The Dramatic History of Node.js: From Humble Beginnings to Open Governance


Node.js, the ubiquitous server-side JavaScript platform, boasts a surprisingly dramatic history. This blog post delves into the history of Node.js, Ryan Dahl (Node.js creator), Isaac Schlueter (npm creator), and Myles Borins (early adopter and contributor).


From Snowboard Websites to Async IO

Ryan Dahl’s journey to Node.js commenced unexpectedly. After leaving a math PhD program, he found himself coding snowboard marketing websites. Driven by a desire to tackle more abstract problems, he delved into web stack technologies, ultimately culminating in the birth of Node.js.

The Birth of Node.js

Inspired by Chrome and V8’s release, Dahl envisioned a server-side platform leveraging JavaScript’s potential for non-blocking IO. He crafted the first version in Cologne, Germany, unveiling it at JSConf EU in 2009. The demonstration, featuring a fully functional IRC server written in JavaScript, astounded audiences and propelled the project’s popularity.

Early Growth and Challenges

Isaac Schlueter, weary of switching between PHP and JavaScript, stumbled upon Node.js and recognized its promise. He pioneered npm, the Node Package Manager, streamlining library sharing and collaboration. However, the project’s infancy was marred by rapid changes and breaking APIs, leading to frustration among some users.

The Joyent Era and Windows Support

Dahl’s alliance with Joyent, a hosting provider, provided vital funding for Node.js. Nonetheless, this move also planted seeds of future discord. Simultaneously, Bert Belder undertook the Herculean task of porting Node.js to Windows, a pivotal endeavor in broadening its accessibility.

Ryan’s Departure and Isaac’s Ascendancy

After several years, feeling drained and seeking fresh challenges, Dahl bid farewell to Joyent, entrusting Node.js to Isaac Schlueter. While the transition appeared smooth initially, it bred tension within the community as Joyent tightened its grip over the project.

The Node Forward Movement and io.js Fork

Apprehensions regarding Joyent’s stewardship and sluggish release cycles prompted the emergence of Node Forward, a cohort of core contributors advocating for open governance. When negotiations with Joyent stalled, Fedor Indutny forked the project, spawning io.js, which swiftly gained traction.

Reconciliation and the Node.js Foundation

The birth of io.js served as a wake-up call for Joyent. With the appointment of a new CEO, Scott Hammond, the company adopted a more receptive stance towards the community’s demands. The Linux Foundation intervened, facilitating the establishment of the Node.js Foundation, ensuring open governance and fostering a united community.

In 2019, a significant development reshaped the landscape of JavaScript foundations: the merger of the Node.js Foundation with the JS Foundation, resulting in the birth of the OpenJS Foundation. This consolidation marked a pivotal moment in fostering collaboration and advancing JavaScript technologies under a unified banner.

OpenJS Foundation

Fast forward to 2022, another notable event unfolded as Joyent, the erstwhile steward of Node.js, transferred ownership of the Node.js trademarks to the OpenJS Foundation. This gesture solidified the foundation’s role as the custodian of Node.js and underscored the commitment to open governance and community-driven development.

For a complete video, you can watch this : Node.js: The Documentary | An origin story (

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