Leader abandons Node.js project for Npm riches

Isaac Schuleter defects to his own Node-related commercial outfit, raising questions about his ambitions and Node.js itself

Node.js, the open source JavaScript engine that's taken the server world by storm over the last couple of years, has just experienced a major management shakeup.

Longtime project lead Isaac Schuleter is leaving Joyent, the company that sponsors and maintains Node.js's development, and is striking out on his own to create a Node.js-related company of his own.

What few details are currently known about the shakeup were announced in a blog post on the nodejs.org site (echoed elsewhere as well), where Schuleter described how his role with Node.js has been gradually taking a backseat to that of another Joyent employee, Timothy J. Fontaine. According to Schuleter, Fontaine has been "effectively leading the project for a while now."

To that end, Schuleter is starting his own outfit named Npm Inc., which is intended to "deliver new products and services" related to Node.js's package management system, known as npm.

"Everything currently free will remain free," Schuleter wrote, "and everything currently flaky will get less flaky. Pursuing new revenue is how we can keep providing the Npm registry service in a long-term sustainable way, and it has to be done very carefully so that we don't damage what we've all built together."

Laudable as these intentions sound, it's still unclear what exactly the new company will do.

If the history of outfits that build a business around open source is any hint, it'll be one of a few basic approaches. Most likely would be the "support and services" approach, where the new company simply sells its expertise to other companies that want to pay for professional-level Node.js development, hosting, or custom-crafted local repositories.

Another possibility would be the new company adopting an open core strategy, where it repackages the core Node.js and Npm bits with cost-plus add-ons. One hint in the above blog post pointed to a future Node.js core feature is a "stable C interface for Node binary add-ons." A company that wanted to sell its own proprietary and closed source extensions to Node.js could use that interface to do so. (InfoWorld's Simon Phipps is distrustful of such a model, but Savio Rodrigues feels it's worthwhile.)

This isn't the first time key folks at Joyent have left, without the project being adversely effected. The original creator of Node.js, Ryan Dahl, stepped down from his position at the beginning of 2012 and handed the keys over to Schuleter. Since then, Node.js has only further cemented its position as a mover and shaker in Web technologies -- scarcely a sign of the project losing steam. But let's see what direction a spinoff takes, especially one with a former core member of the Node.js team in charge.

This story, "Leader abandons Node.js project for Npm riches," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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