Node.js 5: No rest between releases


Version 4 of the JavaScript-powered Node.js runtime was releasedonly last month, but its developers have already whipped the covers off Node.js version 5.

Why the new version, and why so soon? Mainly to provide some late-breaking features that developers may want to adopt now -- but they come with a short-term (8 month) support cycle. For those who want or must use a version with a long-term (30 month) support cycle, version 6 is set for April 2016.

Most of the improvements in Node 5 are incremental, but two of the biggest changes reflect Node's renewed commitment to staying current. One is an upgrade from 4.5 to 4.6 of the v8 JavaScript engine, which supports new language features (the spread operator, for instance). The other is support for version 3.3.6of the npm package manager. Among other things, the new npm professes to be many times faster than the 2.14.7 version.

The Node.js Foundation has good reason to maintain a snappy pace for releases.An earlier strategy, where releases were more stately and less predictable, sparked criticism anddissention within the community --to the point where an entirely separate incarnation of Node.js, io.js, emerged in response. Io.js and Node.js have since reconciled, and timely releases of Node.js are now part of the overall plan .

One of the irritations developers face with the faster pace of Node.js development is making sure that native add-onswork properly across versions. Node's solution, the Node Abstraction Layer, is guaranteed to work across at least the two most recent long-term support versions of Node.

It's unlikely that the changes in Node 5 will break common applications, but any medium to large enterprise deployment of Node will want to stick with the current 4.2.x branch for the sake of maximum compatibility.