Node.js Gets A Foundation - Is It Rock Solid?
Written by Ian Elliot   
Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Joyent, with the help of the Linux Foundation, has established the Node.js Foundation. Will this help to heal the rift between them? How will it impact io.js breakaway, sorry fork!

Joyent was accused of not really running Node.js in a way that advanced the software fast enough. It sounds as if there was too much management and not enough programming going on. As a result a group of programmers forked the project to create io.js and run it with a more open governance and faster releases.

Most would agree that io.js is already well ahead of node.js and it has been adopted by one or two big projects - the most notable being Atom, Github's editor.

Judging the success of io.js isn't easy because projects aren't making much of the shift, regarding io.js as just node.js on steroids. For example, the Atom front page still talks about Node.js integration but in the release notes it states it uses io.js.




Joyent is clearly unhappy about the possibility that something might replace node.js in the mindset of the JavaScript programmer. There is a natural tendency for programmers to admire breakaway groups of programmers striving for better tech. As such, io.js might be used but referred to by the better known name, Node.js as if it was a generic label. This would result in the tendency to prefer io.js being hidden especially as managers like the stability of well known names even at the expense of better tech. 

Now Joyent has got together with IBM, Paypal, Microsoft, Fidelity and the Linux Foundation to form the Node.js Foundation. This follows the formation of the Node.js advisory board back in October 2014. The notable omission from the list of companies is, of course, Google  the company that created the JavaScript engine that both Node.js and io.js stem from. 




Joyent has not mentioned io.js or its future, but clearly having a Node.js Foundation with the backing of such big and stable companies is something that makes Node.js look a better bet for the future. It could even bring the io.js programmers back into the fold if the foundation could formulate a set of acceptable management rules.

Joyent may not be saying anything about io.js, but the io.js blog is talking about the situation:

"One week ago Scott Hammond, CEO of Joyent, invited the io.js TC(Technical Committee) to a private meeting where he expressed his intention to start a node.js Foundation and his desire to bring io.js back to the node.js project."

Nothing much has been worked out so far but the io.js blog reveals that things aren't going to be easy:

"The only thing that could make io.js better is putting to rest the questions hanging over the future of our split with node.js. We are eager to put this all behind us but we can’t sacrifice the progress we’ve made or the principles and open governance that got us here."

This seems very reasonable as the io.js project has made a lot of progress in integrating the new features of ES6 and it would be a huge waste to simply throw the work away and demand that it be done again but this time inside the foundation. The position of the io.js team seems to be:

"Talks with Joyent are ongoing. Once the foundation has a technical governance model you will see an issue on io.js’ GitHub about whether io.js should join which will be discussed and voted on openly in a public TC meeting following the governance rules we’ve already built."

This is also an interesting case for the wider open source community.

In principle, you can always create a fork if you don't like the way things are going in a project, and this is one of the freedoms that makes open source attractive. If you are programmer with an opinion that things could be done in a better way then you can always just prove that you are correct by doing it. However, when big companies have an interest in open source what we get is something that isn't quite as open. It is still better than closed proprietary code but it isn't the ideal of open source. By creating a foundation to better support a project, to bring paid contributors into the mix the result is to make a fork less likely to survive.

Where is your foundation, io.js?

Perhaps Google might like to back you?

Open source is just as much politics as anything else.



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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 February 2015 )