This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (September 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Original author(s)||Ryan Dahl|
|Developer(s)||Node.js Developers, Joyent, contributors|
|Initial release||May 27, 2009|
|Development status||Active (complete release list)|
|Operating system||Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Microsoft Windows (older versions require Cygwin), webOS, NonStop OS|
Corporate users of Node.js software include GoDaddy, Groupon, IBM, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, PayPal, Rakuten, SAP, Tuenti, Voxer, Walmart, Yahoo!, and Cisco Systems.
Dahl was inspired to create Node.js after seeing a file upload progress bar on Flickr. The browser did not know how much of the file had been uploaded and had to query the Web server. Dahl desired an easier way.
Dahl criticized the limited possibilities of the most popular web server in 2009, Apache HTTP Server, to handle a lot of concurrent connections (up to 10,000 and more) and the most common way of creating code (sequential programming), when code either blocked the entire process or implied multiple execution stacks in the case of simultaneous connections.
In January 2010, a package manager was introduced for the Node.js environment called npm. The package manager makes it easier for programmers to publish and share source code of Node.js libraries and is designed to simplify installation, updating, and uninstallation of libraries.
In January 2012, Dahl stepped aside, promoting coworker and npm creator Isaac Schlueter to manage the project. In January 2014, Schlueter announced that Timothy J. Fontaine would lead the project.
In February 2015, the intent to form a neutral Node.js Foundation was announced. By June 2015, the Node.js and io.js communities voted to work together under the Node.js Foundation.
In September 2015, Node.js v0.12 and io.js v3.3 were merged back together into Node v4.0. This brought V8 ES6 features into Node.js, and a long-term support release cycle. As of 2016, the io.js website recommends that developers switch back to Node.js and that no further releases of io.js are planned due to the merger.
Node.js is primarily used to build network programs such as Web servers. The biggest difference between Node.js and PHP is that most functions in PHP block until completion (commands execute only after previous commands have completed), while functions in Node.js are designed to be non-blocking (commands execute concurrently or even in parallel, and use callbacks to signal completion or failure).
People have built thousands of open-source libraries for Node.js - most of them hosted on the npm website. The Node.js developer community has two main mailing lists and the IRC channel #node.js on freenode. There are multiple developer conferences and events that support the Node.js community including NodeConf, Node Interactive and Node Summit as well as a number of regional events.
The open-source community has developed server frameworks to accelerate the development of applications. Such frameworks include Connect, Express.js, Socket.IO, Koa.js, Hapi.js, Sails.js, Meteor, Derby, and many others.
Modern desktop IDEs provide editing and debugging features specifically for Node.js applications. Such IDEs include Atom, Brackets, JetBrains WebStorm, Microsoft Visual Studio (with Node.js Tools for Visual Studio, or TypeScript with Node definitions,) NetBeans, Nodeclipse Enide Studio  (Eclipse-based), and Visual Studio Code. Certain online web-based IDEs also support Node.js, such as Codeanywhere, Codenvy, Cloud9 IDE, Koding, and the visual flow editor in Node-RED.
|Release||Code name||Release date||LTS status||Active LTS start||Maintenance start||Maintenance end|
New major releases of Node.js are cut from the GitHub master branch every six months. Even-numbered versions are cut in April and odd-numbered versions are cut in October. When a new odd version is released, the previous even version undergoes transition to Long Term Support (LTS), which gives that version 18 months of active support from the date it is designated LTS. After these 18 months expire, an LTS release will receive an additional 12 months of maintenance support. An active version will receive non-breaking backports of changes a few weeks after they land in the current release. A maintenance release will only receive critical fixes and documentation updates.
The strategy and policy of LTS releases are managed by the LTS Working Group in collaboration with the Technical Steering Committee of the Node.js Foundation.
This section may be too technical for most readers to understand. (August 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Node.js operates on a single thread, using non-blocking I/O calls, allowing it to support tens of thousands of concurrent connections without incurring the cost of thread context switching. The design of sharing a single thread among all the requests that use the observer pattern is intended for building highly concurrent applications, where any function performing I/O must use a callback. In order to accommodate the single-threaded event loop, Node.js utilizes the libuv library that, in turn, uses a fixed-sized thread pool that is responsible for some of the non-blocking asynchronous I/O operations.
A downside of this single-threaded approach is that Node.js doesn't allow vertical scaling by increasing the number of CPU cores of the machine it is running on without using an additional module, such as cluster, StrongLoop Process Manager, or pm2. However, developers can increase the default number of threads in the libuv thread pool; these threads are likely to be distributed across multiple cores by the server operating system.
Execution of parallel tasks in Node.js is handled by a thread pool. The main thread call functions post tasks to the shared task queue that threads in the thread pool pull and execute. Inherently non-blocking system functions such as networking translates to kernel-side non-blocking sockets, while inherently blocking system functions such as file I/O run in a blocking way on its own thread. When a thread in the thread pool completes a task, it informs the main thread of this, which in turn, wakes up and execute the registered callback. Since callbacks are handled in serial on the main thread, long lasting computations and other CPU-bound tasks will freeze the entire event-loop until completion.
Node.js uses libuv to handle asynchronous events. Libuv is an abstraction layer for network and file system functionality on both Windows and POSIX-based systems such as Linux, macOS, OSS on NonStop, and Unix.
npm is the pre-installed package manager for the Node.js server platform. It is used to install Node.js programs from the npm registry, organizing the installation and management of third-party Node.js programs. npm is not to be confused with the CommonJS require() statement. It is not used to load code; instead, it is used to install code and manage code dependencies from the command line. The packages found in the npm registry can range from simple helper libraries such as Lodash to task runners such as Grunt.
Node.js registers itself with the operating system in order to be notified when a connection is made, and the operating system will issue a callback. Within the Node.js runtime, each connection is a small heap allocation. Traditionally, relatively heavyweight OS processes or threads handled each connection. Node.js uses an event loop for scalability, instead of processes or threads. In contrast to other event-driven servers, Node.js's event loop does not need to be called explicitly. Instead callbacks are defined, and the server automatically enters the event loop at the end of the callback definition. Node.js exits the event loop when there are no further callbacks to be performed.
In 2015, various branches of the greater Node.js community began working under the vendor-neutral Node.js Foundation. The stated purpose of the organization "is to enable widespread adoption and help accelerate development of Node.js and other related modules through an open governance model that encourages participation, technical contribution, and a framework for long-term stewardship by an ecosystem invested in Node.js' success."
The Node.js Foundation Technical Steering Committee (TSC) is the technical governing body of the Node.js Foundation. The TSC is responsible for the core Node.js repo as well as dependent and adjacent projects. Generally the TSC delegates administration of these projects to working groups or committees. The LTS group that manages long term supported releases is one such group. Other current groups include: Website, Streams, Build, Diagnostics, i18n, Evangelism, Docker, Addon API, Benchmarking, Post-mortem, Intl, Documentation, and Testing.
In August, 2017, a governance breakdown precipitated efforts to repair the resulting damage and to create a path to future stability of governance.
Similar open source event-driven server frameworks for other platforms include:
- EventMachine for Ruby
- libuv for C
- Perl Object Environment for Perl
- ReactPHP (libev or libevent) or Amp (libev, libevent, or libuv) for PHP
- Twisted for Python
Node.js may utilize code written in other programming languages using:
- Edge.js allows Microsoft .NET applications to run Node.js scripts in-process, and allows Node.js servers to utilize .NET compiled code via async callbacks.
- Luvit implements the Node.js APIs for the language Lua
- Node-julia allows using Julia with Node.js/io.js
- The COBOL bridge for Node.js allows using COBOL with Node.js
- MEAN (software bundle)
- Application server
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