NodeJS plans to support import/export es6 (es2015) modules

NodeJS plans to support import/export es6 (es2015) modules

I’ve been looking all over the internet without a clear answer for this.
Currently NodeJS uses only CommonJS syntax to load modules, and if you really want to use the standard ES2015 modules syntax, you either have to transpile it beforehand or use an external module loader at runtime.
Currently I’m not too positive to use either of those two methods, are the NodeJS maintainers even planning to support ES2015 modules or not?
I haven’t found an hint at all about this.
At the moment NodeJS 6.x claims to support 96% of the ES2015 features, but there isn’t any reference to modules (NodeJS ES2105 support link).
Do you know if NodeJS will support these modules out of the box, in the near future?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

tl;dr

Latest NodeJS still lists ES Modules as experimental, behind a flag.

Those looking for a solution to the problem may want to try the esm module loader, which is a production-ready implementation of the ES Modules Spec for NodeJS:

node -r esm main.js

Detailed Updates…

23 April 2019

A PR recently landed to change the way ES Modules are detected:
https://github.com/nodejs/node/pull/26745

It’s still behind the --experimental-modules flag, but there are major changes in the way modules can be loaded:

  • package.type which can be either module or commonjs
    • type: "commonjs":
    • .js is parsed as commonjs
    • default for entry point without an extension is commonjs
    • type: "module":
    • .js is parsed as esm
    • does not support loading JSON or Native Module by default
    • default for entry point without an extension is esm
  • --type=[mode] to let you set the type on entry point. Will override package.type for entry point.
  • A new file extension .cjs.
    • this is specifically to support importing commonjs in the module mode.
    • this is only in the esm loader, the commonjs loader remains untouched, but the extension will work in the old loader if you use the full file path.
  • --es-module-specifier-resolution=[type]
    • options are explicit (default) and node
    • by default our loader will not allow for optional extensions in the import, the path for a module must include the extension if there is one
    • by default our loader will not allow for importing directories that have an index file
    • developers can use --es-module-specifier-resolution=node to enable the commonjs specifier resolution algorithm
    • This is not a “feature” but rather an implementation for experimentation. It is expected to change before the flag is removed
  • --experimental-json-loader
    • the only way to import json when "type": "module"
    • when enable all import 'thing.json' will go through the experimental loader independent of mode
    • based on whatwg/html#4315
  • You can use package.main to set an entry point for a module
    • the file extensions used in main will be resolved based on the type of the module
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17 January 2019

Node 11.6.0 still lists ES Modules as experimental, behind a flag.

13 September 2017

NodeJS 8.5.0 has been released with support for mjs files behind a flag:

node --experimental-modules index.mjs

The plan for this is to remove the flag for the v10.0 LTS release.

–Outdated Information. Kept here for historical purposes–

8 September 2017

NodeJS master branch has been updated with initial support for ESM modules:
https://github.com/nodejs/node/commit/c8a389e19f172edbada83f59944cad7cc802d9d5

This should be available in the latest nightly (this can be installed via nvm to run alongside your existing install):
https://nodejs.org/download/nightly/

And enabled behind the --experimental-modules flag:

package.json

{
  "name": "testing-mjs",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "",
  "main": "index.mjs" <-- Set this to be an mjs file
}

Then run:

node --experimental-modules .

February 2017:

https://medium.com/@jasnell/an-update-on-es6-modules-in-node-js-42c958b890c#.6ye7mtn37

The NodeJS guys have decided that the least bad solution is to use the .mjs file extension. The takeaway from this is:

In other words, given two files foo.js and bar.mjs , using import *
from 'foo'
will treat foo.js as CommonJS while import * from 'bar'
will treat bar.mjs as an ES6 Module

And as for timelines…

At the current point in time, there are still a number of
specification and implementation issues that need to happen on the ES6
and Virtual Machine side of things before Node.js can even begin
working up a supportable implementation of ES6 modules. Work is in
progress but it is going to take some time — We’re currently looking
at around a year at least.

October 2016:

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One of the developers on Node.JS recently attended a TC-39 meeting and wrote up a superb article on the blockers to implementing for Node.JS:

https://hackernoon.com/node-js-tc-39-and-modules-a1118aecf95e

The basic take-away from that is:

  • ES Modules are statically analyzed, CommonJS are evaluated
  • CommonJS modules allow for monkey-patching exports, ES Modules currently do not
  • It’s difficult to detect what is an ES Module and what is CommonJS without some form of user input, but they are trying.
  • *.mjs seems the most likely solution, unless they can accurately detect an ES Module without user-input

— Original Answer —

This has been a hot potato for quite some time. Bottom line is that yes, Node will eventually support the ES2015 syntax for importing/exporting modules – most likely when the spec for loading modules is finalized and agreed upon.

Here is a good overview of what’s holding NodeJS up. Essentially, they need to make sure that the new spec works for Node which is primarily conditional, synchronous loading and also HTML which is primarily asynchronous.

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Nobody knows for sure right now, but I imagine Node will support import/export for static loading, in addition to the new System.import for dynamic loading – while still keeping require for legacy code.

Here’s a few proposals on how Node might achieve this: