Node 6: What to Expect

Darwin Corn

June 17th, 2016

I have a confession to make—I’m an Archer. I’ve taken my fair share of grief for this, with everyone from the network admin that got by on Kubuntu, to the C dev running Gentoo getting in on the fun. As I told the latter, Gentoo is for lazy people; lazy people that want to have their cake and eat it too with respect to the bleeding edge. Given all that, you’ll understand that when I was asked to write this post, my inner Archer balked at the thought of digging through source and documentation to distill this information into something palatable for your average back end developer. I crossed my fingers and wandered over to their GitHub, hoping for a clear roadmap, or at least a bunch of issues milestoned to 6.0.0. I was disappointed even though a lively discussion on dropping XP/Vista support briefly captured my attention.

I’ve also been primarily doing front end work for the last few months. While I pride myself on being an IT guy who does web stuff every now and then (someone who cares more about the CI infrastructure than the product that ships), circumstances have dictated that I be in the ‘mockup’ phase for a couple volunteer gigs as well as my own projects, all at once. Convenient? Sure. Not exactly conducive to my generalist, RenaissanceMan self-image, though (as an aside, the annotations in Rap Genius read like a Joseph Ducreux meme generator). Back end framework and functionality has been relegated to the back of my mind.

As such, I watched Node bring io.js back into the fold and go to Semver this fall with all the interest of a house cat. A cat that cares more about the mouse in front of him than the one behind the wall. By the time Node 6 drops in April, I’m going to be feasting on back end work. It would behoove me to understand the new tools I’ll be using.

So I ignored the Archer on my left shoulder and, and listening to my editor on the right, dug around the source for a bit. Of note is that there’s nothing near as ground breaking as the 4.0.0 release, where Node adopted the ES6 support introduced in io.js 1.0.0. That’s not so much a slight at Node development as a reflection of the timeline of JavaScript development. That said, here’s some highlights from my foray into their issue tracker:

  • Features
    • Core support for Promises

      I’ve been playing around with Ember for so long that I was frankly surprised that Node didn’t include Core support for Promises. A quick look at the history of Node shows that they originally existed (based on EventEmitters), but that support was removed in 0.2 and ever since server-side promises have been the domain of various npm modules. The PR is still open, so it remains to be seen if the initial implementation of this makes it into 6.0.0.

    • Changing FIPS crypto support

      In case you’re not familiar with the Federal Information Processing Standard, MDN has a great article explaining it. Node’s implementation left some functionality to be desired, namely that Node compiled with FIPS support couldn’t use nonFIPS hashing algorithms (md5 for one, breaking npm). Node 6 compiled with FIPS support will likely both fix that and flip it’s functionality, such that, by default, FIPS support will be disabled (in Node compiled with it), requiring invocation in order to be used.

    • Replacing C http-parser and DNS resolvers with JS implementations

      ThesePRs are still open (and have been for almost a year) so I’d say seeing them come in 6.0.0 is unlikely, though the latest discussion on the latter seems centered around CI so I might be wrong on it not making 6.0.0. That being said, while not fundamentally changing functionality too much, it will be cool to see more of the codebase being written in JavaScript.

  • Deprecations
    • fs reevaluation

      This primarily affects pre-v4 graceful-fs, on which many modules, including major ones such as npm itself and less, are dependent. The problem lies not insofar as these modules are dependent on graceful-fs, as they don’t require v4 or newer. This could lead to breakage for a lot of Node apps whose developers aren’t on their game when it comes to keeping the dependencies up to date. As a set and forget kind of guy, I’m thankful this is just getting deprecated and not outright removed.

  • Removals
    • sys

      The sys module was deprecated in Node 4 and has always been deprecated in io.js. There was some discussion on its removal last summer, and it was milestoned to 6.0.0. It’s still deprecated as of Node 5.7.0, so we’ll likely have to wait until release to see if it’s actually removed.

Nothing groundbreaking, but there is some maturation of the platform in both codebase and deprecations as well as outright removals. If you live on the bleeding edge like I do, you’ll hop on over to Node 6 as soon as it drops in April, but there’s little incentive to make the leap for those taking a more conservative approach to Node development.

About the Author

Darwin Corn is a Systems Analyst for the Consumer Direct Care Network. He is a mid-level professional with diverse experience in the Information Technology world.

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