What Are the Differences Between Node.js and Python?

JavaScript is one of the basic building blocks of a web page. Together with HTML and CSS, it creates a responsive and dynamic web application. However, JavaScript code can also run outside of the browser with the help of a runtime environment like Node.js. Today, companies like NASA and PayPal use Node.js to build scalable web applications. 

Python, on the other hand, is incredibly popular outside of the web and is considered data science royalty. The latest TIOBE index placed Python in the top spot as the most popular programming language based on search engine results and the number of skilled programmers and resources available.

When looking at Node.js vs Python, it is essential to look at their defining features and other factors that make them unique. This can help you decide if you should choose one over the other or if they can help you achieve your career goals. Let’s start with an overview before we go over the differences between Node.js and Python.

What Is Python?

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Python was first released by Guido van Rossum back in 1991 and was intended to be a replacement for the ABC language. Python is general-purpose, interpreted, high-level, and dynamically typed. It’s also object-oriented and designed around code readability. To that extent, it has good whitespace and built-in indenting that makes the code look a lot better. 

Python is open-sourced for commercial projects and otherwise under the GPL license. It has a rich standard library and supports garbage collection. Python can also integrate with many other languages and platforms using the Python Package Index (PyPI) third-party modules. Python is debatably the language of choice for software developers in the AI or machine learning field. 

What Is Node.js?

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Node.js is not a programming language or a framework. It’s a runtime environment that executes JavaScript code outside of the browser. Since JavaScript is typically a client-side language, Node.js makes it easier for developers to build the whole stack using the same language. 

Node.js was created by Ryan Dahl and was first released in 2009. It’s built using Google Chrome’s JavaScript Engine, also called the V8 Engine. It’s open-source and built around server-side applications. Node.js also acts as a library. It includes a rich library of various JavaScript modules which simplifies the development of web applications using Node.js.

Node.js can run on OS, Windows, and Linux. It is also part of the popular MEAN and MERN stacks. It has a wide range of uses, which makes it an ideal choice for new coders to learn. There is also a strong Node.js community of developers who help each other with projects.

Python vs Node.js: An In-Depth Comparison 

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Learning the difference between Node.js and Python can help you understand which tool is best to learn for your desired career goals.

Python is a general-purpose language used for many applications especially machine learning, while Node.js is a runtime environment for JavaScript typically used for server backends. Now, let’s look at how Node.js vs Python compare to one another.

Node.js vs Python: Typing and Syntax

A lot of developers agree that Python is easy to learn. It’s highly recommended as a first language because its syntax is easy to pick up. JavaScript, while very useful, is a little bit harder to learn considering it has advanced in many ways over the years. Those new to coding may find it challenging to become familiar with good coding practices in JavaScript. 

Python is also built around readability. For example, instead of curly braces to delineate blocks and lines of code, Python uses indents. Therefore, all code written in Python will be more neat and readable than code in a language doesn’t use indents. It can also be much more forgiving since it doesn’t use semicolons. 

JavaScript is also more difficult to debug than Python. JavaScript tends to fail silently, which means that while your code doesn’t return any tracebacks for an error, it may still not run smoothly. However, programmers coming from C and C-like languages might be able to pick up JavaScript faster than Python because JavaScript’s syntax is closer to C. 

Python vs Node.js: Speed and Performance

When looking at Python vs Node.js performance, it’s essential to remember that they are pretty close in form. They are both interpreted, dynamically typed, and high-level technologies that work with popular languages in coding. However, when benchmarked, Node.js comes out on top. 

Part of this performance comes from the Node.js interpreter: the Chrome V8 engine. This engine is built around speed and it definitely shows, bringing JavaScript closer to compiled and typed languages in terms of raw speed. This makes it a good choice for building real-time web applications and desktop applications.

With that said, Python isn’t slow either. It’s only slow when compared to Node.js for crunching large numbers. For most casual applications, the difference will be immeasurably small. Unless you’re trying to handle huge traffic as Google or Facebook does, or you’re trying to count large datasets, you’re probably not going to be losing much of your day running Python over Node.js.

Node.js vs Python: Libraries

Both Node.js and Python have a huge community of developers. They, in turn, create a plethora of libraries that allow community members to execute specific tasks without having to write code from scratch. In other words, libraries afford developers code reusability, allowing for a quicker software development process. 

Some of the more popular Python libraries include Pandas, NumPy, and Tensor Flow which can be used to perform data management, simplify mathematical equations, and train machine learning models.  Meanwhile, Node.js users can utilize libraries like Express, React, and Request to perform multiple tasks in a more efficient manner. 

Python vs Node.js: Applications

Python and Node.js have various real-world applications. Python can be used for backend development when used with frameworks like Django and Flask but it is more beneficial for professionals in data science and machine learning. On the other hand, Node.js is built around making JavaScript work as the backend for web apps and websites, and not much else.

Backend Web Development

The first point goes to Node.js by default because it uses the same language as most front end systems, which is JavaScript. If you use Python for backend systems, chances are your front end will still be written in JavaScript. While Python may have prewritten assets to help this transfer, you may still run into some issues when building something custom. 

Learning Node.js is also preferable for its speed and performance, making it an ideal language for real-time applications like instant messaging. Because of this, it’s also good for high-load applications or vendor applications where speed of processing is important.

Python still has some benefits for the backend, however. Python is reliable and consistent. It’s also easier to use and set up, and more friendly to beginners. It’s also preferable for scientific purposes. If your backend needs to perform data science or machine learning-related functions, then Python will work well for you. 

Data Science and Machine Learning

With Python, you have a springboard for starting in data science where a variety of modules and frameworks are readily available. Python is a popular choice for data scientists today which means you can also access various learning resources. While it’s possible to build data science models in Node.js, it isn’t preferred because you would have to build everything from scratch.

You might argue that Node.js is better for data science because it’s more efficient when computing large numbers (and you wouldn’t be wrong). However, if speed is a requirement, most developers would opt for C languages instead of JavaScript. This is because they are faster and have existing communities built around them for data science, just like Python.

However, there are some tools available for machine learning with Node.js and JavaScript. The Tensorflow.js library, for example, provides the opportunity for people to try out machine learning right in their browsers. While it may gain speed in the future, JavaScript just isn’t the best choice for developing machine learning applications at the moment. 

Node.js vs Python: Scalability

Scalability refers to the system’s capacity to scale without having to fully rework the base code. This is important because today’s applications need to adapt quickly to increasing requests or fluctuating processing demands. A lot of experienced programmers agree that Node.js and Python have great scalability potential.

Python is great because it has built-in data structures, dynamic binding, and dynamic typing. This allows developers to add, remove, or tweak lines of code almost seamlessly as they scale an application. Meanwhile, Node.js is best when used for building network applications, real-time applications, JSON API servers, and distributed single-purpose applications.

Python vs Node.js: Community

Both Python and Node.js are supported by active communities of developers. This provides new programmers with access to an abundance of learning tools and resources that can help them learn Python and Node.js easily. If they are stuck, they can easily ask another experienced developer for assistance. They can also refer to online tutorials or enroll in free courses.

If you are new to Python and Node.js, you may not even have to worry about writing everything from scratch. Thanks to the huge communities of developers, there are plenty of libraries available that can help you skip through the arduous legwork and go straight to achieving specific tasks in development.

Node.js vs Python: Salary and Job Outlook

Both Python and Node.js are useful skills to have especially if you are venturing into backend development or data science. These career fields are also expected to see significant growth between 2021 and 2031. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software development jobs will grow by 25 percent while data science jobs will grow by 36 percent in that period.

When looking at Python vs Node.js salaries, it is evident that both skills can help pave the way for a lucrative career. According to Payscale, those with Python skills make an average of $94,000 a year holding positions such as data scientists and analysts. Meanwhile, those with Node.js skills make an average of $95,000 in roles like software developers and engineers.

Should You Use Node.js or Python?

Node.js and Python are both useful depending on your career field.  If you’re planning on working in a web development field, picking up JavaScript would probably be the wisest choice. Not only you can master client-side programming, but you can also expand your skillset by using JavaScript for backend development using a runtime environment like Node.js. 

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a career that is geared toward data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence, Python would likely be the better choice. It also has a simpler, cleaner syntax which makes it more accessible to beginners. Ultimately, when choosing between Node.js vs Python, it all depends on the intended use, career goals, existing skills, and interest. 

Pros and Cons of Node.js

  • Pro. Can multitask and build scalable applications.
  • Pro. Supported by active communities of developers.
  • Pro. Efficient handling of processing requests.
  • Con. Lack of library support compared to other technologies.
  • Con. JavaScript knowledge is required.
  • Con. Can be impeded by heavy computation.

Pros and Cons of Python 

  • Pro. Beginner-friendly and easy to read.
  • Pro. Supported by large communities of developers.
  • Pro. Huge collections of libraries and resources.
  • Con. High memory consumption.
  • Con. Weak in mobile computing.
  • Con. Not as fast as other languages like C++ or Java.

Node.js vs Python FAQ

What should I learn first, Python or Node.js?

If you are a coding beginner, you should learn Python first before Node.js because it is a beginner-friendly language that introduces you to the fundamentals of programming. To learn Node.js, you need to know how to code in JavaScript which adds an extra step to your learning process. 

Is Node.js faster than Python?

Yes, Node.js is faster than Python because it runs on the powerful Chrome’s V8 engine. This allows it to handle higher memory and processing speed. Python, on the other hand, executes the code line by line which leads to a slower speed. It also has a high memory consumption which may impede your development process. 

How are Python and Node.js related?

Python and Node.js are related in the way that they both support backend development. However, they do not work in the same way. Python is a programming language with multiple use cases including backend. Meanwhile, Node.js is a runtime environment that allows you to code JavaScript outside of a browser, allowing for an entire stack to run in one language.  

How can I integrate Python with Node.js?

Both Python and Node.js are used for server-side development so typically, you would use one over the other at a time. However, in some instances, you can use Node.js to run a Python script using the standard child_process module. External libraries like JSPyBridge can also help you use Python in JavaScript.

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