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The CommonJS group defined a module format to solve JavaScript scope issues by making sure each module is executed in its own namespace.

This is achieved by forcing modules to explicitly export those variables it wants to expose to the “universe”, and also by defining those other modules required to properly work.

To achieve this CommonJS gives you two tools:

  1. the require() function, which allows to import a given module into the current scope.
  2. the module object, which allows you to export something from the current scope.

The mandatory hello world example:

Plain Simple JavaScript

Here is an example without CommonJS:

We will define a value in a script file named salute.js. This script will contain just a value that will be used in other scripts:

// salute.js
var MySalute = "Hello";

Now, in a second file named world.js, we are going to use the value defined in salute.js.

// world.js
var Result = MySalute + " world!";

Module definitions

As it is, world.js will not work as MySalute is not defined. We need to define each script as a module:

// salute.js
var MySalute = "Hello";
module.exports = MySalute;
// world.js
var Result = MySalute + "hello world!";
module.exports = Result;

Here we make use of the special object module and place a reference of our variable into module.exports so the CommonJS module system knows this is the object of our module we want to show to the world. salute.js discloses MySalute, and world.js discloses Result.

Module dependency

We’re near but there’s still a step missing: dependency definition. We’ve already defined every script as an independent module, but world.js still needs to know who defines MySalute:

// salute.js
var MySalute = "Hello";
module.exports = MySalute;
// world.js
var MySalute = require("./salute");
var Result = MySalute + "world!";
module.exports = Result;

Note that we didn’t use the full filename salute.js but ./salute when calling require, so you can omit the extension of your scripts. ./ means that the salute module is in the same directory as the world module.



// moduleA.js
module.exports = function( value ){
    return value*2;
// moduleB.js
var multiplyBy2 = require('./moduleA');
var result = multiplyBy2( 4 );

© 2012–2015 Tobias Koppers
Licensed under the MIT License.