What is Node.js?
Node.js. It’s the latest in a long line of “Are you cool enough to use me?” programming languages, APIs, and toolkits. In that sense, it lands squarely in the tradition of Rails, and Ajax, and Hadoop, and even to some degree iPhone programming and HTML5. Go to a big technical conference, and you’ll almost certainly find a few talks on Node.js, although most will fly far over the head of the common mortal programmer.
The good news is that you’re hearing (and thinking) about the right things. Node really is concerned with network programming and server-side request/response processing. The bad news is that like Rails, Ajax, and Hadoop before it, there’s precious little clear information available. There will be, in time — as there now is for these other “cool” frameworks that have matured — but why wait for a book or a tutorial when you might be able to use Node today, and dramatically improve the maintainability of your code and even the ease with which you bring on programmers?
A warning to the Node experts out there
Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve been working and playing with Node for a year or two, much of this article is going to seem pedestrian and overly simplistic. You’ll look for things like using Node on the client, or heavy theory discussions on evented I/O and reactor patterns, and npm. The reality is that while that’s all interesting — and advances Node to some pretty epic status — it’s incomprehensible to someone who is just getting started out. Given that, maybe you should pass this piece onto your co-workers who don’t know Node, and then when they’re buying into Node’s usefulness, start to bring them along with the more advanced Node use cases.