New Node Web Frameworks: Derby, Flatiron

2011-11-21 00:00:00 +0000 by Alex R. Young


Derby (GitHub: codeparty / derby, License: MIT, npm:
derby), other than being the city closest to where I grew up, is a new web framework for Node by Nate Smith and Brian Noguchi. It features a
data synchronisation library called
Racer that synchronises data between browsers, servers, and the database. This is one of the few
libraries to truly realise the goal of running the same code on clients
and servers. This data synchronisation layer is far from simple -- it
even includes features to help resolve conflicts.

Derby isn't just a solution for data syncing, however. It also renders
templates, and handles view bindings. Derby uses a single page
application structure, so the same routes are used on both the client
and the server.

Applications are created using a command-line tool, much like other
popular web frameworks:

derby new dailyjs

Derby's template language may take some getting used to, but it's very
close to mustache. It also includes HTML
extensions to make it easier to bind models and views without lots of
client-side "glue" code:


        ((#_showReconnect))– Reconnect((/))
        Unable to reconnect – Reload

In terms of models, Racer uses Redis for publish/subscribe and to store
a journal of transactions; MongoDB is used as the data store. Racer is
currently structured so that there are database adapters, so hopefully
it shouldn't be too hard to add support for more databases. It seems
like the Redis dependency is more central to the design of Racer.

The motivation behind Derby is to offer flexibility while removing the
requirement for what the authors call "glue code". If you've ever worked
with Express, Backbone, jQuery, and Mongoose, you've probably found
yourself writing a lot of the same code to bind things together between
projects. As an alternative, Derby is both interesting and opinionated
-- it seems likely to appeal to a certain type of developer rather than for certain projects.


Flatiron (GitHub: flatiron / flatiron, License: MIT, npm:
flatiron) from Nodejitsu is a full-stack framework but it's actually very loosely coupled. Each library in the framework can be used in
isolation, and it's entirely possible to cherry pick parts of it.

The libraries that make up Flatiron are as follows:

The routing library, Director, works in both browsers and Node with no
external dependencies. Objects are used to represent the relationship
between URLs and methods. Union, the routing middleware, is simple but
compatible with Connect

Plates also works in browsers and Node, but it's slightly different to
other template libraries. All templates are actually valid HTML, with no
special characters for value insertion. The relationship between tags
and values is defined through object literals that are passed to

  // The first parameter is the HTML template

  // The second parameter is key/value pairs of data
  { 'bazz': 'Hello, World' },

  // The third parameter defines how values map to tags
  { 'bazz': ['class', 'src'] }

I thought ODM stood for Object Data Manager, or something to do with
object databases, but in this context it means "Object-Document Mapper".
What's nice about this library is it uses simple prototype objects.
Properties can be defined and validated. It also has a chainable
property definition API:

var resourceful = require('resourceful')
  , Creature = resourceful.define('creature');

Creature.property('legs', Number)
  .assert(function (val) { return val % 2 === 0 });

Judging by the source, only CouchDB is supported right now, but like
Racer this library has been designed with a view to adding support for
more databases in the future.

The Broadway library provides a simple base for application-like objects
that can be extended through plugins. Each app inherits from


Like a lot of new Node web frameworks, Derby capitalises on the
relationship between WebSockets, server-side JavaScript, and data
storage to make something extremely attractive to both server-side and
client-side developers. Conversely, Flatiron doesn't mandate anything,
and the example that ships with Flatiron itself is a command-line

Derby has addressed a complaint many people have when working with
client-side technologies like Backbone, so I'd like to see how it gets
used in the future. Send in your Derby, Flatiron, Express, or other apps
for review in the weekly Node Roundup!