Node.js vs Python: Choosing The Right Back-End for Your Web App

Node.js vs Python: Choosing The Right Back-End for Your Web App

Choosing The Right Back-End for Your Web App between Node.js and Python. Node.js and Python are among the most popular technologies for back-end development. In this article, we'll be bold and claim that one of these technologies is winning. The question is: which one is it?

In this article, we'll be bold and claim that one of these technologies is winning. The question is: which one is it? Let's jump on in and find out.

Background and overview

Node.js and Python are among the most popular technologies for back-end development. Common knowledge holds that there are no better or worse programming languages, and that everything depends on each developer's preferences.

Yet, in this article, I am going to be brave and claim that one of these technologies – NodeJS or Python 3 – is winning. Which one will it be? Let’s see.

The criteria that I am going to consider are:

  1. Architecture
  2. Speed
  3. Syntax
  4. Scalability
  5. Extensibility
  6. Libraries
  7. Universality
  8. Learning curve
  9. Community
  10. Apps it is best suitable for

Before I jump into a detailed side-by-side comparison, you can have a look at this infographic to get a general understanding.

node vs python

Brief overview

NodeJS

NodeJS is not a programming language but rather an open-sourced runtime environment for JavaScript. It was initially released in 2009 by Ryan Dahl. The latest version – NodeJS 12.6.0 – was released in July 2019.

The most outstanding thing about Node.js is that it is based on Google’s V8 engine. It is a virtual machine with built-in interpreter, compilers, and optimizers. Written in C++, this engine was designed by Google to be used in Google Chrome. The purpose of this engine is to compile JavaScript functions into a machine code. V8 is well-known for its high speed and constantly advancing performance.

Python

Python is an open-sourced high-level programming language. It was first released in 1991 by Guido van Rossum. The latest version is Python 3.8, and it was released in October 2019. But Python 3.7 is still more popular.

Python mainly runs on Google’s App Engine. Also developed by Google, the App Engine lets you develop web apps with Python and allows you to benefit from numerous libraries and tools that the best Python developers use.

NodeJS vs Python: 0 – 0

Architecture

NodeJS

Node.js is designed as an event-driven environment, which enables asynchronous input/output. A certain process is called as soon as the respective event occurs, which means that no process blocks the thread. The event-driven architecture of Node.js is perfectly suitable for the development of chat applications and web games.

Python

By contrast, Python is not designed that way. You can use it to build an asynchronous and event-driven app with the help of special tools. Modules like asyncio make it possible to write asynchronous code in Python as it would be done in Node.js. But this library is not built in most Python frameworks, and it requires some additional hustle.

This event-driven architecture brings Node.js its first point.

NodeJS vs Python: 1 – 0

Speed

NodeJS

First of all, since JavaScript code in Node.js is interpreted with the V8 engine (in which Google invests heavily), Node.js's performance is remarkable.

Second, Node.js executes the code outside the web browser, so the app is more resource-efficient and performs better. This also allows you to use features that cannot be used in a browser, such as TCP sockets.

Third, the event-driven non-blocking architecture enables several requests to be processed at the same time, which accelerates code execution.

And finally, single module caching is enabled in Node.js, which reduces app loading time and makes it more responsive.

Python

Both Python and JavaScript are interpreted languages, and they are generally slower than compiled languages, such as Java. Python is beat out by Node.js in this case.

Unlike Node.js, Python is single-flow, and requests are processed much more slowly. So, Python is not the best choice for apps that prioritize speed and performance or involve a lot of complex calculations. Since Node.js is faster, it wins a point in terms of performance and speed.

NodeJS vs Python: 2 – 0

Syntax

NodeJS

Syntax, for the most part, is a matter of personal preference. If I start saying that one is better and the other is worse, I know I'll face a lot of criticism and skepticism from our readers.

In fact, Node.js syntax is quite similar to the browser's JavaScript. Therefore, if you are familiar with JavaScript, you are not going to have any difficulties with Node.js.

Python

Python’s syntax is often deemed its greatest advantage. While coding in Python, software developers need to write fewer lines of code than if they were coding in Node.js. Python's syntax is very simple, and it is free of curly brackets.

Because of this, the code is much easier to read and debug. In fact, Python code is so readable that it can be understood by clients with some technical background. But again, it depends on personal preference.

But in the end, because Python's syntax is easier to understand and learn for beginners, Python wins a point here.

NodeJS vs Python: 2 – 1

Scalability

NodeJS

Node.js spares you the need to create a large monolithic core. You create a set of microservices and modules instead, and each of them will communicate with a lightweight mechanism and run its own process. You can easily add an extra microservice and module, which makes the development process flexible.

Also, you can easily scale a Node.js web app both horizontally and vertically. To scale it horizontally, you add new nodes to the system you have. To scale it vertically, you add extra resources to the nodes you have.

And finally in terms of typing, you have more options in Node.js than in Python. You can use weakly-typed JavaScript or strongly-typed TypeScript.

Python

In order to scale an app, multithreading needs to be enabled. But Python does not support multithreading because it uses Global Interpreter Lock (GIL).

Although Python has libs for multithreading, it is not "true" multithreading. Even if you have multiple threads, GIL does not let the Python interpreter perform tasks simultaneously but rather makes it run only one thread at a time. Python has to use GIL even though it negatively affects performance because Python's memory management is not thread-safe.

Furthermore, Python is dynamically-typed. Yet, dynamically-typed languages are not suitable for large projects with growing development teams. As it grows, the system gradually becomes excessively complex and difficult to maintain.

Evidently, Python loses out a bit to Node.js in terms of scalability.

NodeJS vs Python: 3 – 1

Extensibility

NodeJS

Node.js can be easily customized, extended, and integrated with various tools. It can be extended with the help of built-in APIs for developing HTTP or DNS servers.

It can be integrated with Babel (a JS compiler) which facilitates front-end development with old versions of Node or the browser.

Jasmine is helpful for unit-testing, and Log.io is helpful for project monitoring and troubleshooting. For data migration, process management, and module bundling, you can use Migrat, PM2, and Webpack.

And Node.js can be extended with such frameworks as Express, Hapi, Meteor, Koa, Fastify, Nest, Restify, and others.

Python

Python was introduced in 1991, and throughout its history a lot of development tools and frameworks have been created.

For example, Python can be integrated with popular code editor Sublime Text, which offers some additional editing features and syntax extensions.

For test automation, there is the Robot Framework. There are also a few powerful web development frameworks, such as Django, Flask, Pyramid, Web2Py, or CherryPy.

So, both networks are easily extensible, and both win a point.

Node JS vs Python: 4 – 2

Libraries

NodeJS

In Node.js, libraries and packages are managed by NPM – the Node Package Manager. It is one of the biggest repositories of software libraries. NPM is fast, well-documented, and easy to learn to work with.

Python

In Python, libraries and packages are managed by Pip, which stands for “Pip installs Python”. Pip is fast, reliable, and easy to use, so developers find it easy to learn to work with as well.

Again, both win a point.

Node JS vs Python: 5 – 3

Universality

NodeJS

Node.js is predominantly used for the back-end development of web applications. Yet, for front-end development, you use JavaScript so that both front-end and back-end share the same programming language.

With Node.js, you can develop not only web apps but also desktop and hybrid mobile apps, along with cloud and IoT solutions.

Node.js is also cross-platform, meaning that a developer can create a single desktop application that will work on Windows, Linux, and Mac. Such universality is a great way to reduce project costs since one team of developers can do it all.

Python

Python is full-stack, so it can be used both for back-end and front-end development. Similar to Node.js, Python is cross-platform, so a Python program written on Mac will run on Linux.

Both Mac and Linux have Python pre-installed, but on Windows you need to install the Python interpreter yourself.

While Python is great for web and desktop development, it is rather weak for mobile computing. Therefore, mobile applications are generally not written in Python. As for IoT and AI solutions, the popularity of Python is growing quickly.

In terms of universality, Node.js and Python go nose to nose. It would be fair to grant each a point here.

Node JS vs Python: 6 – 4

Learning curve

NodeJS

Node.js is JavaScript-based and can be easily learned by beginning developers. As soon as you have some knowledge of JavaScript, mastering Node.js should not be a problem.

Installing Node.js is quite simple, but it introduces some advanced topics. For example, it may be difficult to understand its event-driven architecture at first. Event-driven architecture has an outstanding impact on app performance, but developers often need some time to master it.

Even so, the entry threshold for Node.js is still quite low. But this can mean that there are a lot of unskilled Node.js developers. This might make it harder for you to find a job in such a busy market. But if you are confident and have a great portfolio, you can easily solve this problem.

On the other hand, if you're a business owner, you might face a problem of hiring low-quality specialists. But you also can solve this problem by hiring a trusted software development agency.

Python

If you do not know JavaScript and you have to choose what to learn – Python or Node.js – you should probably start with the former. Python may be easier to learn because its syntax is simple and compact.

Usually, writing a certain function in Python will take fewer lines of code than writing the same function in Node.js. But this is not always the case because the length of your code greatly depends on your programming style and paradigm. Another plus is that there are no curly brackets as in JavaScript.

Learning Python also teaches you how to indent your code properly since the language is indentation and whitespace sensitive. (The same is true for Node.js.) The problem with indentation and whitespace sensitive languages is that a single indentation mistake or a misplaced bracket can break your code for no obvious reason. And new developers may find it hard to troubleshoot such issues.

Installing Python is more difficult than installing Node.js. If you have Linux or Windows, you should be able to install Python with no problem. If you use MacOS, you will see that you have Python 2.0 preinstalled – but you cannot use it as it will interfere with system libraries. Instead, you need to download and use another version. When you're configuring the development environment, do not forget to select the proper version.

Both Python and Node.js are easy to learn, so it's hard to say objectively which one is simpler. It also is a matter of personal preference. So, once again both technologies receive a point.

Node JS vs Python: 7 – 5

Community

NodeJS

The Node.js community is large and active. It is a mature open-sourced language with a huge user community. It's ten years after its release and developers from all over the world have grown to love this technology. As a business owner, you can easily find Node.js developers. As a developer, you can always rely on peer support.

Python

Python is somewhat older than Node.js, and it is also open-sourced. The user community has an immense number of contributors with different levels of experience. Once again, should you be a business owner or a developer, you benefit from the large community.

Both Python and Node.js have great communities, so both receive a point.

Node JS vs Python: 8 – 6

Apps it is best suitable for

NodeJS

Due to its event-based architecture, Node.js perfectly suits applications that have numerous concurrent requests, heavy client-side rendering, or frequent shuffling of data from a client to a server.

Some examples include IoT solutions, real-time chatbots and messengers, and complex single-page apps.

Node.js also works well for developing real-time collaboration services or streaming platforms. However, Node.js is not the best option for developing applications that require a lot of CPU resources.

Python

Python is suitable for the development of both small and large projects. It can be used for data science apps, which involve data analysis and visualization, for voice and face recognition systems, image-processing software, neural networks, and machine learning systems. Python can also be used for the development of 3D modeling software and games.

Both technologies let you develop a wide range of apps. Which one is more suitable depends exclusively on what you need. Therefore, choosing a better one does not make any sense. Here, neither technology gets a point because they do not compete directly in this way.

Node JS vs Python: 8 – 6

To Wrap Up

Do you remember that I said I would prove that one technology is better than the other? Good!

But you also should remember that each software project has its own needs and requirements and you should choose your technology based on those needs.

A language that works for one project may not work for another project at all.

Now, I can draw conclusions. With the 8 – 6 score, Node.js is slightly ahead of Python. Keep these results in mind when choosing Python vs JavaScript for web development.

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