A fork in the code

What’s up with the new Node.js fork IO.js?

Coman Hamilton
Railroad crossing image via Shutterstock

Node.js is about to change. The IO.js fork is set to splinter the JavaScript community, but its makers say they just want to drive Node forwards.

The JavaScript climate continues to remain volatile. Weeks after a community shitstorm over plans for AngularJS 2.0, the JavaScript world has been hit with a major Node.js fork.

First announced in November, the Node.js fork IO.js has been confirmed for release in January 2015. The JavaScript runtime environment forked after much dissatisfaction within the Node.js community over Joyent’s leadership.

The collaborative fork of joyent/node was created by Fedor Indutny, a key Node.js player who is responsible for some of the most important parts of the Node.js runtime. The decision to fork is said to be motivated primarily by Node’s recent lack of releases and the influence of the Joyent Advisory board, who purchased the Node.js copyright and trademark in 2010.

Node Forward

IO.js represents the culmination of the recent Node Forward effort. Driven both by enterprises and the community, Node Forward was established earlier this year by Mikael Rogers, organiser of NodeConf. Rogers claimed at the time that “nobody prefers that work to be released as a fork” and outlined the organisation’s commitment to working with Joyent and even making them “a leader of this foundation.”

Work has already begun on the IO.js logo on Github – here playing on the “eee-aww” sound of a donkey.

The initial aim of this effort was to create a collaborative fork under the name Node Forward. However, the team were informed by Joyent CEO Scott Hammond that the fork would run into legal trouble if they decided to use Joyent’s trademark ‘Node’.

Now, barely a few weeks after the inception of IO.js, dozens of developers have already posted open-source logos for IO.js on Github with many more debating the best choice on Twitter.

Forking the community?

Although the IO.js fork is considered a major blow to Node.js, former Joyent employee Isaac Z. Schlueter says Node Forward does not aim to compete with Node.js or Joyent.

“The goal of Node Forward is to work with Joyent and the rest of the Node.js community in order to improve Node.js. We respect Joyent’s significant investment in Node.js over the years, and we believe that a combined effort is beneficial to Joyent and to Node.” – Isaac Z. Schlueter

With Uber’s Matt Ranney already signed up to use IO.js, the fork is poised to gain traction in the JavaScript community.

As ReadWrite’s Lauren Orsini comments, “some open-source forks have made life difficult for developers. In this case, while the Node.js/IO.js fork is real, it hasn’t yet developed into the kind of contentious situation that will force developers to pick sides.”

However, Schlueter believes that someday Node.js will be reunited once again with the IO.js faction, as soon as Joyent is ready to let others participate in the decision-making process. Either way, the field of Node.js is about to change.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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