Should I use Golang or Node.js for my Next App?

Faith Chikwekwe
Mar 11, 2019 · 6 min read
Image by Tiyani Ma on Unsplash

When I started working in backend development, Node.js was my training ground. As the name suggests, Node is a backend framework built on top of Javascript. For many modern developers, Node has been easier to use, more popular and more reliable than older options like PHP.

I recently began learning to build websites and applications in Golang (or Go). Both Node and Go came into existence in 2009, and while they are both pretty popular with back-end developers, Go has some significant differences from Node.

  • Popularity: Node.js is built on one of the most popular programming languages, while Go is still gaining steam.
  • Abstraction: Golang is a programming language that was made for server-side execution making its performance comparable to C or C++. Node.js on the other hand is a framework for writing Javascript that can be executed server-side. It is generally slower than Golang.
  • Threads: Golang was built with multi-threaded concurrency in mind. Node.js is single-threaded, and while it does make asynchronous work and concurrency possible with callbacks and worker threads, it is not ideal for this purpose.

This article will talk about the differences listed above as well as many other. Join me as we take a dive into both of these programming worlds.

Node is Everywhere

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The first positive point for Node is that Javascript, the language on which it is built, is ubiquitous across the internet. In the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Javascript was declared the most popular programming language. With respect to frameworks, Node was the most widely used. Other Javascript libraries, namely React and Angular, took second and third places.

The popularity of Javascript definitely makes it worth learning whether you are a beginner in web development or just looking to learn something new. You may have already guessed that job-seeking developers who have Node on their resume can increase their widespread hire-ability.

Node also uses the well-known “throw and catch” error handling approach. While this does come with some problems of its own, this approach to reading code and identifying errors is very readable.

Lastly, Node comes with npm. npm is a powerful network of packages and dependencies useable in any Node application that you simply install the from the command line to use. These modules are part of an open source community surrounding Node that encourages developers to write their own packages, make documentation and fix bugs in other packages.

Should I be Using Node?

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If looking to learn a first language for back-end development, then Node might be a good choice for you. It has loads of documentation online and there are thousands of tutorials, videos and articles on the topic that can teach you how to implement its various aspects into your own project.

Why are some Developers Shifting Away from Node?

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Like I mentioned before, Golang has a superior runtime to Node. Golang is a programming language which, among others reasons, was made to be fast, scalable and deliver these things easily.

Javascript (Livescript/Mocha at the time) was built in 10 days. Although the creator of Javascript was extremely innovative and there have been carefully considered improvements since its zeroth version, some of its intrinsic blemishes are still visible.

Additionally, Node is not made for concurrency. Since Node is single-threaded under the hood, its concurrency is based on using promises and callbacks via the event loop as well as the recent inclusion of worker threads.

While this does open a door, concurrency and asynchronicity in Javascript can lead to some complex and confusing behaviors if you are not an advanced Javascript developer perhaps leading to issues with scalability.

Go for Speed, Performance and Scalability

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Golang was made to be a fast, high-performance compiled language. It shares positive characteristics with both Python and C. It is a strongly typed language like C or C++. This allows for improvements in performance since its compiler (built in Go) can optimize more. It also avoids silly type-coercion errors that are so common in languages like Javascript and Python.

Go is built for concurrency. It uses “goroutines” to allow multiple threads with parallel tasks to perform work at the same time. This allows for further optimization and can make your application truly scalable.

The developers behind Go have built so many tools and assets into its native language that you do not need to download or install any packages to access the majority of its essential features. In cases where you do need external help, there are many libraries and frameworks at your disposal.

Based on Google’s principles of well-documented code, Go has a built in documentation system that produces autogenerated docs. gofmt (its formatting system) will enforce adding appropriate comments to any exported functions, variables or packages when you have your code graded.

Use Golang to Build Your Next Big Application

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After you’ve been coding for a while, you might come across an idea for an application or website that you might like to scale someday. If you build your app in Go you will reap the benefits of its speed and scalability, working with a dedicated community of developers who continue to improve the language on a regular basis.

Additionally, Golang is a language that is in strong demand. Go developers generally find themselves well paid. Since the market for Go is still growing, it seems that the future with continue to support this demand.

When Should I Avoid Go?

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For someone who is still learning to code, or who is not as familiar with back-end systems, you might find Node easier to learn. While Go’s errors become easy to understand after a while, its strongly typed nature might be daunting to someone who has only used weakly-typed languages (e.g. Python, Javascript) in the past. While it does have highly organized and comprehensive documentation, its libraries and frameworks have might still difficult to use while you are just starting out.

If you are curious about Go, go ahead and give it a try 😉. They do offer an online tour to introduce you to the basics. Websites like GoByExample breakdown concepts even further to help most everyone understand how to get started.

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Thanks to Braus

Faith Chikwekwe

Written by

Backend Software Engineer. Passionate about writing optimized, clean, well-documented code.

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