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Linting NPM Version Conflicts

Andrew Powell node

Say you had the need for shared front-end assets (scripts, stylesheets, images, etc.) and a need for an entire org to access them, independently, for reliable builds of many different apps which used those assets. NPM might be a good choice - With NPM’s move to a flat-ish install tree, it’s still a relevant choice. But what about package version conflicts?

At Gilt, the choice was made years ago; before Bower, JSPM, and the host of other package managers came to be. NPM was the logical choice then. And we’re still using it.


Traditionally hard. With the nested NPM installs of yesteryear it was compounded. Not only did we have to detect and move around scripts and other assets from within module packages, we also had to check versions against one another. That was essential in building the final script bundles and combining css for a production deployment.

The Scenario

Let’s say that fictitious module-a depends on module-b and module-util. And that module-b also depends on module-util. That’s a pretty straightforward tree and the bundle for the scripts of that tree should be easy. You’d think. But consider that scenario if module-a depends on module-util@1.0.0 and module-b depends on module-util@0.5.0. Now we’ve got a conflict, and that could totally hose our production bundle.

The Trees

In prior versions of NPM, the npm install tree would look like this:


In today’s NPM it looks like this:


NPM is quarantining outlier versions of shared modules so that everything plays nicely in a Node.js environment. That’s cool for Node, but not for us… using this as a front-end assets package manager.

A Solution?

What we ended up doing was installing the entire package tree to a temporary directory, and then polling every package.json in that directory, building a dependency tree and looking through the tree for conflicts. It worked. It wasn’t a bad method, and it’s one that we duplicated in three generations of tooling.

A Better Solution

That’s a heck of a lot of work to perform after we make NPM do a heck of a lot of work. There’s a better, faster way. Using NPM’s ability to pull metadata quickly for modules, we can leverage Node 7’s async/await capabilities to produce some elegant code that quickly retrieves and maps an NPM module’s version dependency tree.

Running that script for koa, we get:

koa: [ { version: '1.2.4', parent: '' } ],
  'koa-compose': [ { version: '2.5.1', parent: 'koa' } ],
  'koa-is-json': [ { version: '1.0.0', parent: 'koa' } ],
  'media-typer': [ { version: '0.3.0', parent: 'type-is' } ],
   [ { version: '1.24.0', parent: 'mime-types' },
     { version: '1.24.0', parent: 'mime-types' },
     { version: '1.24.0', parent: 'mime-types' } ],

In which we can clearly see that there are no version conflicts. That’s a snippet of the much larger tree returned, but the result is the same. Running that script on our fictitious module-a, the result would look like:

  'module-b': [ { version: '0.0.1', parent: 'module-a' } ]
  'module-util': [
    { version: '1.0.0', parent: 'module-a' },
    { version: '0.5.0', parent: 'module-b' },

And our conflict is visible.


While interesting, this isn’t inherently useful by itself. Moving forward, we’ll be wrapping this into a Gulp plugin with proper reporting output and blocking, and run from the local package.json file.


Originally published at on November 9, 2016.

npm 4 node.js 4 open source 64