, runs faster, and can be reusable.

One-way data flow

Usually, frameworks feature a two-way data flow, meaning that an entire application also changes or requires a change whenever you make a change. When it comes to React, though, it features a one-way data flow that ensures code stability.

Conditional statements

SX allows us to write conditional statements. The data in the browser is displayed according to the conditions provided inside the JSX.

Syntax:

const isLemonPressed = true;

if (isLemonPressed)

    <p> You will get a pressed-coded lemonade! </p>;

else 

    <p> Simply hello world! </p>;

}

React programming example

import React, { Component } from ‘react’;

class App extends Component {

   render() {

      return (

         <div className=”App”>

         <>

            <h1 style={{color:’#fff’, backgroundColor:’#000’}}>

WE ARE LEMON.IO 

</h1>

         </>

         </div>

      );

   }

}

export default App;

Output:

Pros and cons of React.js

Important pros

  1. It’s search engine optimized. React.js renders code from the server to the browser like a typical web page, unlike previous JavaScript frameworks.
  2. Creating dynamic web applications becomes easier.
  3. It updates comparatively faster. 
  4. Thanks to the reusable components, the written code is relatively short.
  5. Search engine optimization is just as important as the content itself, which should be considered before developing a website. But why are we bringing SEO up in the article about React? This JavaScript library is one of the best tools for creating SEO-based web apps!

Several cons

  1. Due to frequent environmental changes, some developers do not feel comfortable relearning new ways of doing things. It may be hard for them to adopt all these changes with continuous updates. They must always be updated with their skills and learn new ways of doing things.
  2. Flux architecture is a depressingly complex view layer that employs JSX, a hybrid of JavaScript and HTML.
  3. Problems with SEO: Google used to have problems indexing websites rendered on the client side. Nowadays, the situation looks much better, but such issues may still arise from time to time. The solution would be to set up a server-side rendering and check the website with Google Search Console to see if it indexes properly.

Node.js vs. React.js comparison

Node.js vs. React.js: which is better?

Node.js is a perfect framework when you want to develop a server-side web application like an online streaming platform. React.js is best suited when you want to create a project with evolving states like dynamic inputs, buttons, etc.

You can also use both frameworks for a single project. You can develop the backend with the Node.js framework and use React.js for the front end. The best example of such integration of frameworks is Netflix. Both frameworks have large and active community support. The choice between the two depends on your needs and requirements.

Conclusion

React.js and Node.js are two of the most popular open-source JavaScript frameworks, but they differ in their approach to several tasks. For example, while React is mostly used for building websites and user interfaces, Node.js enables developers to build server-side code.