Miko Lehman

Node.js features to keep an eye on

The Node.js community has grown rapidly over the past few years and with it, the number of contributors has also increased. This is a fantastic sign for the project because more participation means that new features are developed faster and adopted quicker.

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This article covers some of the features of Node.js you should keep an eye on. Some of them are still experimental and might not be stable enough for production use just yet.

Error handling

Node.js‘ error handling mechanism is quite different from other programming languages. Because of its asynchronous execution model, errors can be triggered at any point during the execution of a Node.js program. This means that an error might not be triggered at the line that actually caused it. When an error is triggered, the current execution flow is interrupted and the error is logged. Then, the program execution terminates with an error code. This code is helpful for identifying the root cause of the error.

Buffer Shifting

Asynchronous programming can be tough, but it’s a fundamental part of modern web development. Modern JavaScript engines are pretty good at managing async operations, but they tend to use a lot of memory. This has created a challenge for Node.js, but the team has been working on a solution ever since Node.js version 10. To tackle this issue, Node.js has added a new API called Buffer Shifting.

This API is intended to allow the Node.js garbage collector (GC) to manage the external memory where Node.js stores data that it reads from network sockets or other external sources. The primary use case of Buffer Shifting is to allow Node.js to read data from network sockets and store them in external memory instead of in-memory data structures. This approach avoids the GC from having to perform expensive Garbage Collection operations to clean up data in-memory.

Error Boundaries

Error handling in Node.js is a powerful feature, but keeping track of every error that occurs in your code can be difficult. By marking a section of code as an error boundary, you can ignore all errors that occur in child code sections and trigger an “Error Boundary” event instead.

Errors in this architecture are separated into distinct sections of your application and are handled appropriately. You can also track down the root cause of errors more rapidly and trigger the correct error handling logic by using error boundaries. For example, you can ignore all errors that occur during a network call by using error boundaries.

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Native Promises

JavaScript promises were introduced to simplify asynchronous programming. They allowed you to write asynchronous code in a way that reads like synchronous code. This was a great improvement that has been in all modern browsers and Node.js since 2011. However, promises have their share of issues, mainly the “async/await” syntax that has been introduced with ES2017.

The “async/await” syntax is a good way to write synchronous code that uses promises asynchronously. But in the end, it’s still a hack and doesn’t solve the fundamental problems with using promises. The team has been working on adding native promise support to Node.js since version 10. You can use the new “promise” module to create and manage promises in your Node.js code.

Binary Semantic Versioning

Semantic versioning is a common practice that indicates how a software program’s functionality or features change as the software is modified. It also indicates how compatible a piece of software is with other software that has a different version number. This is an important topic when releasing new versions of a software project. However, Node.js has been using a simple “Major.Minor.Patch” versioning scheme that only indicated the amount of changes in each release.

It didn’t indicate how a certain node.js feature had been modified. This has led to situations where two different versions of the same feature could have a different behavior. To tackle this issue, Node.js has begun using binary semantic versioning. This will make it much easier for developers to understand the changes that are being released in each version.

Long-awaited Core APIs

Node.js has a number of core APIs that have been available since the early days of the project. However, there are some critical core APIs that have been added very recently. They are now available in Node.js version 12 as experimental features and should soon be promoted to stable. These core APIs include a new HTTP server that uses HTTP2 by default and a new path API that allows you to manipulate path segments easily without the “path” module. These new core APIs have been highly demanded by the Node.js community. They will make developing Node.js applications easier and help to build faster and more scalable network applications.

Unified Event Loop and Async Hooks

The asynchronous nature of Node.js is its most powerful feature. However, it can also become a challenge when trying to write complex programs that manage asynchronous operations. The solution to this problem is the “async hooks” API. With this API, you can tap into various stages of the asynchronous programming lifecycle of Node.js and use that to trigger actions. This can help you to write Node.js programs that are more complex and easier to maintain.

However, the “async hooks” API is currently a bit fragmented and uses a different set of APIs for different stages of the asynchronous lifecycle of Node.js. The team has been working on a new unified API for the “async hooks” that merges all the existing APIs into a single set of APIs. This will make it easier to manage asynchronous operations in Node.js, especially when they take different amounts of time to complete.

Native Web Assembly Support

Web Assembly has been around for a while. It’s a low-level assembly-like language that runs on the browser. It’s a new standard that’s been adopted by all major browsers. Web Assembly is an interesting technology. It compiles to an architecture-neutral binary format that can be executed by many CPUs.

This makes it a great fit for the Internet of Things, automated systems, and many other use cases. However, Web Assembly has only been supported by browsers. Until now. Node.js has added experimental Web Assembly support. This is great news for developers that want to use Web Assembly in their applications, but also want to use Node.js for managing the front-end of their application.

ES Module Support

JavaScript does not support static linking because it is a dynamic, prototype-based language. This makes it impossible to create a single executable file for a JavaScript application. This has long been a challenge for JavaScript as a language when it comes to large-scale application development. Developers have used different strategies to overcome this issue, but they have all had their drawbacks. Now, with the ES Module standard, it is possible to statically link JavaScript code together into a single file.

Conclusion

Node.js has come a long way since its first release in 2009. It has grown in popularity and adoption, and it has also evolved significantly along the way. With each new release, Node.js improves its performance and functionality. It is important to keep an eye on features because they will make it easier to build faster, more scalable applications.

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Author:

Miko Lehman

Write to me: m.lehman@gmihub.com

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