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ExpressJS vs Socket.IO: What are the differences?

What is ExpressJS? Sinatra inspired web development framework for node.js -- insanely fast, flexible, and simple. Express is a minimal and flexible node.js web application framework, providing a robust set of features for building single and multi-page, and hybrid web applications.

What is Socket.IO? Realtime application framework (Node.JS server). Socket.IO enables real-time bidirectional event-based communication. It works on every platform, browser or device, focusing equally on reliability and speed.

ExpressJS can be classified as a tool in the "Microframeworks (Backend)" category, while Socket.IO is grouped under "Realtime Backend / API".

Some of the features offered by ExpressJS are:

  • Robust routing
  • HTTP helpers (redirection, caching, etc)
  • View system supporting 14+ template engines

On the other hand, Socket.IO provides the following key features:

  • Real-time analytics - Push data to clients that gets represented as real-time counters, charts or logs.
  • Binary streaming - Starting in 1.0, it's possible to send any blob back and forth: image, audio, video.
  • Instant messaging and chat - Socket.IO's "Hello world" is a chat app in just a few lines of code.

"Simple", "Node.js" and "Javascript" are the key factors why developers consider ExpressJS; whereas "Real-time", "Event-based communication" and "Node.js" are the primary reasons why Socket.IO is favored.

ExpressJS and Socket.IO are both open source tools. It seems that Socket.IO with 46.9K GitHub stars and 8.54K forks on GitHub has more adoption than ExpressJS with 44.6K GitHub stars and 7.48K GitHub forks.

According to the StackShare community, ExpressJS has a broader approval, being mentioned in 854 company stacks & 790 developers stacks; compared to Socket.IO, which is listed in 561 company stacks and 397 developer stacks.

Advice on ExpressJS and Socket.IO
Needs advice

We are starting to work on a web-based platform aiming to connect artists (clients) and professional freelancers (service providers). In-app, timeline-based, real-time communication between users (& storing it), file transfers, and push notifications are essential core features. We are considering using Node.js, ExpressJS, React, MongoDB stack with Socket.IO & Apollo, or maybe using Real-Time Database and functionalities of Firebase.

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Replies (3)
Timothy Malstead
Junior Full Stack Developer at Freelance | 7 upvotes 路 346.3K views

I would recommend looking hard into Firebase for this project, especially if you do not have dedicated full-stack or backend members on your team.

The real time database, as you mentioned, is a great option, but I would also look into Firestore. Similar to RTDB, it adds more functions and some cool methods as well. Also, another great thing about Firebase is you have easy access to storage and dead simple auth as well.

Node.js Express MongoDB Socket.IO and Apollo are great technologies as well, and may be the better option if you do not wish to cede as much control to third parties in your application.

Overall, I say if you wish to focus more time developing your React application instead of other parts of your stack, Firebase is a great way to do that.

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Hello Noam 馃憢,

I suggest taking a look at Ably, it has all the realtime features you need and the platform is designed to guarantee critical functionality at scale.

Here is an in depth comparison between Ably and Firebase

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Hey Noam,

I would recommend you to take a look into 8base. It has features you've requested, also relation database and GraphQL API which will help you to develop rapidly.

Thanks, Ilya

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Pros of ExpressJS
Pros of Socket.IO
  • 375
  • 331
  • 241
  • 192
    High performance
  • 150
    Robust routing
  • 71
  • 70
    Open source
  • 57
    Great community
  • 36
    Hybrid web applications
  • 13
    Well documented
  • 9
    Sinatra inspired
  • 8
    Rapid development
  • 7
    Isomorphic js.. superfast and easy
  • 5
    Socket connection
  • 5
    Light weight
  • 4
  • 4
    Resource available for learning
  • 3
    Event loop
  • 3
  • 2
    Data stream
  • 214
  • 141
    Event-based communication
  • 141
  • 102
  • 101
    Open source
  • 26
    Binary streaming
  • 21
    No internet dependency
  • 10
    Large community
  • 9
    Fallback to polling if WebSockets not supported
  • 6
    Push notification
  • 5
    Ease of access and setup

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Cons of ExpressJS
Cons of Socket.IO
  • 26
    Not python
  • 17
  • 14
    No multithreading
  • 7
  • 5
    Not fast
  • 2
    Easily Insecure for Novices
  • 11
    Bad documentation
  • 4
    Githubs that complement it are mostly deprecated
  • 3
    Doesn't work on React Native
  • 2
    Websocket Errors
  • 2
    Small community

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What companies use ExpressJS?
What companies use Socket.IO?
See which teams inside your own company are using ExpressJS or Socket.IO.
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What tools integrate with Socket.IO?

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What are some alternatives to ExpressJS and Socket.IO?
Koa aims to be a smaller, more expressive, and more robust foundation for web applications and APIs. Through leveraging generators Koa allows you to ditch callbacks and greatly increase error-handling. Koa does not bundle any middleware.
Lots of people use React as the V in MVC. Since React makes no assumptions about the rest of your technology stack, it's easy to try it out on a small feature in an existing project.
Flask is intended for getting started very quickly and was developed with best intentions in mind.
Django is a high-level Python Web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design.
Go is expressive, concise, clean, and efficient. Its concurrency mechanisms make it easy to write programs that get the most out of multicore and networked machines, while its novel type system enables flexible and modular program construction. Go compiles quickly to machine code yet has the convenience of garbage collection and the power of run-time reflection. It's a fast, statically typed, compiled language that feels like a dynamically typed, interpreted language.
See all alternatives