Node.js is getting its own open-source, independent foundation

Node.js, the popular server-side JavaScript framework, is getting its own open-source foundation and will no longer be governed by Joyent, the cloud-infrastructure provider plans to announce on Tuesday. It should take around two to three months before the foundation is formally established, and until then, Joyent will remain the corporate steward of the Node.js open-source project, according to Joyent.

The new Node.js Foundation — which will include the founding members of Joyent, [company]IBM[/company], [company]Paypal[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company], Fidelity and The Linux Foundation — is the next logical step after the establishment of the Node.js advisory board in October 2014 and it will help take the load off of Joyent’s plate. Joyent has been the corporate steward of the Node.js project for the last five years, explained Joyent CEO Scott Hammond.

Node.js is typically used to build low-latency applications, which are the type of apps that can gather and exchange data between the server environment and the front-end in real time. [company]PayPal[/company], [company]Dow Jones[/company], [company]Walmart[/company] and [company]LinkedIn[/company] are some of the companies that are public with their use of the framework.

“If you are writing a walkie-talkie app for the mobile phone, you want that to be real-time communication,” said Hammond in reference to the types of applications one can build using Node.js.

The framework was created in 2009 by a Joyent employee named Ryan Dahl and has relied on Joyent to foster the project since then. Since that time, Node.js’s popularity has ballooned and it now counts over 2 million downloads per month. Even GoDaddy has been a supporter of the framework and it looks like the web-hosting company is close to buying a Node-centric PaaS called Nodejitsu.

However, there’s been a bit of commotion within the Node.js community over the way the project has been managed by Joyent, specifically regarding the long wait times between new releases that have contributed to user discontent.


A group of disgruntled Node.js contributors forked the open-source project and put up its own project called io.js on Github in December, but apparently both sides are open to eventually joining forces again, said Hammond.

“We have kept them abreast with what we are doing,” said Hammond. “I think we are both interested in aligning those projects.”

The new governance board will be responsible for handling the project’s finances, fundraising, trade shows, marketing, code of conduct and all the other details that encompass running an open-source project, explained Hammond. The point is to free Joyent from having the final say as to what goes on with Node.js.

“It helps distribute the work of overseeing the project instead of us being solely responsible for a lot of the decisions going on,” said Hammond. “So it’s not just Joyent making a certain decision, it is the community speaking.”

Joyent turned to the Linux Foundation for help in creating an open-source foundation “that is unique to Node.js” and spent the last few months working on a game plan as to how to how it would do so.

How the new foundation will look like

The new foundation will be split into two separate groups: the board of directors and the technical committee, in which there is already a core team in place, as described on the Node.js website.

It’s still to be determined which organizations will be part of the board of directors, but the plan is to have a three-tiered system in which the board consists of representatives from companies who have to sign up to either a platinum, gold or silver membership, explained Hammond.

At the platinum level, members will be expected to pay $250,000 a year, which includes having a company representative as a board member. Gold members will pay on a sliding scale of $50,000 to $100,000 a year based on their employee headcount and they will also have to vote on who from those gold-member organizations will become board members; one out of every three gold-level organizations will end up having a representative on the board, said Hammond.

Bryan Cantrill, SVP of engineering for Joyent
Bryan Cantrill, CTO for Joyent

Silver members will pay on a sliding scale of $5,000 to $25,000 and like gold members, they will have to vote on which people from other silver-member companies will become board members; Hammond said that one out of every ten silver-member companies will have a board representative.

The technical committee will also vote on a technical committee member to become a board member, explained Hammond.

Joyent will be granted a gold membership, but will not have to pay a fee for at least a couple of years because of the fact that it has been running the Node.js project and is now “moving the project into the community,” said Hammond.

When asked how the foundation can ensure that everyone on the board of directors has an equal say and this doesn’t turn into a “pay-to-play” situation, Hammond said that won’t be the case and “the organizations that are writing checks to sponsor the foundation are the ones who are adding the money to the budget to further the development of the Node committee.” This means that the board members all contribute cash into a general fund, which is then used to fund projects, like tradeshows, meet-up groups, API validation and other Node.js-related management issues.

Taking a load off of Joyent’s plate

Hammond is hoping that with the new Node.js foundation, coders will eventually see less gaps between feature releases and a more streamlined way of managing the project, which has grown so much that the fledging Joyent would stand to benefit from not having to oversee such an endeavor.

For Joyent, it gives the company a change to buckle down and focus on its core cloud business, which the company, banking on the popularity of containers, is hoping can compete with cloud giants like [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Google[/company], not to mention legacy companies like [company]IBM[/company] and [company]HP[/company].

Joyent and Docker together
Joyent and Docker together

The company recently open-sourced its SmartDataCenter open-source cloud management platform and Manta object-storage systems in an attempt to gain some developer momentum and interest to its cloud. However, the company also saw the departures of two well-known higher-ups, Mark Cavage and Ben Rockwood, who decamped to Oracle and Chef, respectively.

Joyent will still play a large role in the Node.js community, Hammond said, as the Joyent public cloud uses Node.js and many of the company’s technologies, like Manta, are written using the framework. With the cloud company recently launching the Node.js incubator program, which will see Joyent giving selected participants up to $25,000 in Joyent Cloud hosting credits to develop Node.js applications on the Joyent cloud, it’s clear that the company sees Node.js as a way to lure coders to its own cloud.

Whether the formation of the new open-source foundation will please Node.js users who may have turned to io.js remains to be seen, but it seems that Joyent is trying to do something to remedy the situation — it just can’t do it all on its own.