Node.js vs Java

Used by millions of developers all over the globe, Java has remained one of the most popular programming languages for the last 22 years. Still, JavaScript holds the title of the most widely deployed language in the world, and its surrounding environments such as runtime like Node.js are gaining traction as well.

In fact, industry giants like eBay, LinkedIn, Groupon, Uber, and Netflix have been choosing Node.js over other solutions for building web applications.

So how does this newbie on the developer scene compare to a strong language like Java? Read on to find out.

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Java and Node.js: the basics

Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented, platform-independent, portable, and robust interpreted programming language, which was designed to be used in the distributed environment of the Internet. Java code can run on any Java Virtual Machine, which offers developers a lot of flexibility. Today, you will find Java in web and mobile enterprise applications – but also in smart cards, games, embedded systems, and even robotics.

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine, appreciated for its amazing performance and scalability. According to the 2017 survey by the Node.js Foundation, today Node.js is primarily used in web applications, enterprise applications, Big Data & analytics solutions, and embedded systems.

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If you're choosing between Java and Node.js, here are the key pros and cons you should take into account.

Java: pros and cons

Pros

  • A rock-solid foundation thanks to over 20 years of engineering;
  • A vast ecosystem of libraries developers can use to increase the speed of development;
  • Java Virtual Machine, which offers excellent stability thanks to its large number of unit tests;
  • Quality IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) and a collection of monitoring and debugging tools that are mature and ready for deployment, making developers' lives easier and their apps bug-free;
  • Proven tools such as Eclipse, NetBeans, or IntelliJ, which are integrated with servers, debuggers, and decompilers (plus a solid ecosystem of plug-ins), all of which make the development process faster;
  • With the right framework or thread-models that are part of the latest Java frameworks, it's possible to boost the speed of development to match the one of Node.js’s;
  • Incredible computation efficiency;
  • Great code maintainability.

Cons

  • The slow development process;
  • Works best if the code is clean and straightforward – if it deadlocks, your risk that the entire server locks up;
  • Configuring tools can take a lot of time;
  • Code migration might become an issue if you decide to move your business logic written in Java to the browser (in that case, you'll need to rewrite your code in JavaScript).

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When to choose Java?

Applications that are CPU intensive or CPU bound will benefit from Java. The same goes for applications with a vast code base – since Java provides strongly typed sources, refactoring it and bug fixing will be more straightforward during its maintenance. If your application uses RDBMS (Relational Database Management System), Java will be a great pick – it includes tools that provide multi-database support for object-relational mapping to make configuration easier when you switch to another database.

Node.js: pros and cons

Pros

  • A gentle learning curve for those who already know JavaScript;
  • Fast development – since frameworks and libraries do plenty of work, developers can build software much faster in JavaScript, and Node.js projects generally compile very quickly;
  • Offers a reactive style out of the box (something that's far more complicated in Java);
  • Includes a code re-use feature – that’s what makes Node.js so popular among developers, as it seriously boosts their productivity;
  • Provides developers with an opportunity to use JavaScript on server and client-side – developers don’t need to learn a new syntax.

Cons

  • Lack of IDEs – Node.js developers type code in text editors equipped with plugins, which is great, but a far cry from Java’s IDEs that make developers’ job easier;
  • The JavaScript ecosystem isn't as mature and reliable as the Java ecosystem.