Node.js vs. Ruby on Rails: Which is the best technology for the mobile app backend?

Choosing the right tech stack for the backend is critical for developing a high-performance mobile app. Among various technologies, Ruby and Node.js stand out. In this article, we'll compare Node.js and Ruby on Rails to see which technology is better for mobile app backend development.

What exactly is a backend for a mobile app?

A backend for a mobile application, as defined in the Mobile App Backend Guideline, is a component of the app that runs on a server rather than on the device itself. 

The backend is responsible for the app's functionality, such as data storage and management; user authentication and authorization; push notification; analytics and reporting; and integration with third-party services.

Node.js and Ruby on Rails are two popular technologies for the mobile backend (Stack Overflow Developer Survey). These enable developers to create dependable and highly available applications. 

What is Node.js?

Node.js is a JavaScript open-source server environment. It is built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine and can run on various platforms such as Windows, Linux, Mac OS, etc.

Powered by JavaScript, Node.js helps deliver scalable server-side applications that are event-driven, non-blocking input/output models, and allow asynchronous programming.

Node.js based apps

What is Ruby on Rails (RoR)?

RoR is an open-source framework for developing server-side web applications. It is written in the Ruby programming language and uses the Model View Controller (MVC) architecture. 

RoR is one of the most popular Ruby libraries and a favorite technology for the mobile app backend.

RoR based apps

Node.js vs. RoR comparison


The main question here is whether Node.js is faster than RoR.

Node.js, as we all know, runs on Chrome's V8 engines. This compiles JavaScript directly into native machine code, which improves performance. Additionally, Node.js is capable of handling parallel connections while maintaining greatest output. Also, Node.js uses a single thread instead of separate threads, which maintains the event loop that handles all the asynchronous I/O operations.

Many businesses recommend it because of its ability to create fast, robust, and flexible network applications that meet the requirements of app development. Paypal, a tech giant, has experienced a doubling of its requests per second compared to its Java application. Additionally, it has seen a decrease of 35% in its average response time.

In contrast, RoR is generally known as a slower technology than Node.js. There are many reasons behind Ruby’s shortcomings in performance. First, the garbage collector (GC) used in Ruby employs a slow algorithm that stops the application during garbage collection. Moreover, the language consumes a lot of memory for objects and other primitive variables. This leads to Ruby's sometimes slow performance.

LinkedIn is one such example. LinkedIn's performance suffered significantly in string manipulation and JSON translation while using RoR. However, after switching to Node.js, the company was able to reduce the number of servers from 30 to 3 and achieve 20 times faster performance for some scenarios.

So, the answer to the question in the first paragraph is affirmative - Node.js is faster than RoR.


Scalability is a mobile app's ability to handle varying user requests per minute.

Node.js provides several features to support scalability. The cluster module capability in the latest version of Node.js and support for microservices makes it easier to break down the app into smaller components. This architecture can then scale up or down based on requirements. In addition, Node.js allows you to load balance on multiple CPU cores, enabling applications to scale on a single server.

Walmart's successful transition to microservices with Node.js as the backend technology has reportedly led to a 98% growth in mobile conversion, as per reports.

Scalability in RoR refers to the ability of the application to handle an increasing number of users, requests, or transactions without compromising performance or causing downtime. It is achieved by optimizing application infrastructure and performance. This means increasing resources, such as server memory and CPU power, may be necessary to maintain optimal performance as the workload increases.

While RoR may require increasing resources for scalability, it is still a popular choice for many businesses, especially those with smaller user bases or simpler applications. With its extensive libraries and frameworks, RoR provides much flexibility in application development and can be easily integrated with other technologies. Several leading tech companies with large user bases, like Airbnb, GitHub, and Shopify, have RoR in their tech stacks.

To take away, there is no answer for this category. Choosing between Node.js and RoR depends on the project's specific requirements, workload, performance, and development needs.

Development speed

Both Node.js and Ruby on Rails have their strengths when it comes to development speed.

Node.js allows developers to build both the frontend and backend of a mobile application using the same language (JavaScript), which can save time and make development more efficient. Additionally, the large number of frameworks, third-party libraries, and learning resources available for Node.js can help developers build mobile applications quickly.

On the other hand, Ruby on Rails has been designed explicitly for fast prototyping and application development. It has an Object Relational Mapping (ORM) system that enables developers to map business logic and the data layer together to develop and deploy a complete and working prototype quickly. The Ruby language itself is concise and easy to write, and there are several third-party libraries (gems) that enable faster development.

Testing support

Both Node.js and Ruby on Rails have strong support for testing.

Node.js provides comprehensive support for automated testing and debugging with its extensive set of third-party libraries. It offers several automated testing frameworks like Mocha, Jasmine, Jest, Chai, and mobile testing frameworks like WebdriverIO.

Similarly, the Ruby community is heavily involved in testing and test automation. Testing is intrinsic to RoR, making it easier for developers to test the code as they develop the backend. Since Ruby is based on the MVC architecture, it can automatically produce skeleton test code while developing the code. There are many testing frameworks available for RoR, such as Rspec, Minitest, or Cucumber.

Which technology is better for mobile app backend development?

While Node.js and RoR each have their own set of pros and cons, they are roughly equal in terms of community and testing support. However, Node.js outperforms RoR in terms of speed and scalability.

Technology for mobile app backend

The Stack Overflow Survey revealed that Node.js was the more favored technology among all the surveyed respondents. It's worth noting that this isn't a direct comparison since Ruby is a programming language, and Ruby on Rails is a framework built on it.

Aside from that, it's important to keep in mind that the choice of mobile app backend depends on the app's purpose and short- and long-term business goals. As a result, there is no superior technology stack. Instead, the most appropriate technology stack should be selected.

How to choose the right technology for your mobile app backend?

The key to selecting the best one is the application type of your mobile app.

The following application types can use Node.js as a backend:

- Social media apps 

- Publishing apps

- Real-time chat apps

- E-learning platforms 

Here are some scenarios in which you can use RoR as the backend for your mobile app:

- E-commerce apps

- Software as a service (SaaS) projects that heavily rely on APIs

- Projects that rely on large databases

- Applications that require rapid development to meet tight deadlines.


To summarize, Node.js and Ruby on Rails are two popular technology for mobile app backend. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Node.js may be a better choice for processing multiple requests and long-term scalability requirements that do not require CPU-intensive tasks. Ruby on Rails, on the other hand, has widespread community support. The context of your application and business goals will determine which technology is best for your project.

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