What is that module thing again?

This is the fourth post in a small series on Node.js. In this post, I will take a look at how the Node.js module mechanism works.

In my previous posts on Node.js, I nonchalantly went ahead and require(...)d something called http – but what was that? And what happened when I did that?

Well, require is one of the few globals when running a Node program, and it is used to import a module. The parameter is a string, which Node uses to look for a file to load.

The simplest usage refers directly to a file relative to the path of the currently running program. E.g., if I have a module residing in a file called importantBizLogic.js in the lib folder beneath my program’s directory, I can include its exports (which I’ll get back to in a moment :)) like so:

If I omit the ./, Node will go look for importantBizLogic in each directory in the require.paths array, which is a list of default paths to search for modules.

Let’s see what it contains… Go to a terminal and enter the Node shell:

Great – so that’ s where my global modules reside. Now, what was that export thing again?

Well, that’s related to how importantBizLogic.js is structured… in order to control how the import works, a module must explicitly export stuff – and that can be done like so:

– allowing this module to be imported and used like so:


Apparently – and I am almost embarrassed that I did not know that – there is a thing called CommonJS, which is an initiative that strives to create a JavaScript standards library – and the require stuff I’ve described here is actually just Node implementating the CommonJS Modules specification. Pretty sweet, actually!

3 thoughts on “What is that module thing again?

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for these Node posts. As a newbie trying to learn the framework, I’ve had lots of trouble that walk you through it a newbie-friendly way like you do.

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