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Electron Desktop JavaScript Framework Finds a New Home

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At the Node+JS Interactive conference in Montreal, the OpenJS Foundation announced that the Electron framework has joined the foundation. Electron is a popular cross-platform desktop application development tool based on Node.js and Chromium.

Electron joins the foundation at the incubator level. However, it is mature project, and is already in use within widely known applications, such as Visual Studio Code, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Discord, Slack, and Trello. The promise of the pooling of resources and a better governance model appear to be the rationale behind the move to the OpenJS Foundation. As the foundation explains in its FAQ:

OpenJS Foundation support includes organizing community events like Node+JS Interactive, providing marketing and community management support to projects and working groups, and coordinating financial investments across projects. In addition, the combined governance structure enables projects of all sizes to benefit from experienced mentors as they progress through the project lifecycle, and benefit from foundation-wide marketing activity.

Electron was first developed by GitHub in 2013, with the goal of enabling JavaScript developers to build desktop apps that would run on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. While the project began under GitHub’s guidance, Robin Ginn, executive director of the OpenJS Foundation, addressed the recent changes in the governance model:

[Electron] truly has moved to a kind of project that’s broadly maintained by a number of developers. It started moving last year to an open governance. (…) This really helps them formalize decision making and make it so it isn’t just a project owned by a single entity. Moving into the foundation was sort of a natural step for them.

The flurry of open-source alternatives for cross-platform JavaScript development (including the now defunct TideSDK), appears to have dried up. NW.js, formerly known as Node Webkit, is currently the most popular alternative to Electron for cross-platform desktop JavaScript application development. While NW.js was created in the Intel Open Source Technology Center in 2011, as of today it appears that NW.js has not seen the same amount of adoption as Electron. Interestingly, Intel is a member of the OpenJS Foundation, as is Microsoft, who is Electron’s owner (via the recent GitHub acquisition),

The OpenJS Foundation aims to be the central place that supports critical open-source JavaScript projects and web technologies. It is committed to providing a neutral organization to host and maintain projects, and also to fund projects for the benefit of the entire community. The foundation consists of 32 open-source JavaScript projects, including jQuery, Node.js, and Webpack, and is supported by 30 companies including Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft.

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