Is Express and Node Js a Built in Web Server?


Scott Campbell

Express and Node.js are often mentioned together in web development discussions. While Node.js is a runtime environment that allows JavaScript code to run on the server-side, Express is a web application framework that runs on top of Node.js.

But are they built-in web servers? Let’s explore this question in detail.

What is a Web Server?

A web server is a software that handles HTTP requests and responses. It receives requests from clients (usually web browsers) and sends back the requested resources, such as HTML pages, images, or data. Web servers are crucial components of the client-server architecture that powers the World Wide Web.

Node.js as a Web Server

Node.js provides an HTTP module as part of its core library, which allows developers to create web servers without relying on external dependencies. With this module, developers can listen for incoming HTTP requests and respond accordingly. However, Node.js alone does not provide a full-featured web server out of the box.

Note: The code examples in this article assume you have Node.js installed on your system.

To create a basic HTTP server using Node.js, you need to require the built-in ‘http’ module and use its methods to handle incoming requests:

const http = require('http');

const server = http.createServer((req, res) => {
  res.statusCode = 200;
  res.setHeader('Content-Type', 'text/plain');
  res.end('Hello, World!');

server.listen(3000, 'localhost', () => {
  console.log('Server running at http://localhost:3000/');

The above code creates an HTTP server that listens on port 3000 and responds with “Hello, World!” for every request. While this demonstrates the basic functionality of a web server, it does not provide the additional features and conveniences that frameworks like Express offer.

Express as a Web Server

Express is a minimal and flexible Node.js web application framework that provides a higher level of abstraction over the built-in HTTP module. It simplifies the process of handling HTTP requests, routing, and middleware integration.

With Express, you can create a fully-featured web server with just a few lines of code. Here’s an example:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();
const port = 3000;

app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  res.send('Hello, World!');

app.listen(port, () => {
  console.log(`Server running at http://localhost:${port}/`);

In this example, we create an Express application object using the ‘express’ module. We define a route for the root URL (“/”) using the ‘get’ method and send back a response with “Hello, World!” when this route is accessed.

Express provides many additional features like:

  • Middleware: Express allows you to use middleware functions to handle specific tasks like parsing request bodies or authenticating users.
  • Routing: Express simplifies URL routing by providing methods for handling different HTTP methods and patterns.
  • Template Engine Integration: Express seamlessly integrates with popular template engines like Handlebars or EJS to generate dynamic HTML pages.

In Conclusion

In summary, while Node.js provides the necessary tools to create basic web servers using its built-in ‘http’ module, it does not offer the same level of convenience and features as Express. Express is a web application framework that runs on top of Node.js and provides a higher level of abstraction, making it easier to handle HTTP requests, routing, and middleware integration.

By using Express, developers can build powerful and scalable web applications more efficiently. So, while Node.js itself is not a built-in web server, it serves as the foundation on which frameworks like Express are built.

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