Node.js, the responsive Web development framework that popularized JavaScript on the server side, just underwent a big change at the top.

TJ Fontaine. Headshot provided by Joyent. TJ Fontaine. Headshot provided by Joyent.

But unless you work at Joyent, the company that stewards the framework, you probably won’t notice a thing. According to new project lead TJ Fontaine, there’s no directional change in sight. 

“We’re just trying to continue our goal to make sure we can enable users to innovate with Node,” Fontaine said.

In a Wednesday announcement on the Node.js blog, former project lead Isaac Schlueter said the shift is mainly a formal one. Fontaine has been basically running the show since September (with Schlueter’s blessing, of course). 

“Anyone who's been close to the core project knows that he's been effectively leading the project for a while now, so we're making it official,” Schlueter wrote.

Fontaine first began contributing to Node.js as a hobbyist, writing a JavaScript DNS pack for a personal project that he later dropped when he realized his true passion was helping to fix other Node developers’ bugs. He joined Joyent in April 2013, and since then has fixed some real doozies, most visibly Walmart’s Node.js memory leak.  

A Peaceful Power Shift

Node.js’s easy handoff of power is relatively unique in the development world. Usually, the person who develops a platform heads it forever. An equivalent exchange would be if Linus Torvalds gave up his title of Project Coordinator of the Linux Kernel. 

Ryan Dahl, the original creator of Node.js, still maintains the title of BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life), but his daily contributions are nonexistent as he currently resides off the grid. Dahl made Schlueter project lead when he grew tired of the spotlight at the beginning of 2012.  

Now, Schlueter is leaving things in Fontaine’s hands as he goes on to commercialize NPM, Node’s default package management system, an essential component of its framework. However, Fontaine stressed that no matter what happens with NPM from now on, everything that is currently free will continue to be free. 

“Users should not experience any difference with NPM except for more stability,” Fontaine said. 

Even though he isn’t planning any major shifts during his time leading the framework, Fontaine will still face different and larger issues than his predecessors. Since Node.js just keeps getting more frequently adopted, bugs and issues with it will be magnified.

Plus, there’s the issue of consistency. All eyes will be on Fontaine as he works to keep Node.js consistent to its creators’ intentions as the company rolls out v0.12 in the next few weeks. However, he said this won’t be a problem.

It helps that Fontaine interacted with Dahl online before his departure, back before Fontaine even went to Joyent.  

“Since the ethos of Node is so simple and straightforward, it’s really easy to keep track of our goals,” Fontaine said. “Users can expect consistency without turmoil.”