NPM: Not Much Performance

This blog is about how slow JavaScript is, and how certain maintainers have resorted to writing faster tools in Rust, Zig, and Golang, instead of JavaScript [1]. I find it ironic that NPM is being used distribute binary blobs given that NPM is a JavaScript ecosystem [2].

Here are a few examples:

Note how most of these are tooling focused: Most are targeted at compilers, which will be used by your bundlers, type-checkers, and transpilers (Vite is a popular example of this).

The reason we are seeing a emphasis on faster tooling is because these fast binaries serve no purpose to the end user: You can't deploy a Rust/Go/Zig binary to the user. Another reason is because NodeJS is still the primary server-side JavaScript framework: Frameworks like Deno and Bun have yet to take off, and catering to the largest audience, NodeJS, makes the most sense for most tool-makers. Lastly, there is a plethora of software on NPM, not all of which is supported in Deno/Bun.

Will There Be A Future Without JavaScript?

Hardly. Some will say C, Java, Visual Basic, and FORTRAN are dead languages, but there is plenty of depended-on code written in these languages, and they won't be going away anytime soon [3].

Sometimes people don't care about performance, and (sometimes) that is fine! Worry about building good software that serves a purpose, don't make fast software that goes nowhere.

[1]: Yes, I know: JavaScript is a language. NodeJS is a runtime, and NPM is a package manager. They are often used together, but not all JavaScript code comes from NPM, and not all JavaScript is executed using NodeJS. Still, NodeJS remains the biggest framework out there, and that is the ecosystem I will be talking about today.

[2]: Also, some alarm bells should be going off at the thought of any ole' NPM package being able to plop a malicious executable on your machine. I don't know if there is any automated scanning of NPM packages, but I doubt there is.

[3]: C and Java will never die. C is used in more places then you might think, and Java is taught far and wide, and will never not be talked about. Until Kotlin takes over the world, perhaps.