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isolate.js via AST analysis
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nodeconf 2012
Write logic, not mechanics
protocol based polymorphism
(clojurescripting :intro)
JS Guards
Packageless modules


Every time I write code in javasciprt for jetpack or nodejs I question myself: “Do we really need packages ?”. Even with amazing package manager like npm it still feels wrong to me for a few reasons:

1. Size and scope

Writing code for the web taught us keeping line numbers tight, to a bare minimum. It could be a platform limitation, but more importantly it’s a best practice that has multiple advantages:

  • You never overgeneralize by trying to solve each and every problem.
  • You reduce a surface for bugs, less lines => less bugs.
  • You build reusable building blocks, with a focus on one thing only. Also, such blocks are easy to mix and match.
  • Faster to download, parse, execute.

Most of the modern js libraries / frameworks consist of one file, solve one problem and do it well. MicroJS started a great job of promoting this trend by building a nice spot for discovering fantastic micro frameworks and libraries!

Package definition, on the other hand, implies wrapping collection of things into a single form. So no matter how great package manager is, packages will tend to grow in size attempting to solve bigger set of tasks.

2. Explicitness

Looking at source should be enough to understand what program does, what it depends on, etc.. Unfortunately this is not the case with packages as it requires looking at the package descriptors and understanding non trivial module search logic. To put it other way

bar = require('foo/bar')

expression depends on too many things: requirer module, package descriptor, existence of various files in various places. In jetpack module search logic ended up being very complex. NodeJS has a better story, but still there more than two axis involved. It should be simple & straight forward.

3. Simplicity

When I find some useful & well maintained module on the web, I just want to be able to use it straight away, without downloading and bundling with my code, or even worth creating a package out of it publishing into some centralized registry in order to finally be able to require it! And when I want to alter some functionality in third party module I don’t want to go through change / rename / publish routine, I just want to fork on github and require!

4. Interoperability

Packages are not for browsers, because they have dependencies that have their own dependencies etc.. All this dependencies are expressed in a separate package.json files and it’s impossible to interpret require without reading package descriptor or knowledge of a requirer and I won’t even go into details of search paths and dependency duplications. Only visible solution for using packages in browsers requires build step on each file change or a server that does this at runtime. It’s a big compromise to make even though we do builds before deployments.

5. Far from harmony

No packages are in harmony, just a simple modules with compile-time resolution and linking. Hopefully very soon, I heard that by end of this year, we will have a first class modules in JavaScript and that will be the ultimate way to distribute building blocks with built-in support from js engines, so closer we stick to the model cheaper will be migration.


Web is awesome, it’s cross platform, fully distributed, yet connected via links / URLs.

I think we should be building ecosystem for building web, with a same spirit: cross-platform interoperable modules, that are fully distributed across the web, still connected via URLs. Each doing one thing only, but doing it well. No need for complicated module search logic or central authority for distribution! I’m very happy that, that’s exactly how modules are thought to work in Harmony.


In my spare time I have prototyped a tool called graphquire that makes it possible to write and use such modules, that will work across different platforms including: jetpack, nodejs and browsers. Unfortunately different platforms limitations made it impossible to require modules with an actual URLs, but it very close:

// Relative

// Absolute

You might have some constraints:

  1. Long require statements:

    Can be solved in many ways, starting from URL shortening services, finished with a private module registries, similar to MicroJS.

  2. Updating require statements more than 1 place:

    Not really an issue with right set of tools like replace for example, also editors and even graphquire might get build-in support for this. In any case that’s something we will have to face in harmony.

  3. Content under URL can change:

    This is true, but same can happen in package registries. We just need to make sure to require modules from URLs that are guaranteed to have the same content: modules under version tags, registries, own servers.

Please let me know what you think!

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