Chip off the old non-block
Ryan Dahl originally built Node because he wanted a faster webserver, a webserver suited to modern web applications. A former math student turned independent coder, he had developed an interest in event-driven systems – what he calls "non-blocking I/O" – and he built an event-driven Ruby webserver known as Ebb. But Ruby didn't offer the sort of performance he was looking for.
Though the server was event-driven, any performance gains were minimized because the system had to interact with traditional multithreaded or "blocking" systems. "I got frustrated with trying to make [Ebb] fast," Dahl says. "I knew that you could get this very large performance gain if you did all non-blocking I/O. The real problem of this is that it's an all-or-nothing proposition. You can either do all non-blocking or you do all blocking and use threads. If you want to get into this non-blocking I/O, it becomes really difficult because you have to interact with a lot of other systems which usually don't present a non-blocking interface."
So he set out to create a completely new platform, a platform that would redefine the way people build applications. He started with a C library. But then he realized that C isn't as popular as it once was, and he moved to Lua. But this too proved problematic. Lua was laden with all sorts of "blocking" libraries.
"There was already a Lua culture around the blocking stuff," he says. "What I was really looking for was kind of a clean slate. If you're going to write a new platform, you might as well go the whole way. Lua was somehow not as exciting because there were already libraries that were blocking."
Node says 'hello world'