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Node.js vs Python — What to Choose in 2020?

Both Node.js and Python have been growing in popularity over the last few years. Comparing Node vs. Python, StackOverflow claims Python to be one of the most used programming languages while Node.js is the best one for server development. In this article, we’ll take a look at the comparison of Node.js vs. Python, examine industry applications, and focus on main technical characteristics.

What is Node.js and when to use it?

Node.js is a runtime environment that’s based on JavaScript. Using Node, developers can build backend and frontend with a single unified stack. This distinctive feature allows teams to use the same skill set, quickly onboard new team members, and avoid re-hiring.

Node.js is great for real-time web projects (chats, trackers, API). The environment is used by Microsoft, Netflix, Walmart, PayPal, IBM, LinkedIn, GoDaddy, and other corporations.

Pros and Cons of Using Node.js

Pros

Node was created with web development in mind, so it addresses its main challenges. The crucial advantages include fast performance, regular library tools updates, flexible syntax, and efficient code sharing.

Powerful tech stack

Node.js is based on JavaScript, so you get access to the JS tech stack, its resources, and the community. Working with Node.js gives you the possibility to develop projects with MEAN Stack—a combination of MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, and Node.js to cover all needs of web development:

MongoDB for data management;

  • Express.js for efficient backend development;
  • Angular for front-end, running JS code to create a dynamic user interface;
  • Node.js for backend JavaScript development.

Fast event-based model

According to Toptal’s analysis of server tools’ speed and efficiency, Node.js is 2-3 times faster than Java, PHP, and Go. Node.js uses event-based programming to perform an algorithm of operations regardless of user actions. When a user clicks on a button, the program quickly presents a new page, or sends a message, or displays new content.

Flexible for microservice development

Having a package manager with free modules, developers can edit multiple modules at the same time, which is perfect for microservice architecture. PayPal and Netflix used Node.js to switch from monolith to microservices. This transition helped companies divide functionality in smaller chunks, improve testing and maintenance quality, and allowed teams to update on several features simultaneously thanks to the non-blocking nature of Node.js.

Rich ecosystem

Node.js package manager is also a collection of open-source JS plugins. NPM collects more than 840,000 libraries. JS and Node.js developers use NPM modules in more than 97% of web apps.

Cons

Together with JavaScript advantages, Node.js inherited some critical disadvantages. Mostly, the problem with Node.js is failing to adapt certain functionality to the needs of backend while copying features from a front-end language.

Performance issues

Node.js is based on JavaScript syntax that processes tasks with little CPU consumption rates. As you use Node.js for the backend runtime environment, CPU-bound tasks appear a lot more often. The structure of Node.js is sometimes inconsistent with high-load-CPU processes, which limits developers and slows down performance.

Immature tools

The core functionality has been tried and proven by the large development community, so there are barely any performance issues. Less popular NPM modules are poorly built, have bugs, and lack documentation. Node.js is open-source, so its updates don't undergo strict quality control, preferring a quantity-over-quality approach.

Callback hell

Node.js uses callbacks to track finished tasks. As project scales and the number of active processes grows, callbacks increase. At some point, developers risk getting lost in callbacks and miss crucial bugs or technical debt.

Challenges with Node.js

Overall, we can point out three main challenges a developer may face while working with Node.js:

  • Extensive tech stack. The high number of poorly monitored tools leads to inconsistent performance and a decrease in quality.
  • Tech debt accumulation. Callback hell and low-quality NPM modules lead to code bugs, readability issues, and technical debt.
  • Scalability problems. As the project grows, it gets harder for developers to spot a faulty module or read through callback hell. Testing and maintenance team has to spend a lot of time on cleaning up the code over time and schedule constant tech debt management sessions.

What is Python and when to use it?

Python is a universal programming language that is used for AI development, big data, scientific computing, automation, and backend development. Python is the choice for complex web projects that process a lot of data, rely on difficult calculations, and use AI and automation.

Pros and cons of using Python

Both Node.js and Python are used for web development, but Python has a lot more applications to offer. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of Python.

Pros

Though Python is not a language specifically for web development, there are some advantages worth mentioning.

Simplicity

Python syntax is very conversational, so the code files are highly readable. Getting the hang of simple tasks takes 10-30 minutes.

AI development and machine learning opportunities

Python has a lot of built-in AI libraries (Pylearn2, Tensorflow for neural networks, and Scikit-learn for data analysis).

Multiple spots for library hosting

Many hosting providers have native support for the Python code and allow integrating APIs and additional plugins. You can use AWS, A2 Hosting, TMDHosting, Digital Option, Heroku, and other popular platforms.

Cons

Due to its universality, Python is not the most efficient language when it comes to web development.

Low speed

The backend comparison of Java vs. Node.js vs. Python speed showed that Python is a lot slower in handling server-side operations. The language has many abstraction layers that take additional time to process to make it easier to read.

Mobile development struggle

Python is not a native Android or iOS language, and it’s not the best choice for hybrid development either. You can adapt the language to mobile development by using frameworks and platforms, but the performance will be slow.

Challenges with Python

Let’s sum up the main challenges of using Python:

  • Module name conflicts. Python modules are defined by their location and the location of their main scripts. Whenever you input a module, there’s a chance to confuse a name or location, and the input will not go through.
  • Poor handling of memory-intensive processes. Python manages data efficiently with automated data collectors and fast memory management. However, when the system is large, these CPU-heavy processes tend to slow down.

Differences between Node.js and Python

Now that we’ve reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of these tools, let’s compare the difference between Node.js and Python.

  • Scalability. Node’s scalability is easier to achieve due to its asynchronous structure, but Python works better for complex data-intensive projects.
  • Learning. Python is easier to learn at initial stages but at later stages, it becomes more complex. The prior knowledge of JavaScript will make learning Node faster.
  • Use cases. Node.js works best for microservices and small platforms: real-time apps, chats, messengers, content feeds. Python is more versatile — it accommodates big projects and allows AI integration and big data operations.
  • Memory-intensive processes. Node.js has multi-threading for CPU-intensive tasks. Python is slower but it can pull off more complicated operations.
  • Node.js vs. Python performance. Though Node.js is capable of integrating fewer tech stacks than Python, both platforms have almost the same performance.

The Python vs. Node.js comparative table

Node.js Python
A powerful runtime environment for asynchronous requests. Has good asynchronous support.
Developers can use JavaScript for frontend and backend. Developers have to learn another language but can write less code.
Callback hell decreases readability. Python allows writing highly readable code.
Some Node.js frameworks show even better performance than Python’s. Many powerful frameworks but less powerful on the web backend.
Suited for memory-intensive processes. Fits large projects.
Callback support (the event-callback system). Supports automated code generators.
JavaScript interpreter. PyPy interpreter.
The best option for real-time apps. Not the best option for real-time apps.
Not suited for complex scientific computing. Great for scientific computations.

Conclusion

Node.js and Python are both used for backend operations in web development. Node.js, however, is focused only on the backend, whereas Python is a general-purpose language, suited to many fields and tasks. Node.js is fast, lightweight, and has full-stack JS development. Python, on the other hand, has a simple structure, large AI and ML libraries, and an active development community.

To decide whether Node.js or Python fits your project best, you need to know which technologies you’d like to incorporate and define the basic functional requirements of the product. Contact TechMagic development team — we’ll take a look at your concept and suggest the best tech stack.

TechMagic is a software and web development company from Lviv, Ukraine that builds dedicated teams skilled in JavaScript, Node.js, Angular, React, AWS, Serverless, and Salesforce.
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