npm’s Private Modules are a Hosted Option for Node.js Developers

23 Apr 2015 7:00am, by

npm Inc., which maintains the most widely used JavaScript package manager, is making a big bet there are lots of developers who want to more easily combine public and private modules. Two venture capital firms have made the same bet.

Package managers are enablers that organize what often are unsexy bits of code for developers, who find what they need and integrate it into the applications they are building. These registries are a big deal: Without them, developers would have to continuously and methodically reinvent the wheel, even for relatively mundane tasks.

npm is an open source project that was founded in 2009 to maintain a public registry of Node.js code packages. It now is managed by npm Inc., which was launched in 2013. It was co-founded by Isaac Schlueter (now CEO), Rod Boothby (COO) and Laurie Voss (CTO).


Isaac Schlueter

npm Inc. recently made two announcements on April 14. Private Modules extends the package manager concept to private and confidential code and concentrates both public and private registries in one place.

The company has also recently received an $8 million funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners and features True Ventures. Bessemer partner Ethan Kurzweil has joined npm’s board. npm Inc. previously had raised $2.6 million in seed funding from True Ventures, Matt Mullenweg, and others, the company said.

Private Modules is of most interest to developers. Schlueter said the vast majority of JavaScript code owned by a company now is housed behind the firewall. It is inefficient and slow to combine that code with what is available publicly . A registry that brings the code outside the firewall and eases public/private integration, he said, will save developers time and sweat. A subscription to Private Modules is $7 per month.

Donnie Berkholz, a research director at 451 Research, told The New Stack in response to an emailed question that the introduction is a good thing for the Node community. “It’s an important intermediate step that fills in the blanks between public modules and the enterprise product,” he wrote.

“As many Node developers today work in small shops or maintain their own infrastructure, it’s valuable to them to have a hosted option.”

Private Modules already has about 2,000 users, according to the company. It has a long way to go before matching the public registry, which has between 2 million and 2.5 million users. Schlueter said about 50,000 modules have been uploaded and published. Those modules have been downloaded about 2.4 million times.

The funding by Bessemer and True Ventures, Schlueter said, is significant. The money will be used to extend the strategies that the company has followed to date. The top-of-mind items currently are further developing Private Modules and pushing work on the browser side development. “Those are the things that are part of the company’s strategies,” Schlueter said. “We can do it longer because we have more money in the bank.”

Berkholz noted the open source registry is an important tool in the Node community.

“npm has become the de facto way to work in Node, and the company has a distinct advantage in the ecosystem through owning such a central piece of the workflow as the registry,” he wrote.

In the broader sense, Schlueter said the funding round shows that the open source movement is evolving. Bessemer is old line capital — it has been around for more than 100 years – and True Ventures has been party to much of the evolution in software development. The companies see a shift from monolithic application development, and package managers – which are key creatively, combining existing bits of code — are a key to that change. “It’s all about helping people [by providing] the tools to … succeed in modularization,” he said.

The exact use pattern of the Private Modules is unclear since it has not widely launched. However, some idea of what lies in store can be garnered by a close look at what is happening in the Public Modules. Schlueter said traffic is heaviest during business hours on Monday through Friday and 100 or so modules are extremely popular. These, he said, are generic JavaScript utilities.

Many other modules are used sparingly. These are niche modules that, Schlueter said, are vital to their respective applications.

Feature image via Flickr Creative Commons.

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