5 min read

On Thursday, The Register reported that Laurie Voss, the co-founder and chief data officer of JavaScript package registry, NPM Inc left the company. Voss’s last day in office was 1st July while he officially announced the news on Thursday.

Voss joined NPM in January 2014 and decided to leave the company in early May this year. NPM has faced its share of unrest in the company in the past few months. In the month of March  5 NPM employees were fired from the company in an unprofessional and unethical way. Later 3 of those employees were revealed to have been involved in unionization and filed complaints against NPM Inc with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Earlier this month NPM Inc at the third trial settled the labor claims brought by these three former staffers through the NLRB.

Voss’ s resignation will be third in line after Rebecca Turner, former core contributor who resigned in March and Kat Marchan, former CLI and community architect who resigned from NPM early this month.

Voss writes on his blog, “I joined npm in January of 2014 as co-founder, when it was just some ideals and a handful of servers that were down as often as they were up. In the following five and a half years Registry traffic has grown over 26,000%, and worldwide users from about 1 million back then to more than 11 million today.


One of our goals when founding npm Inc. was to make it possible for the Registry to run forever, and I believe we have achieved that goal. While I am parting ways with npm, I look forward to seeing my friends and colleagues continue to grow and change the JavaScript ecosystem for the better.”

Voss also told The Register that he supported unions, “As far as the labor dispute goes, I will say that I have always supported unions, I think they’re great, and at no point in my time at NPM did anybody come to me proposing a union,” he said. “If they had, I would have been in favor of it. The whole thing was a total surprise to me.”

The Register team spoke to one of the former staffers of NPM and they said employees tend not to talk to management in the fear of retaliation and Voss seemed uncomfortable to defend the company’s recent actions and felt powerless to affect change.

In his post Voss is optimistic about NPM’s business areas, he says, “Our paid products, npm Orgs and npm Enterprise, have tens of thousands of happy users and the revenue from those sustains our core operations.” However, Business Insider reports that a recent NPM Inc funding round of the company raised only enough to continue operating until early 2020.

A big question on everyone’s mind currently is the stability of the public Node JS Registry. Most users in the JavaScript community do not have a fallback in place.

While the community see Voss’s resignation with appreciation for his accomplishments, some are disappointed that he could not raise his voice against these odds and had to quit.

“Nobody outside of the company, and not everyone within it, fully understands how much Laurie was the brains and the conscience of NPM,” Jonathan Cowperthwait, former VP of marketing at NPM Inc, told The Register.

CJ Silverio, a principal engineer at Eaze who served as NPM Inc’s CTO said that it’s good that Voss is out but she wasn’t sure whether his absence would matter much to the day-to-day operations of NPM Inc. Silverio was fired from NPM Inc late last year shortly after CEO Bryan Bogensberger’s arrival.

“Bogensberger marginalized him almost immediately to get him out of the way, so the company itself probably won’t notice the departure,” she said.

“What should affect fundraising is the massive brain drain the company has experienced, with the entire CLI team now gone, and the registry team steadily departing. At some point they’ll have lost enough institutional knowledge quickly enough that even good new hires will struggle to figure out how to cope.”

Silverio also mentions that she had heard rumors of eliminating the public registry while only continuing with their paid enterprise service, which will be like killing their own competitive advantage.

She says if the public registry disappears there are alternative projects like the one spearheaded by Silverio and a fellow developer Chris Dickinson, Entropic. Entropic is available under an open source Apache 2.0 license, Silverio says “You can depend on packages from any other Entropic instance, and your home instance will mirror all your dependencies for you so you remain self-sufficient.”

She added that the software will mirror any packages installed by a legacy package manager, which is to say npm. As a result, the more developers use Entropic, the less they’ll need NPM Inc’s platform to provide a list of available packages.

Voss feels the scale of npm is 3x bigger than any other registry and boasts of an extremely fast growth rate i.e approx 8% month on month. “Creating a company to manage an open source commons creates some tensions and challenges is not a perfect solution, but it is better than any other solution I can think of, and none of the alternatives proposed have struck me as better or even close to equally good.” he said.

With  NPM Inc. sustainability at stake, the JavaScript community on Hacker News discussed alternatives in case the public registry comes to an end.

One of the comments read, “If it’s true that they want to kill the public registry, that means I may need to seriously investigate Entropic as an alternative. I almost feel like migrating away from the normal registry is an ethical issue now. What percentage of popular packages are available in Entropic? If someone else’s repo is not in there, can I add it for them?”

Another user responds, “The github registry may be another reasonable alternative… not to mention linking git hashes directly, but that has other issues.”

Other than Entropic another alternative discussed is nixfromnpm, it is a tool in which you can translate NPM packages to Nix expression. nixfromnpm is developed by Allen Nelson and two other contributors from Chicago.

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