node.js vs. meteor.js what's the difference?

Problem

So I've been hearing/reading alot about meteor.js. The tutorials make it seem very sporty as a framework, but I'm still a bit of a novice when it comes to web programming.

I've been trying over the last month and half to really learn node.js and figure out how it all comes together. I like the how fast and easy it is to get up and running, and the community that comes along with it (which is exemplified by the mind blowing number of frameworks you can get for Node).

But what about meteor? What are the real advantages of it, and what's the difference? Has anyone started as a node.js user and 'converted' or is it still more of a curious new framework?

Problem courtesy of: ZacAttack

Solution

A loose analogy is, "Meteor is to Node as Rails is to Ruby." It's a large, opinionated framework that uses Node on the server. Node itself is just a low-level framework providing functions for sending and receiving HTTP requests and performing other I/O.

Meteor is radically ambitious: By default, every page it serves is actually a Handlebars template that's kept in sync with the server. Try the Leaderboard example: You create a template that simply says "List the names and scores," and every time any client changes a name or score, the page updates with the new data—not just for that client, but for everyone viewing the page.

Another difference: While Node itself is stable and widely used in production, Meteor is in a "preview" state. There are serious bugs, and certain things that don't fit with Meteor's data-centric conceptual model (such as animations) are very hard to do.

If you love playing with new technologies, give Meteor a spin. If you want a more traditional, stable web framework built on Node, take a look at Express.

Solution courtesy of: Trevor Burnham

Discussion

Meteor's strength is in it's real-time updates feature which works well for some of the social applications you see nowadays where you see everyone's updates for what you're working on. These updates center around replicating subsets of a MongoDB collection underneath the covers as local mini-mongo (their client side MongoDB subset) database updates on your web browser (which causes multiple render events to be fired on your templates). The latter part about multiple render updates is also the weakness. If you want your UI to control when the UI refreshes (e.g., classic jQuery AJAX pages where you load up the HTML and you control all the AJAX calls and UI updates), you'll be fighting this mechanism.

Meteor uses a nice stack of Node.js plugins (Handlebars.js, Spark.js, Bootstrap css, etc. but using it's own packaging mechanism instead of npm) underneath along w/ MongoDB for the storage layer that you don't have to think about. But sometimes you end up fighting it as well...e.g., if you want to customize the Bootstrap theme, it messes up the loading sequence of Bootstrap's responsive.css file so it no longer is responsive (but this will probably fix itself when Bootstrap 3.0 is released soon).

So like all "full stack frameworks", things work great as long as your app fits what's intended. Once you go beyond that scope and push the edge boundaries, you might end up fighting the framework...

Discussion courtesy of: kenyee

Meteor is a framework built ontop of node.js. It uses node.js to deploy but has several differences.

The key being it uses its own packaging system instead of node's module based system. It makes it easy to make web applications using Node. Node can be used for a variety of things and on its own is terrible at serving up dynamic web content. Meteor's libraries make all of this easy.

Discussion courtesy of: Akshat

This recipe can be found in it's original form on Stack Over Flow.