Node.js release cycle hits the fast lane

Node.js release cycle hits the fast lane
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Node now has a Long Term Support release line for enterprises and a stable mainline release channel for more frequent incremental releases


What a difference a year and a forking make. Once under fire for slow release cycles, Node.js, or simply Node, has been offering new releases in rapid-fire succession lately.

Most recently, Node 5.0 was released late last week. A few weeks earlier, Node 4.2 arrived, about a month after Node 4.0. All this happened not long after proponents of the io.js fork, which occurred late last year, were welcomed back to the Node fold.

This is quite a departure from a year ago, when slow release cycles helped lead to the io.js fork in the first place. "The io.js fork was more about governance, about the contributors role in running the project," said Mikeal Rogers, a community manager for the Node.js Foundation and a spokesman for io.js, in an email this week. "The release schedule was one of many things the contributors did not agree with the prior project management about, but it wasn't the deciding factor."

Under the foundation, the server-side JavaScript project is governed by contributors with a wide variety of interests, Rogers said. As such, there's now an Long Term Support (LTS) release line for enterprises and a stable mainline release channel -- version 5 -- that will see more frequent incremental releases. But there will not be any breaking changes until Node version 6, due in April 2016.

"The plan for some time now has been to settle into a six-month [release] cycle, with only one of those -- the even release numbers -- eventually falling into LTS," said Rogers. "So the April release date is actually normal, while this fast cycle between v4 and v5 is the exception."

Version 5, Rogers said, was released quickly so that version 4 could be put into LTS mode as soon as possible. "Node v4 is still under active development; we just have a higher bar for changes that might be disruptive, which is why it's more suitable for enterprises. Our recommendation is that production users of Node.js use v4, not v5."

NodeSource, a Node support and services company that participates in the Node.js Foundation, has not seen the rapid release cycles causing friction at customer sites. "The vast majority of our production customers are transitioning from Node.js v0.10 to Node.js v4," said Dan Shaw, NodeSource co-founder. "The LTS release of Node.js is what most production shops should be focused on."

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