NPM registries - 101

Npm (which originally stood for “Node Package Manager”) is a popular third-party package management tool for the JavaScript programming language. npm is is operated by the company npm, Inc.  It was first released in 2010 and now hosts more than one million JavasScript projects. 

Npm was created for distributing projects written in Node.js, a JavaScript run-time environment for building server-side and networking applications. Npm remains the default method of publishing Node.js packages. However, although Node.js is needed to install npm, packages do not have to be written in Node.js to be distributed with npm.

What is an npm registry?

An npm registry is a database containing one or more packages, i.e. collections of files organized into a particular JavaScript project or library. For example, the async package contains software tools and functions for asynchronous JavaScript programming. 

The page for a given npm package contains a download link as well as useful metadata about the project, such as:

  • The project description and version history
  • The code’s author(s) and software license
  • Statistics about the number of downloads

What is the difference between public and private npm registries?

npm registries can be either public or private:

  • The public npm registry, as the name suggests, is centrally managed by npm, Inc., with packages available to anyone who wants to download them.
  • Private npm registries are restricted in terms of who may view and download them. Privately hosted packages are only available to those who have been granted access.

Using private npm registries is highly useful for organizations that don’t want to expose internal software packages to the general public.

Why should I care?

After learning the basics of npm registries, JavaScript programmers can use them to find the most up-to-date versions of the libraries and packages they need to write better code. Authors of JavaScript packages also benefit from npm registries, which provide a centralized location for users to find and download their work.

The public npm registry is accessible to all JavaScript developers worldwide, making it a priceless resource for software development in JavaScript. Programmers can use the npm registry as a master copy or single source of truth for the software packages that they use in their code.

Private npm registries, too, serve an important purpose. Large enterprises can use them for internally facing projects and libraries that need to be distributed to a large number of developers, such as a user interface framework for web development.

Once a project is uploaded to the npm registry, users can easily install it from the command line. For example, the command “npm i grunt” will install the Grunt JavaScript library for automating software development tasks.

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[Image courtesy: npm]

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