Node.js – the developer’s Swiss army knife
Mike Sedzielewski Oct 2 '17 Updated on Oct 09, 2017
Today, 8 years after it was created, the popularity of Node.js is blooming. It’s gone through the Java-community critique, grown a number of big corp early adopters and even made it into space. In this post, I’d like to share two things about this phenomenon; firstly, just how substantial the Node.js growth we’re seeing nowadays is and secondly, how new and noteworthy companies use it to support their business.
Node.js and tooling
- FogCreek, a long-standing software company from New York known for building Trello, has launched Glitch. This small yet powerful tool allows rapid Node.js prototyping for developers. The coolest thing about Glitch is that you can code and run and host a full-fledged web application using only your browser! On top of that, 2 or more developers can collaborate on the project real-time (like in Google Docs). This feature is useful for new developers onboarding even if they work remotely. Finally, when your MVP app or microservice skeleton is ready to crystalize, you can export it to GitHub and continue the work in a standard, day to day environment.
Now, let me present the 5 fast-growing Internet companies who successfully use Node.js in their business.
Node.js in social - Jodel
The Jodel app allows communities to show what's happening in their area in real-time. They started as a campus-centered app, but the geolocated tweet quickly became popular and emerged from the universities. Now, over 5 million people have downloaded the app and the “jodelling” can be heard in 12 countries.
Handling thousands of users and moderating hundreds of locations every day is a key challenge for the Jodel team. Fortunately, Node.js is built for exactly that; with Node.js scalability features, Jodel can consume and broadcast millions of messages every month without spending a ton on infrastructure. Speaking of infrastructure, to streamline application deployment the Jodel team uses Fightplan.js, one of those open source developer tools created and maintained by the very same community we mentioned earlier.
There’s more to it, of course. Using dozens of Node.js libraries and tools to scale their platform, Jodel became a genuine Node.js power user. It certainly wasn’t a goal in itself; the goal was to make millions of people happy about the app’s performance. And it wouldn’t be possible without Node and the community.
Node.js in education - meinUnterricht.de
k.lab, a Berlin-based edtech company, is the leader in the German teaching aids market. Started in 2011, they rolled-out their web platform - meinUnterricht.de - to most of the k-12 teachers in the country. Together with major publishers, k.lab converts traditional, paper-based materials into their digital and interactive counterparts. As if this wasn’t enough, the portal offers tons of quality educational videos too. The platform is used by thousands of teachers who visit meinUnterricht.de to browse its massive set of teaching content every day.
To process and deliver this number of documents, k.lab chose Node.js. The primary use case of their Node-based platform is to keep content workflow alive. This includes: copyrights processing, optimizing content for multiple devices, uploading it to the cloud and finally handling users’ downloads. Also, k.lab uses the Node-based web server - express.js - to run the meinUnterricht website. Its role is to provide teachers with content according to their subscription plan.
Such a complex application needs to talk to large numbers of 3rd party tools like search engines or subscription platforms. Fortunately, connecting Node to other services is easy because vendors gladly provide plugins for one of the most popular technologies.
Node.js in ecommerce - Grover
2 years ago, Michael Cassau, the founder of Grover, went on a journey to revolutionize the way we buy electronics. His platform enables you to rent a device. You hear me right. You can rent the newest iPhone or drone, pay for it as you go, and return it if you don’t need it anymore.
You can see that even the top CRM and e-commerce players like Salesforce or MailChimp support Node.js integration with dedicated software development kits. And this allows you to glue different systems to build a turnkey solution much faster.
Node.js in big data & image processing - ShareIQ
ShareIQ developed unique technology to recognize brand property in images scattered all over the Internet. They crawl and analyze millions of websites to learn how the marketing assets of their clients are used. The main goal of this analysis is to find influencers and reduce fraud.
Crawling, processing, and creating insights out of billions of images requires ultimate performance. The ShareIQ team has proven that Node.js is once again a perfect fit for such a use case.
Node.js in APIs - Voucherify
When reviewing the Grover case, we mentioned that their platforms talks to several marketing automation tools. Voucherify is one of them. The team behind Voucherify wants to empower marketing teams with a promotional infrastructure which so far was reserved only to massive e-commerce players. They do this by providing the dashboard and REST API to help you build and automate coupon, gift card, and referral campaigns.
There are 2 challenges: The first one is to map and automate the coupon lifecycle. This consists of generating unique codes, distributing them through various marketing channels like email or SMS, accepting redemptions from multiple customer touch points online and offline, and finally calculating the return on investment. The scale brings the second one. When you process millions of codes, you’d better have a performant system. Otherwise, the end customers will soon get disappointed when their codes don’t work at the checkout.
Voucherify uses Node.js, because Node.js, as we’ve learned from the previous sections, helps with both issues.
The cases I have put together show that Node.js can be used successfully in a number of different business domains. But what is it that makes me think these companies really are happy about Node.js? Well, Jodel, k.lab, Grover, ShareIQ, and Voucherify all happen to be our clients and we’ve seen how they go about all this behind the scenes.