The backend can be considered as the brain of an application as it is responsible for the business logic and various sensitive operations under the hood. The backend of an application also influences the app’s quality, performance, security and scalability. All of this emphasizes the importance of efficient backend development. And when it comes to backend development, choosing the right tech stack is the key.

There are multiple options to choose from – Ruby, PHP, Python, Node.js, Go etc. and they are all good; which makes choosing one from the lot quite challenging. This blog is aimed at making this decision easier though we are only taking two options from that list above – Node.js and Go.

Node.js & Go

Before getting into the details, here is a brief introduction of the two.

Node.js is a Google Chrome V8 engine-based JavaScript runtime environment that first popped up back in 2008. The open source tool quickly established a thriving developer community while turning heads as a great tool to create web servers.

Go, which is also known as Golang, is a lightning fast, open source, cross-platform programming language introduced by Google a decade ago in 2009. Its creators wanted a programming language that combines everything good about existing languages in order to solve the most common problems that existing languages experience. They succeeded with Go.

Choosing between the two

To make the choice, we will take various factors into account including performance, concurrency, tools etc. Let’s start with performance.

Performance

A mobile app’s performance is measured by assessing various factors like load time, response time etc. and it directly influences mobile user satisfaction.

And when it comes to performance, Go is as good as C and C++, if not better. There are no virtual machines in Go, and it compiles to machine code which means programs are executed impressively quickly. The built-in garbage collector in Go identifies occupied memory that is no longer required, and frees it up for later use. This effective memory management also lowers the risk of security vulnerabilities considerably due to code encapsulation.

Node.js on the other hand is akin to JavaScript owing to its asynchronous, non-blocking nature. This means, smaller and simpler tasks are performed in the background without impacting the main thread. Additionally, it’s based on the V8 engine – the fastest JavaScript engine available. However, with JavaScript being an interpreted language, code execution takes longer in Node.js compared to Go.

So, performance-wise, Go ranks a bit higher than Node.js.

Concurrency

Concurrency in a mobile app is the app’s capability to efficiently utilize CPU to deliver great performance i.e. the app’s programs organize their execution into separate flows while facilitating communication between them utilizing only enough CPU power required for their execution. Concurrency is vital for apps that handle thousands of requests simultaneously. This attribute also translates to the app’s scalability

And concurrency is one of Go’s major benefits thanks to its lightweight Goroutines. The environment of Go allows developers to run a lot of Goroutines in parallel without using too much RAM while also hiding the complexity of the process.

The single-threaded Node.js may sometimes find CPU-bound tasks blocking the event loop which in turn slows down the program resulting in a slower app. Though this doesn’t always happen, it’s still something worth considering. Node.js already proved itself as a great choice to build super-fast, scalable apps. But the technicality that we just mentioned gives Go a slightly higher score again in terms of concurrency.

Tools

The right set of tools can cut app development costs significantly. When it comes to tools, Node.js is far ahead of Go.

Node.js features a microservices architecture which means that a single app is divided into smaller modules each with their own operational interfaces which makes adding new components to the app much easier and faster. This is complemented by Npm (Node.js package manager) that comprise over 800,000 ready-made ‘building blocks’ or tools that can be installed and used on the go.

Though Go has a smaller number of tools compared to Node.js, it features a great library brimming with features that don’t need third party support. However, the absence of a built-in GUI library drops Go’s scores here even further.

Node.js leads when it comes to the number of useful tools available.

Community

As both Node.js and Go are open source, it’s obvious that they both have communities engaged in improving them in many ways. They have repositories on GitHub as well. However, with Node.js being a more mature tool, its community is much bigger and more vibrant. It has reached 1 billion downloads and 56,000 stars on GitHub. So finding a Node.js specialist won’t be difficult.

The Go community, though smaller compared to Node.js community, keeps growing at a rapid pace every year. With Google offering great support to push Go into mainstream, migrating to Go doesn’t seem like a bad investment at this point.

What big corporates think about Node.js & Go

Netflix, arguably the world’s biggest media streaming platform, has their app built on Node.js, and they are only praise for the open source runtime environment. LinkedIn is another Node.js supporter along with Groupon which can now process more than 425,000 active deals without hassle thanks to Node.js.

As for Go, the list is impressive and growing. Uber, that used to rely on Node.js, migrated to Go in 2016 in order to improve the performance of their geofence lookup microservice. But there were other reasons too which is a topic for another time. In addition to Uber, Google, Docker, BBC, Intel etc. all use Go highlighting Go’s simplicity.

Conclusion

By now, you might have realized the fact that Go has great potential. Even so, it’s not possible to definitively say that one is better than the other. Making a choice between the two depends on type and traits of the app that one wants to build.

Go is great for microservices and enterprise-grade app development but Node.js has a plethora of ready-made solutions that significantly reduce custom software development time. If you still can’t choose between the two, drop us a line and talk to the experts at AOT.