31 min read

Node.js vs Next.js: Runtime Environment vs Framework

Next.js and Node.js are both awesome tools for building applications, even if they're completely different. We summarize the benefits of each.

Tim Davidson
Tim Davidson

Node.js and Next.js are two of the hottest JavaScript tools to build applications. If you're researching Node and Next to figure out if they'll be a good fit for your project, then you're in the right spot.

The first thing to point out is that comparing Next.js with Node.js is like comparing oranges with apples.  While they're both great technologies to build applications and both JavaScript based, they're completely different and used for very different situations.

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. It's called a "runtime" and not a language or framework because it's an environment for executing JavaScript on a specific platform - in this case a server. Node provides a set of resources and services, such as memory management, input/output handling, and network communication, that allow to it to execute operations and perform functions.

Next.js is a framework for building server-rendered or statically-exported applications. It comes packaged with Node, which handles its server-side rendering, but it also has a React-based templating engine. Next is known as a React framework, but you could argue it's also a Node framework.

Since Next.js comes with Node, it complicated the comparison of the two technologies, but we're going to run through it anyway!

14 Headless eCommerce Success Stories

See how LARQ improved their conversion rate by 80%, STRONGER increased orders by 167% and Butterfly expanded to a new country every 15 days.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Node.js overview

    Node.js logo showcase

    Node.js is a runtime environment for executing JavaScript code on the server side. It was first released in 2009 and has become one of the most popular choices for building scalable and efficient web applications.

    Node uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it particularly well-suited for real-time, data-intensive applications. Being built on top of the V8 JavaScript engine developed by Google makes Node.js a fast and efficient option for building web applications. Additionally, it uses a single-threaded model, allowing it to handle many concurrent connections without the overhead of traditional multi-threaded servers.

    Apart from being a legitimately good choice for writing backend code, Node's popularity can be attributed to the fact that it uses JavaScript. Teams already writing their frontend code with React, Angular, or Vue can build their backend with the same language (JavaScript). This approach streamlines everything. There's no need to jump between a different backend language like Ruby, PHP or Python, and means that full stack developers can work on both parts of the application.

    Features of Node.js

    Here are some of the most important features of Node.js:

    Event-driven, non-blocking I/O model

    Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that allows it to handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently. This model is designed to handle input/output operations in an asynchronous manner, which means that the system can continue processing other requests while it is waiting for a response from a slow I/O operation.

    Modular Design

    Node.js uses a modular design that allows developers to reuse and share code between different parts of their application. This makes it easier to develop and maintain large-scale applications and also reduces the amount of code that needs to be written, resulting in faster development times.

    Built on Google's V8 JavaScript engine

    Node.js is built on Google's high-performance V8 JavaScript engine, which provides fast and efficient JavaScript execution. This engine was designed to support large-scale web applications and can execute JavaScript code at high speeds, making Node.js a good choice for building performance-critical applications.

    Built-in debugging tools

    Node.js includes built-in debugging tools that easily identify and fix problems in your code. The tools include an interactive debugger and support for console logging, which can help you quickly identify and resolve issues.

    Cross-platform Compatibility

    Node.js is compatible with a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. This makes it easy to develop and deploy applications on different platforms and also provides greater flexibility for developers who need to build applications that run on multiple operating systems.

    Advantages of Node.js

    High Performance

    Node.js uses Google's V8 JavaScript engine, which is known for its high performance and speed.


    Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that allows it to handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently. This makes it an ideal choice for building scalable, real-time applications that need to handle a large number of requests.

    Improves productivity

    Node.js supports asynchronous programming, which allows developers to write fast, responsive code that can handle multiple requests concurrently. This results in faster development times and reduced resource usage, which can help improve overall productivity.

    Robust community support

    Node.js has a large and active community of developers who have created a vast number of libraries and tools that are available through the npm package manager. This makes it easy to add new functionality to your application and helps to reduce development time.

    Excellent frameworks

    There are a handful of mature frameworks that speed up the development process and offer advanced tooling for creating server side applications and APIs. The frameworks worth mentioning are Express, Koa, Meteor, NestJS, and Hapi.

    Limitations of using Node.js

    While Node.js is an excellent tool for creating backend functionality, it's also JavaScript that's been modified to run on a server. It's by no means perfect. Here are some of the most important limitations of using Node.js:


    Although Node.js is designed to handle multiple requests concurrently, it uses a single-threaded model. This can make it more difficult to handle CPU-bound tasks and can also lead to performance bottlenecks in applications that require heavy computation.

    Limited database support

    Node.js was initially designed to support web applications, and as a result, it has limited support for databases other than MongoDB. This can make it more difficult to integrate Node.js with existing databases and can also limit the types of applications that can be built using Node.js.

    Callback Hell

    Node.js relies heavily on callbacks, making it difficult to write clean, maintainable code. This is particularly true for complex applications that require multiple asynchronous operations. This problem is commonly referred to as "callback hell.

    Memory leaks

    Node.js applications are susceptible to memory leaks, leading to performance problems and stability issues. This is because Node.js relies on a garbage collector to manage memory, and the garbage collector may not always reclaim memory quickly.

    Next.js overview

    Next.js logo showcase

    Next.js is a free, open-source framework for building server-rendered or statically exported React applications. It was developed by Vercel and provides a comprehensive set of tools and features for building high-performance, scalable, and optimized web applications.

    Next was created to make life easier for developers to build fast and efficient web applications. It provides a set of conventions and best practices for organizing and structuring code, simplifying the development and maintenance of sophisticated applications.

    Next is unique in that it supports pretty much every rendering technique. Since it runs on top of Node, content can be rendered on the server, or it can be statically pre-rendered. This flexibility allows for super fast applications to and websites to be developed that also support backend functionality.

    Vercel logo showcase

    Vercel have also developed a cloud-based hosting environment specifically for Next.js websites and applications. Right now, Vercel arguably offers the most advanced set of hosting functions, such as The Edge, Middleware and Incremental Static Regeneration.  

    Features of Next.js

    Next.js is packed with great features. Since it's built on top of Node and React, its baseline features are already very robust.

    Server-side rendering

    One of the key features of Next.js is its support for server-side rendering, which means that the HTML for a web page is generated on the server and sent to the client, rather than being generated on the client using JavaScript. This provides several benefits, including faster initial load times, improved search engine optimization (SEO), and better accessibility for users.

    Static site generation

    Next.js also provides support for static site generation, which means that web pages can be pre-generated and served as static HTML files. This provides several benefits, including faster load times, reduced server load, and improved security.

    Automatic code splitting

    Next.js uses automatic code splitting to ensure that the size of the JavaScript and CSS files that are loaded by a web page are as small as possible. This helps to improve page load times and make it possible to build fast and efficient web applications.


    Next.js provides a powerful and flexible routing system that makes it easy to define and manage the routes for your web application. This includes support for dynamic routes, which makes it possible to build applications with dynamic URLs that can change based on the data being displayed.

    Built-in support for APIs

    Next.js also provides built-in support for APIs, making it easy to build serverless applications that run entirely on the client. This is achieved using a combination of GraphQL and the Apollo Client, which allow developers to easily query and manipulate data in a flexible and efficient manner.

    Advantages of Next.js

    Blazing fast performance

    Next.js provides several features that help to improve the performance of web applications, including server-side rendering, static site generation, and automatic code splitting. These features help to ensure that pages load quickly and provide a smooth user experience.

    Unrivaled Search Engine Optimization

    Next.js supports server-side rendering, which can help to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of web applications. This is because search engines can easily index the HTML generated on the server, rather than having to rely on JavaScript to generate the content.


    Next.js's support for server-side rendering also helps to improve the accessibility of web applications. This is because users with assistive technologies, such as screen readers, can access the content of the web pages more easily.

    Friendly developer experience

    Next.js provides several features and tools to help simplify the development process, including a flexible and powerful routing system, an optimized build system, and a large ecosystem of resources, tools, and libraries, like these Next.js Admin Templates, enhancing their development experience without compromising the integrity of their projects.

    Reusable components

    Next.js is built on top of React, which benefits from React's component-based architecture. This makes it easier to build and reuse components across multiple pages and applications, helping to improve the maintainability and scalability of your code.

    Improved Security

    Next.js's support for static site generation helps to improve the security of web applications. This is because the content is pre-generated and served as static HTML files, reducing the risk of security vulnerabilities and attacks.

    Limitations of using Next.js

    While Next.js is a highly popular and effective framework for building web applications, it does have some limitations that developers should be aware of before deciding to use it for their projects. Here are some of the key limitations of using Next.js:

    • Complexity - While Next.js provides many useful features and tools for building web applications, the framework can be complex to set up and configure, especially for developers who are new to it. This can make it difficult for teams to get started quickly and lead to longer development times.
    • Browser compatibility - Next.js is built using modern JavaScript features that may not be supported by older browsers. Developers may need to consider the target audience of their applications and ensure that they are compatible with the browsers their users are likely to be using.
    • Dependency on React - Next.js is built on top of React and requires a deep understanding of the React framework to use it effectively. This can be a challenge for developers who are new to React or have limited experience with it.

    Comparison between Node.js and Next.js

    To gain a clear understanding on which technology to use between, Node.js and Next.js, we have to compare them based on the following criteria:


    Node.js is known for its fast and efficient performance, especially when handling many requests and real-time data streams. Node.js is built on top of the V8 JavaScript engine and utilizes an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that allows it to process multiple requests concurrently, improving overall performance and scalability.

    Next.js, on the other hand, is designed for server-side rendering (SSR), which can significantly improve the performance of web applications by reducing the amount of JavaScript that needs to be processed by the client's browser. However, SSR can also have a performance impact on the server, especially for complex and data-intensive applications.


    Node.js is highly scalable and can handle many concurrent connections and requests. Node.js applications can easily be scaled horizontally by adding more nodes to the system, which allows for increased performance and capacity.

    Next.js is also highly scalable and offers built-in support for server-side rendering, which makes it easier to scale web applications. However, the scalability of Next.js applications can also be limited by the performance of the underlying server hardware and infrastructure, and developers may need to carefully consider the architecture of their applications to ensure that they can handle increased loads over time.

    Development speed

    Node.js is known for its fast development times and its ability to handle a wide range of use cases and applications. With a large and active community of developers and a wealth of open-source libraries and tools, Node.js developers can quickly and easily build, test, and deploy applications.

    Next.js offers many powerful features and tools that can greatly speed up the development process, including built-in support for server-side rendering, automatic code splitting, and built-in CSS support. However, Next.js can also be complex to set up and configure, and developers may need to learn the framework and its features before they can effectively use it for their projects.

    Community support

    Node.js has a large and active community of developers and is one of the most widely-used JavaScript frameworks. With its popularity and widespread use, Node.js developers can easily find help and support and quickly access a wealth of open-source libraries and tools.

    Despite being a relatively new framework, Next.js boasts a significant community of developers from the well-established React community. So, there are plenty of resources and support available for Next.js.

    Frequently asked questions

    Q: What is Node.js?

    A: Node.js is a cross-platform, open-source runtime environment for server-side and networking applications built on the JavaScript programming language. It allows developers to build fast and scalable applications using JavaScript on the server side.

    Q: What is Next.js?

    A: Next.js is a React-based framework for building server-side rendered (SSR) web applications. It provides tools and features to help developers build fast, scalable, high-performing web applications with React.

    Q: Which is better for building real-time applications, Node.js or Next.js?

    A: Both Node.js and Next.js can be used for building real-time applications, but each has its own unique strengths and limitations. Node.js is known for its fast performance and scalability, making it a popular choice for real-time applications. Next.js, on the other hand, provides built-in support for server-side rendering and can greatly improve the performance of web applications. Developers should carefully evaluate their specific needs and requirements before deciding which framework is best for their real-time applications.

    Key Takeaway

    Node.js and Next.js are both powerful technologies that offer their own set of benefits and limitations for building web applications. Node.js is ideal for fast and scalable server-side and networking applications, while Next.js provides a robust framework for building high-performing React-based web applications with server-side rendering. Ultimately, the best option for your next web project will depend on your specific needs and requirements. Whether you choose Node.js or Next.js, carefully evaluate your options and choose the technology that best meets your project's goals and objectives.

    Written by
    Tim Davidson

    Tim Davidson

    Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!

    Read more on the subject

    Customer Experience (CX) - Why It Pays To Invest In CX

    Tim Davidson

    Is Mobile First Always The Best Approach?

    Patryk Michalski

    Digital Product Design Process

    Tim Davidson

    Don’t miss out on the latest stories!

    Sign up for my newsletter to receive the latest news from the blog, you’ll get pinged every few months with a digest from the tech world.

    Thank you for reaching out!